Junior Gold Notebook - Day 1: Flying start


During the Opening Ceremony of the 2019 Junior Gold Championships presented by the Brands of Ebonite International, you could have watched Amanda Vogt display her pretty incredible yo-yo skills.

But that’s only one side of the 18-year-old left-hander from Pleasant Grove, California.

Her dad, Jeff, is a captain for Southwest Airlines and suggested she learn flying. Since she was home-schooled by her mom, Cindy, Amanda started flying two months before her 16th birthday, made her first solo flight the day she turned 16 – “That’s the first day you can do that,” she said – and on her 17th birthday, also the youngest age possible, she got her private pilot’s license.

She then looked to build up her flight time, needing 250 hours to earn a commercial license. Her dad had a Cessna 152, a two-seater, which she used for lessons and then to build up her flight time.
“The 152, I flew that around … just to get food, made little trips, took friends with me, went an hour away to just go shopping,” said Vogt, who once flew her friends on a trip just to get sushi. “A lot of my friends live in Freemont (about two hours away), and I would call them up and tell them to meet me at the airport.”

While looking for jobs online, she found Boutique Air, an airline based in San Francisco, and reached out to them to see if she could “get my foot in the door.”

“I managed to meet the right people,” Vogt said. “I was hired as a co-pilot when I had 500 hours, and last month I hit 1,200 hours and was upgraded to captain.”

She flies a Pilatus PC-12, an eight-passenger turbo-prop plane, for Boutique Air but took the week off work to attend Junior Gold. She first bowled Junior Gold in 2012 when she was 11, earning the David Dahms Sportsmanship Award.

And though, technically, she only can request time off for six days in a row from her full-time job, she wanted to bowl Junior Gold.

“I thought it was worth taking the time off,” Vogt said. “I have to keep doing it. I haven’t bowled in leagues in like a year, but I manage to practice some and bowl tournaments when I’m off.

“So, I’ve never sitting around – I’m either flying around or bowling.”

Collegiate champion on key to event
After winning the 2019 Intercollegiate Singles and Team Championships in his freshman year at Webber International, Tom Hankey Jr. of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, , looks to add a U20 Junior Gold Championships title to his 2019 collection. He won the U15 title in 2015 and knows the key to a successful Junior Gold.

“I had a good look in all practice sessions,” said Hankey Jr., who had a 911 four-game series at Classic Bowl on Monday. “My ultimate goal is to make match play. I feel if I do that, I’ll be happy with the event. Once match play hits, it’s anybody’s tournament.”

And the key to a successful Junior Gold tournament?

“Make spares,” Hankey Jr. said. “I don’t care how much you can strike in this tournament. If you can’t make a spare, you’re left for dead.”

A Junior Gold engagement
Bekah Dearing of West Lafayette, Indiana, received a special surprise from 2016 U20 Junior Gold champion Jeffery Mann on Sunday night – a marriage proposal. Instead of going to the Opening Ceremony, the couple and their families went out to dinner and Mann said he wanted to say a few words to everyone at the table before he competes in his final Junior Gold Championships.

Dearing said both families normally attend the event, so she didn’t think anything was unusual though everyone, she found out later, was aware of what was about to happen.

“They were conspiring against me,” Dearing said. “I was very surprised. He said something to each individual in the family, then he goes, ‘With that being said …’ and he got down on one knee and proposed.”

It will be awhile before the wedding bells, as they plan to marry after getting their degrees at Marian University, where Mann is a junior and Dearing a sophomore.

Positive attitude
Elizabeth Coutta of Smyrna, Tennessee, was the runner-up at the 2016 Junior Gold Championships, her final year in the U12 division. She also got the chance to meet her favorite bowler, Jason Belmonte.

Now, in her final year of U15, she’s looking to make another run at the title. She rolled an 802 series in Monday’s first round at Sterling Lanes.

“I came in this year with a positive attitude, because I really want to be in the same place I was in 2016,” said Coutta. “I talked to Jason again (at registration) and he said, ‘I would like to watch you again; just get in the top two and I’ll come back and watch.’ I was like ‘Hey, I’m going try.’ So that’s my goal for this year.”

Learning the ropes
Competing in his second Junior Gold Championships, Chris LeSueur of Kent, Ohio, had an 873 set in the U17 boys division at Astro Lanes on Monday. He said he “had a little bit of room outside playing towards the gutter. After the second game, I was able to move left and still had hold in the middle.”

He said last year’s experience helped him understand what he needed to do, especially in terms of equipment, and to “not let a bad day get in your head and bring you down.”

“It feels really good; it’s a release of stress,” he said about Monday’s set. “Coming into this, I really wanted to do better than last year, and to be set up now, I’m not in a pressured situation to go plus-40 the next three blocks to make it back to the cut. Now, I can be a lot more relaxed.”