VERNON HILLS, Ill. - Bowling fans in the Chicago area have seen Australia's two-handed bowling sensation Jason Belmonte in action before, but this weekend, they got to see him up close and personal as The Next Revolution, a United States Bowling Congress event, rolled through town Sunday.
More than 100 bowlers and fans made it out to Brunswick Zone Hawthorn for the event, which featured two hours of instruction, a question and answer session, autographs and a raffle to benefit The Bowling Foundation, the charitable arm of bowling.
To start things off, Belmonte proved, at least for a day, that two hands may indeed be better than one as he defeated Team USA member and local star Diandra Asbaty, 268-255, in a one-game exhibition match.
The match was all in good fun, though, as a highlight of The Next Revolution series. The four-city tour was created to showcase Belmonte's two-handed bowling style and give participants a chance to revolutionize their own games with on-lane coaching from Belmonte and some of bowling's biggest names. This weekend, they were joined by USBC coaches Bryan O'Keefe and Stefanie Nation.
"It's always such a pleasure to be able to do events like this because we get a chance to share what we are passionate about and help people learn about the sport we love," Asbaty said. "What they don't always realize is that being here and becoming a part of their lives inspires me, too. I love meeting them and hearing their stories."
Belmonte's first appearance at Hawthorn Lanes came last year at the CLR Carmen Salvino Scorpion Championship, part of the 2008-09 Lumber Liquidators Professional Bowlers Association Tour schedule.
In the two-handed approach, the bowler swings the ball with both hands until the release point. This style generates considerably more revolutions as the ball rolls down the lane resulting in increased pin action. Being on the lanes with Belmonte gave participants a chance to ask questions about the style, which is growing in popularity, and even try it themselves with help from the world's premier two-handed player.
"It felt good to be able to meet Jason," said 9-year-old Alex Acosta, a local two-handed bowler who averages 157 in league. "He helped me with my swing so I could get more power, and it was a lot of fun. I hope to be a professional bowler like Jason some day."
Sunday's stop in Vernon Hills marked the second of the four Next Revolution events, which kicked off at Merri-Bowl Lanes near Detroit on Saturday. More than 300 bowlers and their guests made it out to meet Belmonte and his friends this weekend, while the on-site raffles raised $379 for The Bowling Foundation.
Next Saturday, Belmonte and Colombian star Clara Guerrero will roll into Copperfield Bowling Center in Houston, and then Belmonte will team up with PBA star Chris Barnes at AMF Euless Lanes near Dallas on Sunday.
"I had a blast today," Belmonte said. "We had a really good range of bowlers, including a couple of two-handers who were a lot better than I was at their age. It seems like the idea of the two-handed style being just a gimmick is going away, and that's really exciting. I think that's what The Next Revolution is all about. It's a chance for people to learn about the two-handed style and to let everyone know that USBC is here to coach it."
Belmonte, the 2008-09 PBA Rookie of the Year, became the first two-handed bowler to win a Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour event by capturing The Bowling Foundation Long Island Classic.
Since taking his show on the road, Belmonte has competed on six continents, winning on four. He has bowled in more than 30 countries and been named World Bowler of the Year on two occasions.
The schedule for the rest of The Next Revolution events (prices and entry fees have been set by the host bowling centers) is as follows:
SATURDAY, NOV. 7
Copperfield Bowling Center
15615 Glen Chase Dr
Houston, TX 77095
Noon - The Next Revolution
Featuring: Jason Belmonte and Clara Guerrero
SUNDAY, NOV. 8
AMF Euless Lanes
1901 Airport Freeway
Euless, TX 76040
9 a.m. - USBC Coaching class
Noon - The Next Revolution
Featuring: Jason Belmonte and Chris Barnes