Just like other athletes, bowlers break down film. Their coaches scrutinize every tiny element of their mechanics. It’s all in the interest in achieving the form that constantly puts the ball flush in the pocket and sprays the pins as wildly as possible.
But for Dixon senior Brandon Bonnette, there’s an indicator that’s more reliable than any eye test.
“When I’m bowling well, and my form’s all good, I can tell, because there’s a little pain,” Bonnette said. “I know when I’m doing good, because that’s when my knee starts to hurt.”
Bonnette hurt his left knee – the one on which he plants as he uncoils each shot – by keeping his eyes fixed too firmly on the prize as a sophomore.
“I forgot that I had my little footie on my bowling shoe,” Bonnette said. “I went up to bowl, stuck and fell right down. Now, every time I go up to the lane, I’m always looking down at my feet to make sure they’re not still on.”
On Friday, Jan. 27, the Dukes were perceivably just a twinge of pain or two away from bowling into the second day of the state meet.
Bonnette averaged 184 pins over four games – nothing to sneeze at for the average weekend warrior, especially on the tricky pattern at St. Clair Bowl in O’Fallon – but his Dukes came up 37 total pins shy of being one of the 12 teams that lived to roll another day.
But with only Derek Siebert having rolled on via graduation, the newly anointed captain Bonnette and his teammates believe they’re ready to take the next step.
Yes, Siebert’s first-day total of 1,3531 pins (a 225.5 per-game average) were sixth at the meet. And, yes, there’s a lot of bowling to do between now and late-January.
But the Dukes’ skipper already recognizes his team is capable of great things.
“That’s limited to them,” second-year Dukes coach Allen Wickert said. “It’s all about their desire. The talent is there. It’s just a matter of getting them all on at the same time.”
It’s just a matter of getting all six cylinders firing in concert.
“If all six guys are on, we’re unbeatable,” Wickert said. “I’ve seen a lot of teams that have two really good bowlers. Well, we’ve got six really good bowlers. Everybody can carry 200 averages.”
Bonnette’s season began in stunning fashion. He calls the 748 series he racked up in a season-opening victory in Ottawa his crowning bowling achievement.
Not a bad taking-off point, eh?
“Oh, yeah. It was my first-ever 700 during the high school bowling season,” Bonnette said. “I was just staying slow, having fun, and I had the line.”
Ever since Bonnette’s grandfather, Mark Rex – also one of the team’s coaches – started taking him to Plum Hollow when he was just 3 years old, Bonnette’s latched onto the theory that a happy bowler is a successful one.
“If you’re not having fun, you’re probably not bowling well,” Bonnette said. “Everybody’s told me that.”
He’s been a staple at the house in northern Dixon for years. He rolled in his first league when he was 6.
“That was back when they had the inflatable bumpers here, and had the big dinosaur painted on the far wall,” Bonnette said.
Since then, his kid brother, Lucas, has come a long way, too. He flirted with a 300 game last season before losing it in the 10th. And after a throwing shoulder injury held the lefty out for a spell, it appears he’ll be able to remain on the varsity squad. See: His monstrous 671 series Monday in LaSalle-Peru.
Brandon Bonnette, bowling historian. He waxes on the many things he’s seen over the past 15 years, while his teammates practice at their home house, as well as his workplace since he turned 16.
He might be all of 18 now, but he’s seen a lot of things, man.
“I’ve definitely seen a lot of change,” Bonnette said. “They’ve changed the lanes altogether. They’ve gone from wood lanes to synthetic lanes in the time I was bowling. I’ve bowled sport shot leagues, where the conditions are so much more difficult than the typical house conditions.”
That’s why one of his favorite pros to emulate is Norm Duke, who can throw just about any shot in any situation. He can go down and in, then belly out a hook when the oil demands it. Bonnette is working on such adaptability.
“It’s more or less something I’ve been learning how to do recently,” Bonnette said. “It’s been pushed on me now. Now that we’re higher up, the lanes change more while you’re bowling. You always have to be ahead of the lanes and be choosing what you’re going to do.”