Written by Dustin Zehner
Whether it be your first time or you are a veteran to the tournament, Junior Gold succeeds to be one of the best and most challenging youth tournaments. Preparation is super important for the tournament. Now that the USBC no longer uses WTBA patterns, we never know exactly what to expect in the 16 games of qualifying, the advancers rounds or match play. This means you must be prepared for anything to come at you. So here are some steps I recommend going through to being able to tackle the challenging patterns and having success this year at Junior Gold.
Use the patterns from last years Junior Gold as a baseline
With the introduction of the patterns being now created by Nick Hoagland (Lane Pattern Development at USBC), we really never know what to expect going into the event. If you have bowled on anything created by Nick, you know that his patterns are known to be challenging but benefit the players who understand what they see on the lanes. So your practice leading up to Junior Gold is critical for success. If your home center is capable of putting out last year’s patterns, I would recommend practicing on them as much as you can to get a general idea of what you could see. But know it won’t be exactly the same. The graphs are available on the USBC website. If you are unable to practice on these patterns, your next best bet is practicing on other sport patterns and be able to play them both on fresh as well as when the break down.
Spares. Spares. Spares.
Spare shooting separates the good players from the great players who eventually have success event. In your practice, make sure that spare shooting is a staple for a portion of the time you are working. In the months prior to Junior Gold last year, I started shooting spares with urethane. With the new 5 ball limit, it allows me to have another option to use on the patterns that I wouldn’t have previously had with plastic. You can consider this; as well as using reactive. Whichever is most comfortable for you.
Prepare your mental game as much as possible
Junior Gold is definitely one of the longest tournaments I’ve ever bowled; not because of the format, but because it is mentally exhausting. Having the right state of mind and having a vision of how you want to the week to go is well worth it. One thing I recommend is having a goal setting session with yourself. Define things you want to accomplish - 95% on single pins, make first cut, 80% clean frames etc. There are also plenty of sources on Google to get in the right mindset for the week.
Once the competition starts here are some additional tips for success
Take advantage of the practice sessions
The practice sessions are a good opportunity for you to get a good read on not only the pattern but the center as well. Having a good 30-minute session on the pattern(s) could really set you up for success. Keep in mind the pattern more than likely isn’t going to play exactly the same as when competition starts. The goal you should have going into the practice session is to get a general idea of how you want to attack the pattern and have a backup plan.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint
With the 16 game format, a couple bad games aren’t going to ruin your chances to make the cut. Last year, I had 5 games under 175 and I still managed to finish +27 for the entire tournament. That put me at 29th in a field of 1357 U20 boys. My four prior Junior Gold tournaments taught me that one or two bad games don’t kill a block or even the tournament for you. In 2016, that really set in for me and I always kept battling. Having this mindset can be challenging but it is very rewarding.
Sometimes you may feel like you could have scored higher or like you are falling behind. Take a look at other scores and sometimes the pattern could be challenging enough where your 190 could be pace for the other bowlers as well. I don’t recommend constant score watching. It’s a bad habit to get into. A quick glance is sufficient. For example, in the first advancers round last year, the pattern played quite hard so the pace was right around 190. Out of the 194 bowlers advancing, only 20 went plus. So taking advantage of shooting 210 or 220 was crucial if you need to gain pins on the field.
Abralon pads are your best friend!
Investing in some Abralon pads is one of the best decisions you can make going into the week. I was lucky enough to be able to have my ball spinner at the hotel so I could do surface prep. Experimenting with surfaces in the practice sessions is crucial to be able to be lined up when competition starts. Prior to getting to Cleveland this year, have an understanding of what balls are good with what surfaces so you can get a general idea of what you could take them to before the start of your blocks. The following is my arsenal last year and what surfaces they are good at.
Scandal – 1000 or 2000
Paradox – 500,1000, or 2000
Red Legend Pearl – 2000 or 4000
Gamebreaker 2 – 500,1000,2000, or 4000
Blue Hammer – 360,500, or 4000 (Spares)
Having a general idea of what your equipment is at is a good idea going into the week.
Shoutout to a couple guys for recommending a surface change during practice of match play (500 on the Game Breaker 2). That change is what got me into the finals of Junior Gold last year.
Use these steps to your advantage when Junior Gold rolls around in July. I wish you the best of luck!
*I want to thank my parents, my girlfriend, and Purdue teammates for their never ending love and support. As well as Brady, Zach, and Kenton for their lane play help throughout the week