Archive for Wednesday, May 4, 2005

K-State alley cat

Tonganoxie Jones rolls past competition

May 4, 2005

Robin Jones bowled perfection earlier this year at Royal Crest Lanes in Lawrence.

But it's not the first time Jones has orchestrated a 300 game.

"I had one over 20 years ago," Jones said. "Back then I was fairly decent. I practiced a lot."

That was in 1983 when Jones also was part of a state championship team.

The Tonganoxie native doesn't bowl as much as he used to. He bowls in a winter league and in occasional tournaments, but it's strictly recreational for him these days.

"I was pretty excited, but I really didn't feel any pressure like I had to do it," Jones said. "It's a pretty rare thing.

"Like anything else, when you don't practice, you don't attain the level you used to have."

In college, Jones bowled about 100 games a week. From 1977-79, he was a member of the Kansas State bowling team, which competed in the Mid-States Conference. The league consisted of Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Wichita State, Fort Hays State, Central Missouri State, Southwest Missouri State and K-State.

¢ 1963 -- Jones started bowling at the age of 4 when his father, Gertus, taught him how to bowl.

¢ 1977 -- Jones finished as runner-up in the High School All-American Youth Bowling Championships, which was held in Milwaukee. Jones just completed his senior year Tonganoxie High when he entered the tourney. He also was the state champion that year.

¢ 1977-79 -- In college, Jones bowled at Kansas State. The Wildcats dropped their program a few years ago.

¢ 1979 -- At the annual Showboat Invitational in Las Vegas, Jones was top scorer in a single game with a 289. The tournament attracted college teams from around the country.

¢ 1983 -- Playing for a team out of Lawrence, Jones' squad won the state tournament. He also has won two Lawrence city tourney trophies.Jones also bowled his first 300 game that year.

¢ 2005 -- Jones bowled a perfect 300 game at Royal Crest Lanes in Lawrence.

At that time, Wichita State was the main bowling power.

Since then, K-State dropped its bowling program. A few years ago, Nebraska and Central Missouri competed for the women's national title, while KU won a national title last year on the men's side.

Jones actually had a chance to bowl for powerhouse Wichita State.

During the summer after his senior year at THS, Jones competed in the High School All-American Youth Bowling Championships in 1977 in Milwaukee.

Jones won the state tournament and eventually finished second in the national tournament, losing to a teen from Iowa. For his performance, Jones earned a college scholarship to the school of his choice.

The state tournament that year was in Wichita and WSU's coach was in attendance. He invited Jones to bowl at Wichita State, but Jones wanted to be a Wildcat.

"I was set on going to K-State," Jones said. "I don't regret my time at K-State."

The biggest tournament Jones ever bowled in during college was in Las Vegas. That tournament always took place around New Year's. In 1979, Jones bowled the high game at the tournament. He rolled a 289 and was awarded a trophy at the event, known as the Showboat Invitational.

Since then, Jones has competed in several American Bowling Congress tournaments.

Jones has been to amateur tournaments primarily in the Midwest, but Las Vegas again called his name for its High Roller Tournament, which is the largest tournament he's ever competed in.

The tournament leaves little room for error. Lose once and you're out of the tournament. Win 11 matches and you pocket $250,000 and the tournament title.

Jones said his best performance there came one year when he reached Round 3.

"It's about as cut-throat as you can get," Jones said. "It's just luck of the draw. Everyone enters and it's just head-to-head one game."

For being in the gambling capital of the world, Jones said he didn't have much luck.

"I always got these bad draws," Jones said. "I always got these college kids.

"They didn't have anything better to do than bowl all day like I did when I was in college."

To his credit, Jones has been a pretty good bowler himself.

His bowling team won the state tournament in 1983 and set a state record. He also has captured two Lawrence city tournament trophies.

But these days, when Jones competes in the occasional tournament, it's part of a family vacation.

"I still enjoy doing that," Jones said about competing in tournaments. "I have a different perspective on that.

"When I go on a trip, if I do well, fine, and if I don't do well, fine. I think it makes it a little easier."

Jones contemplated competing in a tournament last week in Baton Rouge, La., but he has other plans.

His company, Farm Bureau Insurance, awarded him a trip that fell on the same date.

According to Jones, none of his accomplishments would have been possible without his father, Gertus Jones, who died in 2000.

"My dad is the one who taught me when I was 4 and he took me to all the tournaments," Jones said.

Although bowling never was a sanctioned high school sport in Kansas when Jones went to THS, it became a high school sport last year.

"I think that's terrific," Jones said.

Jones noted that offering bowling was good because it was a non-traditional sport that can attract students who might not participate in other sports.

Jones, who graduated from THS in 1977, wished the Chieftains had a bowling team when he competed.

"I would have given my right arm," Jones said. "Either that or baseball or golf and they're all high school sports now."

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