When I was five years old I wanted to be a fireman when I grew up. By the time I was 8 I had changed my mind approximately a dozen times. I suppose it is common for a youngster to waver when it comes to a decision that will not be made for several years. So when I met a young fellow a couple of weeks ago, it surprised me that he knew exactly what he was going to be when adulthood rolled around. Let me introduce you to Hayden Tarris, a future if he gets his wish professional bowler. That's his game plan and I'm not about to bet against him.
The precocious 8-year-old is a second grader at Old Fort Schools. I had a chance to watch him bowl while I chatted with both he and his mother Justene. The conversation was fascinating and I'm going to share it with you.
Hayden started bowling in a parent-child league at Seneca Lanes before his third birthday. It was love at first throw, and he has never deviated from his chosen course. Though he does have other interests, bowling is his passion. A vacation trip to New Jersey confirmed that, indeed, professional bowling might well be in his future.
The Jersey trip occurred when Hayden was five years old. The destination was the U.S. Open bowling championships where he was introduced to his favorite touring pro, Norm Duke. Upon meeting the youngster, Duke took Hayden to the locker room where he was introduced to other pro bowlers.
In the locker room, Hayden proceeded to leave Duke speechless as he recalled a previous tournament that Duke had won beating Chris Loschetter in a game. When Hayden described the game frame by frame, Norm Duke was dumbfounded. A friendship blossomed.
It became public when Duke won the U.S. Open title on that weekend. As he was being presented the trophy, Hayden shouted out "you're my hero Norm!" As the crowd laughed, Norm Duke smiled and Hayden became well known on the tour.
To suggest that Hayden practices his favorite sport would be an understatement. He bowls on average three nights a week. And when I say bowl, we are talking 12-15 games at a time. I guess if you want to bowl for a living, you must work at it. That is young Hayden's goal and he makes no bones about it. In fact, when he went to his barber recently, the guy suggested that to become a pro would be expensive. Hayden casually replied that he would acquire sponsors.
I did say precocious.
As I watched him bowl, I was intrigued by his form. The first thing I noticed was a chicken wing flap of his left arm, a la Joe Morgan, the former Cincinnati Reds second basemen. The other peculiarity was that he slides on the wrong foot, releases the ball, and follows it up by hopping with his right foot. When he ends up he looks just fine.
The form might look a little strange, but the scores aren't. Pre-bowling for his Saturday morning league at Heritage, he recorded scores of 172-180-194 for a 546 series. He has bowled the last two years in a junior high traveling league. His competitors may be a lot bigger, but he usually outscores them.
Hayden calls Seneca Lanes his home, but he bowls elsewhere. In addition to being in Saturday morning junior leagues at both Seneca and Heritage, he has participated in tournaments in several locations. In 2010 and again last year, Hayden participated in pro-am tournaments. He will be doing so again when the U.S. Open comes to Columbus this summer.
The young left-hander works with Herb Thibodeau at Seneca Lanes, but plans are being made for Hayden to get some tutoring from Jeff Lizzi, a PBA bowler from Sandusky. He has bowled with the twin sons of Parker Bohn III. In fact, he got a telephone call from Parker just a few days prior to our conversation. Bohn told him he would see him in Columbus.
As Justene and I talked, Hayden took a break from bowling to sit down at the table with us. His mother and I were discussing the 7-10 split that Justene had converted, well, sort of. You see she had the 4-7-10 split standing and missed the four pin. The seven however, kicked out and knocked down the ten pin.
Hayden then interjected a comment. He said, "Randy says that the only way to make a 7-10 split is to ." At this point his mother interrupted and said Randy who? Calmly Hayden pointed out that he was talking about Randy Pederson, the color commentator on televised broadcasts of PBA tournaments. I know, I know. The fact is he may well be on a first name basis with the guy.
After I talked to the two, I went to the far end of Heritage Lanes and started watching city tournament action. Hayden meanwhile continued his practice. An hour or so later I heard my name called. I turned around and it was Hayden with his right arm extended.
I shook his hand as he told me that it was nice meeting me. I reciprocated the comment and wished him well. After he left, I couldn't help but smile. Hayden is such a nice young man that has a very specific goal.
I hope he makes it to the tour and here's hoping I'm still around to write about it.
Al Stephenson is The A-T's bowling columnist.
Read his blog at: