Bowling: Two-handed approach making its mark at sport's top level

American two-handed bowler Anthony Simonsen at Temasek Club bowling alley, on June 7, 2018.
American two-handed bowler Anthony Simonsen at Temasek Club bowling alley, on June 7, 2018.ST PHOTO: SYAMIL SAPARI

Technique gives more speed and revolution to ball, which strikes pins with greater power

SINGAPORE - It may still be a while before the sight of a professional two-handed bowler becomes commonplace, but gone are the days when the style could be written off as a fad.

In the decade since the style first gained prominence, its practitioners have consistently found success at the sport's top level.

A third of the world's top 12 male bowlers use the two-handed approach: No. 3 Jason Belmonte, No. 4 Osku Palermaa, No. 8 Jesper Svensson and No. 12 Anthony Simonsen.

Simonsen, 21, became the youngest player to win a Professional Bowling Association (PBA) Tour major title in 2016 when he won the United States Bowling Congress Masters in Indianapolis, Indiana. The American told The Straits Times on Wednesday that technology has aided in the proliferation of the style and its successes.

"You're starting to see a lot of kids be better (at the two-handed approach) at a younger age because they can just get on YouTube and watch hours and hours of bowling," said Simonsen, who is in town for this weekend's Singapore Open.

"Growing up in the 80s and 90s you could only do that by spending lots of time at the bowling alley but that's changed now.

"The younger you start, the easier it is to pick up because you don't have to overcome the muscle memory from using the single-handed approach."

The Texas native got an early start himself at three years old.

Lacking the strength for a single-handed throw, his first roll of a bowling ball was with two hands.

"It's just something that stuck because I spent so much time at the bowling alley as a kid," said Simonsen, whose parents were avid bowlers. "I was kind of a hard-headed child so if people did try to get me to change I was always going to do what I wanted to do."

The two-handed approach is known for the increased speed and revolution rate it imparts to the bowling ball. Its users technically still throw the ball single-handed as the supporting hand is removed prior to releasing the ball.

Four-time PBA Player of the Year Belmonte is regarded as one of the first two-handed bowlers to gain global recognition, after making his debut on the PBA Tour in the 2008-09 season.

But the style is also known for being difficult to copy.

"With the single-handed delivery there's a lot less body movement so we have more of a template to follow," said Singapore national assistant bowling coach Jensen Lim.

"But for two-handed bowlers the delivery depends on things like their build, muscular structure and flexibility. Each bowler finds his or her own way."

The Singapore Bowling Federation started its two-handed programme about a year ago.

There are five two-handed bowlers in the national set-up - Sebastian Lee, Nur Aqidah Uzma, Mohd Wira Kurniawan, Isaac Lai and Zenson Koh - up from none five years ago.

Lim pointed to Lai and Koh as examples of how the two-handed approach differs from bowler to bowler.

"Isaac (1.78m) is lankier than Zenson (1.71m) so he needs to bend his knees more to get closer to the floor line and optimal centre of gravity level," said Lim.

For Zenson, YouTube was his introduction to the two-handed approach two years ago.

"I was making no progress as a single-handed bowler and I came across a video of Jason Belmonte," said the 16-year-old.

"I saw the way he bowled, the speed and the way the pins exploded. That really inspired me."