published Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

Bearden strikes new record

Dustin Bearden of Geraldine, Ala., already has broken the Alabama record for best average for a bowling season.

A month from now, he could have the best two averages in the state for 2010-11 leagues.

Bearden averaged 244.27 pins per game — that’s with no handicap included — in the Sunday Night Mixed league that concluded March 27 at Orchard Lanes in Rainsville. His Pin Slingers team won the league.

The 27-year-old Redstone Arsenal worker in Huntsville also bowls on Monday nights at Trussville’s Lightning Strikes center, and he has a 239-plus average there. One guy in the Birmingham association is percentage points ahead of Bearden, whose goal for the final weeks of the Trussville season is to get to 240.

“As far as we know right now, I have the first and third best averages in the state,” Bearden said. “But a lot of leagues don’t publish their scores online, so there’s no way to know for sure till all the winter leagues have certified their scores and turned them in.”

Michael Hill of Huntsville set the previous record with a 243.04 average in the 2009-10 season, and Bearden knows Hill is below that this year.

“Nobody in Huntsville comes close, and the highest in the Montgomery area is like 234 or 235,” said Bearden, who began bowling at the age of 4 in the “peewee leagues” at the old Rainbow Lanes in Gadsden.

He grew up in Southside, Ala., near Gadsden and played basketball and trumpet in the band at Southside High. He moved to Geraldine in 2008.

“He’s always been a good bowler since I’ve known him,” said Rod Walters, the DeKalb Bowling Association manager, “but it seems like this year he’s got his mind set on the game. He’s concentrating more and not letting little things upset him. When you think about it, he’s got to shoot a 720 series just to hit his average. That’s a great night for most of us.

“Dustin kind of defies how you’re supposed to bowl — he holds the ball up high and kind of turns his hand — but when it comes down to his release and his follow-through, it’s textbook. He’s got a lot of natural talent, but he’s also worked hard at it. He’s taken what God has given him and he’s pushed it to the upper level.”

Walters has been bowling more than 45 years and carries an impressive 212 average himself.

“To average 240 at two different houses, that’s an amazing accomplishment,” Walters said. “And Lightning Strikes is a hard house to bowl in. I’ve never seen anybody with as much bowling ability as Dustin Bearden.”

Bearden’s wife, Renee, bowls with him in the Rainsville league. He also does his practicing at 22-lane Orchard, so he considers it his home center.

And when all of Alabama’s winter averages are recorded, it likely will be home to the best season average in state history.

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