COLUMBIA — He hasn't been bowling for a long time, but 14-year-old Tanner Blayney has become interested enough in the sport to travel from Lee's Summit to this weekend's Show-Me State Games bowling competition.
His interest in bowling grew after he joined a league at Summit Lanes in Lee’s Summit in fall of 2010.
“Tanner tried sports such as soccer and baseball but never seemed to enjoy it as much as his older brother,” his father, Kevin Blayney, said in a phone interview.
Tanner's family and friends were surprised because he seemed to be a natural. Tanner Blayney said he was happy he found something that he loved and was prepared to work to excel in the sport.
"One of my good friends, Ken Stolpe, is mentoring him," Kevin Blayney said. "He raised his average nearly 50 pins in three months.”
Stolpe has always been a serious bowler but never tried becoming a professional. But he said he has enjoyed working with Tanner Blayney, who now has a high score of 236.
“Bowling is a passion of mine, and I have a friend whose son’s passion is the same as mine, and so there was that synergy,” Stolpe said. “I just started giving him pointers because he was a real quiet kid. With a 113 average at his first tournament, I told his parents his number is going to go way up if you let me coach him. So we got him shoes, and I let him have my old ball, and I taught him how to curve the ball.”
Tanner Blayney and Stolpe even have their own signals. During competition, with the distance from the bowling lane to the bench, they don’t want to yell to each other each time Tanner Blayney needs help.
As Tanner Blayney has progressed, the league manager took notice of his playing and asked if he could fill a spot in a tournament in Cape Girardeau. He won his first tournament, beating 177 other bowlers.
Stolpe said he wants Tanner Blayney to have fun and to enjoy his summer and wants bowling to be for the love of the game for them, instead of always worrying about scores.
“I’m excited, but I’m also scared," Tanner Blayney said. "I’ve always wanted to be a bowler, but I started league probably at most 12 months ago."