by Randy Ooney
My Nickel’s Worth by Randy Ooney
WHIRRRZ - Part 2
Three years passed and once again Mike was in a CBA player of the year race. Sam Lantto had earned a spot on Team USA and was not active at the CBA tournaments but as in many sports, when one “Tiger” leaves, another takes his place. This time Mike was vying with one of my most respected Twin Cities bowlers, Smilin’ Carl Fietek. Meanwhile, Mike was having tendon problems in his right arm, but continued to bowl every CBA tournament with a heavily wrapped wrist and managed to capture the player of the year honor. A month or so later Sam Lantto was on the phone to ask Mike to join his team at the World Team Challenge tournament in Kansas City. Mike was happy to oblige, and the event remains a highlight in his career.
What probably is known to many, is Mike’s “Iron Man” record for CBA tournaments - 125 consecutive events. The CBA holds 12 or 13 tournaments each year, and Mike bowled every one for about 10 years. This would be an accomplishment for any bowler, but considering that Mike’s home is in Eau Claire, it even magnifies the dedication. About 70% of the events are in the Twin Cities area, about 100 miles from Eau Claire. Yup, one was at Wagner’s 66 ½ in Eau Claire each year but the others were in Duluth, Rochester, Mankato, etc. And they were not always held on sunny Spring days in May. To enter all of those tournaments required driving about 2700 miles per year, through rain, snow, sleet, and dark of night! Mike ended the streak to take his son hunting. He owns 7 CBA titles and was inducted into the CBA Hall of Fame in 2002.
Now that Mike has exceeded the magic age of 50, he is a regular at the MSC tournaments, and a formidable player. He has already earned two titles, as well as the 2008 Minneapolis Senior Masters title, and won the On Track Senior Masters Triple Crown. His MSC average is around 230. Now a 230 league average is not uncommon for many of the better bowlers in our area. But in the MSC, the tournament is hosted at a different center each month, eight qualifying games are bowled on at least 7 different pairs, and if by chance you get the same pair for position round or stepladder, chances are it’s not the same as it was 2 hours ago.
Mike has all good things to say about Twin Cities bowlers and the level of competition offered in our area. CBA veterans like Adam Apo, Mike Berlin, and Charlie Tapp have all made their mark on the PBA. Many other bowlers from our area have earned eagles or other accolades in various national venues. Mike ended our interview by saying “it’s a privilege to compete with (Minnesota’s best).” Might I just add that for me, it’s also a privilege to compete against Eau Claire’s best.
And now you know…. The rest of the story. Good Day.