How We Got Here
In 2013, Teen Masters launched SKILL Bowling which limits participants to using a non-flaring ball while competing on low-volume oil patterns. By reducing variables that are beyond the control of the participants, such as whom you follow, Teen Masters has established a competition in which "the hand in the ball is more important than the ball in the hand."
We did not arrive at this moment on our own. Our journey was set in motion by the vision of the founder of Kegel, John Davis. Though his business revenue was increasing, he believed the escalating volumes of oil applied to lanes threatened to drown the sport he loved. In 1997, the same year Teen Masters began, he sounded the alarm.
John described the Crisis as the destruction of the balance between bowling balls and oil patterns. More aggressive balls require more oil - more oil requires more aggressive balls. Matching up and 'whom you follow' had become dominant factors in the outcome of competitions. Oil volumes now surpass 30 mL per lane in many events, and the pace and sheer magnitude of oil transition are unprecedented. John's one-word description of the Crisis: Chaos
In 2006, as Chairman of the World Tenpin Bowling Association's Technical Committee, John presented an R&D project which summarized:
John described the Crisis as the destruction of the balance between bowling balls and oil patterns. More aggressive balls require more oil - more oil requires more aggressive balls. Matching up and 'who you follow' had become dominant factors in the outcome of competitions. Oil volumes now surpass 30 mL per lane in some events, and the pace and sheer magnitude of oil transition is unprecedented. John's one-word description of the Crisis: Chaos
“The Crisis is upon us friends. Our sport is in trouble. Many of you that love the sport, as I do, will look at the Crisis like a friend who is in trouble and needs our help. We must not shrink from the task before us, we should welcome it. It is our generation that has been called to the challenge. If not now, when? If not us, who?"
"We, the committee, understand a change in the bowling environment is required for the sport to grow to its full potential. We believe the first logical step toward this change is a Regulation Bowling Ball for top-level competition."
WTBA Technical Committee
On April 22, 2006, the technical committee tested a regulation ball by staging the first World Challenge at the Kegel Training Center in Lake Wales, Florida. All twenty-four players rolled the "WTBA Test Ball" while competing on a 34-foot pattern with only 7.14 mL of oil. The winner, PBA Champion Bob Learn Jr., said:
"This puts everybody on the same playing field, the same level, and it comes up to you to decide what you physically need to do."
Though the World Challenge was praised by participants and deemed a success by the Technical Committee, push-back from ball manufacturers and distributors prevented WTBA from moving forward with a regulation ball. It would take another seven years before a regulation bowling ball would become a reality. Sadly, John passed on January 25, 2013, just five months before he would have seen his vision come to life at Teen Masters.
John's vision is now our vision. We call it SKILL Bowling.