John Kafalas delivers a ball at Pilgrim Lanes, Haverhill, MA after competing in the 1975 MBA state tournament.

I coulda been a contendah -- in fact, I was, at one time!


In the mid- to late-1970s, I was one of the top youth candlepin bowlers in Massachusetts. With an average that peaked at 115 in the 1977-8 season, a high single of 175 and high triple of 427, I had pretty good stats for a youngster; my high average and high single were recorded at Sudbury Bowladrome, and my high triple was at Crowell Bowl in Stow, MA. My favorite accomplishment was finishing third in the World Invitational Championships in 1976 (see below). This is, perhaps, not as incredible as it sounds, since candlepin bowling is a regional sport and my total in that event (522 for five strings) wasn't even a very good score for me at the time. But how many people can truthfully claim a podium finish in a world championship event?

Here's a summary of my tournament accomplishments:

1975 MBA State Championships. Junior Boys' Singles, 5th Place (533 for 5 strings) 
1975 WCBC World Championships. Midget Boys' Singles, 5th Place*
1976 MBA State Championships. Junior Boys' Team, 3rd Place
1976 World Invitational Championships. Junior Boys' Singles, 3rd Place (522)
1977 Northeast Candlepin Bowling Classic. Junior Division III Singles, 2nd Place (579)
1978 MBA State Championships. Senior Boys' Doubles, 3rd Place
1979 MBA State Championships. Senior Boys' Singles, 3rd Place (586)

*The '75 Worlds finish is from memory, because trophies were only awarded to the first three finishers in each division. If I recall correctly, so many years after the fact, there were three youth divisions: Midget, Junior, and Senior. I'm not 100% sure about that part of it -- but I did finish 5th in the world tournament that year, in whichever division 12-year-olds competed in. The "WCBC" referred to here is not the present-day World Candlepin Bowlers Congress, but rather the World Candlepin Bowling Council, which was the predecessor of today's International Candlepin Bowling Association (ICBA), the world sanctioning body for candlepin bowling.


Other highlights of my close-but-no-cigar youth career included an appearance, in the fall of 1975, on a program called Candlepin Champs, which was broadcast on Channel 7 in Boston. I bowled a two-string match against one Paul Kobel, who had finished fourth in the state tournament. After a seesaw battle, Paul defeated me by seven pins, making a spare-7 in the final box of the second string. It was a heartbreaking defeat, because in my ninth box, I had dropped five pins with my first ball, then converted the spare, but was called for a lob, nullifying the second ball and giving me a 5 for the box. I knocked down nine pins with my first ball of the tenth box -- so that lob in the ninth cost me 14 pins and the match.

In the 1980 MBA state tournament, I debuted as an adult and recorded a 1207 (10 strings) in the Men's Open Singles event. The following year, I tailed off a bit, with an 1117, and I only competed once after that, with a 1099, which I think was in 1987. I also entered a few TV rolloffs from time to time, for Don Gillis's Channel 5 show and the doubles show, but with unremarkable results.

Tenpins -- it ain't the same!

Since moving to Arizona, I've taken up tenpins, with some enthusiasm, but not as much as I had for candlepins. I've competed in city, state, and national tenpin tournaments, and also in Arizona Classic Bowling Association (ACBA) scratch events. Haven't had a tremendous amount of success, but I do have career earnings -- a grand total of $90.00, which I won in an event in Tucson:

Let it not be said that I've bowled entirely in vain!

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