Bowling up a storm
2004 Tonganoxie graduate hoping to be a professional bowler racks up perfect games at local alleys
Baseball was Marc Heninger's first love, but it seems heredity has rolled the Tonganoxie resident toward bowling.
John Quinn, Heninger's great-grandfather, has been a card-carrying member of the Professional Bowlers Association.
And, Rich Black, one of Heninger's grandfathers, was an avid bowler who also bowled in tournaments in Europe.
Black is no longer living. Heninger said his grandfather was "known around Kansas City, Kansas, pretty well" for his bowling ability.
"I kind of had it in my blood," Heninger said.
As a youth, Heninger played plenty of baseball. And in 2004, when he graduated from Tonganoxie High, he hoped to play college baseball, but that didn't pan out.
After high school, he focused instead on a sport he didn't take very seriously when he was younger.
But in the last two years, he has been all about bowling.
His mother, Angie, and father, whose name is spelled M-a-r-k, have given him some instruction, as has an uncle. His uncle, whose name also is Rich Black, is a son of Heninger's deceased grandfather Black.
"When I got more serious about it, my uncle took me out and fine-tuned things on my game," Heninger said.
In two years, Heninger has made major strides.
He's bowled seven 300 games -- five "that count" and two that were in practice. His first 300 game took place a year ago -- Aug. 10, 2005.
Heninger's average floats between 210 and 230, and this summer, he is competing in two leagues. He also filled in for a team in a different league. Through 42 games in that league, he carried a 228 average.
Between two leagues and practice, he bowls about 12 games a week.
Although he doesn't currently work at Skyway Lanes, 5037 S. Fourth St., in Leavenworth, Heninger did work part time at the bowling alley after high school and has bowled many games at the local alley.
Scott Angelo, owner of Skyway Lanes, said Heninger seems to be following in his relatives' footsteps.
"He does come from a great history of bowling," Angelo said. "Rich Black was a premier bowler."
Like Heninger, Angelo's family has some strong history when it comes to bowling. He said his grandfather, as well as his parents, were good bowlers.
Angelo himself has bowled a 300 game 22 times, while Mike Fleming, of Leavenworth, has bowled between 80 and 100 perfect games in his career, Heninger said.
Fleming competes in the PBA senior tour in Texas.
Heninger has to get a few more perfect games under his belt before he can be at Angelo or Fleming's level, but, as Angelo pointed out, Heninger is young.
"He has the capability, with a good work ethic, to become a premier bowler," Angelo said. "I've said that from the get-go."
Angelo hopes Heninger won't be alone when it comes to talented young bowlers.
Last December, a handful of bowlers in Skyway Lanes' youth program brought home state titles.
And, this coming winter, Leavenworth High will field a bowling squad for the first time, with Skyway Lanes designated as its home alley.
Angelo said LHS is the last Sunflower League school to form a bowling team. All other schools in the conference, including Lawrence High and Lawrence-Free State, already have started programs. The Kansas High School Activities Association established bowling as a sanctioned sport in 2005. Most schools in Kansas that have established bowling teams, at least thus far, are Class 6A and 5A teams.
"It's the largest growing sport in high school in the country, and we're excited," Angelo said. "It's what bowling needs."
Hoping for a shot at the PBA
Heninger's sudden bowling success led him to contemplate bowling in college. Heninger said he would have liked to bowl at Wichita State. The Shockers are known nationally for their bowling program.
Heninger, though, has switched his aspirations from collegiate bowling to the professional tour.
"Right now I'm more focused on getting into the pros," Heninger said.
The Tonganoxie resident competed in two tournaments in Overland Park last spring and another July 4 in Independence, Mo. Heninger won one of the Overland Park tournaments, as well as the July 4 tournament.
Heninger has bowled a few games in the 290 to 300 range also, but is hoping to add another personal record to his resume -- a top score in a series, which consists of three consecutive games.
"I've accomplished a lot," Heninger said. "The only high score I would love to have is an 800 series."