MENDOTA – Gain experience, learn, grow and achieve goals. That is what the Bauer brothers of Mendota intended to do this bowling tournament season, and it paid off.
Brothers Landon, 14, and Paxton, 12, have been bowling together since the ages of 5 and 7. Since that time the boys have dedicated time practicing and honing skills both on and off the lanes. By the team they reached ages 9 and 11, they began to compete in scholarship tournaments, and within their first year of those events, both of then cashed in on some scholarship money and one earned a spot to compete nationally at the Jr. Gold Tournament.
Over the last three years, both bowled competitively with different youth tours in Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Texas and Indiana, cashing in on big scholarship money. This 2020-21 season, the brothers wanted to put focus into one youth tour, although they did still compete in others in Illinois and Iowa and did well. The boys found their ‘second home’ in Wisconsin in the WYBT.
Wisconsin Youth Bowlers Tour (WYBT) had 12 tournaments all over the state this season, with a mission in mind. This tour would mirror how collegiate level tournaments are run to better prepare youth bowlers who are serious in taking their bowling career into college and perhaps beyond.
They encountered challenging tough college oil patterns on the lanes as well as Junior Gold patterns. The brothers accepted the challenge and ran with it, achieving their goals.
A quick breakdown on oil patterns. Most league and open bowlers will bowl on a “house” shot designed to help the ball down the lane, recover, strike or at least score decent. Simply put, if you miss your mark there is a good chance the ball will still get to the pocket or at least the head pin and knock down some pins.
Oil patterns used at the college level are not so forgiving. You could play the same shot you would on a “house” pattern and it may go in the ditch, or it may just take out the 7 pin. You have to learn how to adjust, how to play in different parts of the lane, and have an arsenal of balls to help you through it. Spare shooting is also key at any tournament.
During the WYBT 2020-21 season, the brothers competed in the handicap division, which establishes an in-house tournament average then adds pin count to final score. This division also puts them against competitors closer to their ages, while still competing on collegiate-type patterns. Both boys had some of the lower handicaps of the 49 who were in the division, meaning they had to be on their “A” game most of the time.
Both boys earned WYBT 2020-21 perfect attendance scholarship awards, and were named to the WYBT Handicap Division Rising Stars Team. Points are awarded to each individual bowler for how well he or she performs. The points system again mirrors how the “Power Points” rankings work in college.
Landon, who will be moving up into the scratch division next season, finished with a total amount of 1161.1 points, which earned him Player of the Year in the Handicap Division.
Paxton earned 939.6 points for the season and finished fourth overall. Earning the points does not come easy – you had to make cuts and get into final rounds and pull off a championship or two, which is exactly what the boys did.
WYBT season stats:
Paxton: top five overall finishes-5; match-play-4; cashing totals-4; titles-1
Landon: top five overall finishes-9; match-play-6; cashing totals-6; titles-2 (back-to-back)
The boys have one bigger tournament this summer to officially end the tournament season. Both of them will be in Indianapolis competing at Jr. Gold Championships, the largest youth tournament in the U.S. Last year, both of them qualified, but due to COVID, it was cancelled. Officially, this will be Landon’s fourth Jr. Gold and Paxton’s second.
In order to make the cut for Jr. Gold, you must win a qualifier round at specific scholarship tournaments. Both earned their spots early in the season, which took a lot of pressure off and that’s when they hit the gas pedal for WYBT.
At Jr. Gold, both will have to bowl 16 difficult games over different oil patterns and houses in a span of four days. Landon will be competing in the U15 Division and Paxton will be in the U12 Division.
Landon also was a member of the Mendota High School bowling team this year as the only freshman on the varsity squad. He finished the high school season with a 209 average.
Paxton will be entering eighth grade this fall and cannot wait to be bowling alongside his brother once he reaches MHS. Paxton’s league average this year was 174.