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Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:03

King Pin

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On a Friday afternoon at his favorite bowling alley, Macallan Gagné picks up his ball, a swirling red and black six-pounder, and makes his way to the lane. His focus is on the 10 pins that stand 60 feet in front of him. He begins his delivery, stopping just short of the foul line to release the ball on its path. The ball rolls slowly, hooking just enough to knock down nine pins. It’s a decent roll for an experienced bowler and an even better attempt for the more casual bowler. For a 4-year-old, who’s playing without bumpers, it’s practically unbelievable.

“Mommy, are we going bowling today?”

Joe and Kim Gagné were simply looking for something to do with their children one afternoon. They decided a few rounds of bowling at Saratoga Strike Zone would be a nice way to get out of the house.  Macallan was only 3 ½ at the time, but seemed to enjoy himself. After that day, Macallan began to ask his mother when they could return.  Joe decided he would start bringing Macallan for practice every Sunday morning. He would join an after school league, meeting each Friday to bowl with his friends. It wasn’t long before Macallan began to show potential. This caught the eye of Laurie Wallschlager, who works at Saratoga Strike Zone, and has been bowling for 30 years.

“I’ve never seen a 4-year-old with the natural talent Macallan has,” said Wallschlager. “Everyone stops and watches him, and they want to know who he his.”

Macallan may only be receiving informal lessons from his father, but Joe’s boy has a remarkably natural delivery, adjusted to accommodate his smaller frame, of course. His sound mechanics make up for his lack of power. As he matures, many of those rolls collecting eight or nine pins will be strikes.

On February 5, Macallan bowled a 162. It is his official high game total, and he didn’t do things the easy way. While he managed a strike in the second frame, the real damage came as he picked up a jaw-dropping seven spares. If the mark of a true bowler lies in their ability to pick up spares and close frames, Macallan figures to be off to the best start

The connection Macallan has to bowling doesn’t stop when he leaves the lane. His mother, Kim, says her son “lives” bowling. She tapes weekly Professional Bowling Association and Capital Region Bowling telecasts for him, allowing him to watch the pros do battle on the biggest stage in their sport. He has a favorite professional bowler, Missy Parkin.  He bowls at home on the Nintendo Wii, or anything else he can improvise with.

“In our house anything is a bowling ball, anywhere is a bowling lane,” said Kim.

Bowling has opened up new opportunities for Macallan, allowing him his first chance to compete against other avid bowlers. He recently qualified for a United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Scholarship regional tournament scheduled for later this month at Burnt Hills Lanes.  Macallan’s impressive 162-game also qualified him for a Pepsi Youth Scholarship tournament to be held at Spare Time South Glens Falls in early Spring. Macallan could be earning for his higher education before he even starts grade school. 

An afternoon at the lanes with Macallan makes for quite a show.  You can practically see the genuine excitement radiating from his face as he knocks down another set of pins. He emulates all his favorite professional bowlers’ gestures or “reacts” as he once described to his mother. His celebratory fist pump is just as much an act of triumph as it is a tribute to his sports idols. Macallan took a liking to the boastful antics of Pete Weber Jr, a relative maverick in the world of professional bowling.

While he knows how to celebrate like a winner, he takes mistakes in stride, choosing to mimic and adjust his delivery motion as he walks from the lane rather than pout. His three-game total was 288, or an average of 96 pins a game.

“You wouldn’t expect to see a 160-game until maybe 8 or 9-years-old,” explained Wallschlager.  “I’ve never seen a child so young with so much talent; he’s like a little Tiger Woods of bowling.”

Despite his early success, Macallan’s parents are just glad their son is having fun, and only hope to nurture his passion for bowling. Kim hinted that formal lessons could be on the horizon, but for now he’ll continue practicing each week with his father.

Macallan returns to attempt picking up the spare. He sets his sights on the lone pin that remains standing. He takes aim and releases. As it moves along, it begins to curve and rolls past the pin to the back of the lane. Wide right. Macallan turns around and walks back to the bench where he was sitting, thinking about what to do next time. Fortunately for him, he’s got plenty of time to work on that. He won’t be eligible to join a varsity bowling team until at least seventh grade, or eight years from now.

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