Norris Jr. sets all-time Sport record

Honor scores are not exactly heart-pounding moments to Mike Norris Jr. For the Melvindale, Mich., bowler, it usually is more like a been-there-done-that moment.

But despite 98 certified USBC honor scores, including 24 800s and 51 300s, the 33-year-old entered Sunnybrook Lanes for his Wednesday night league on June 30 still chasing his first 800 series and 300 game on Sport conditions. A few hours later, he had both. And he had something else as well: the three-game Sport Bowling series record.

“After it was over, one guy said ‘I left after you bowled the 290. If I had known you would post a 579 behind that, I’d have stuck around,’” Norris laughs.

Norris followed his opening 290 with games of 279 and 300, eclipsing by seven pins the record previously held by Bo Goergen, who logged an 862 series at the 2009 USBC Open Championships with scores of 299, 299 and 264. Norris’s record-breaking series came on the Cheetah pattern in Sunnybrook’s Dan Ottman Memorial PBA Experience League.

“It is definitely surreal. I didn’t even know what the record was at the time,” Norris says. “When I learned that it was a record, I was definitely very excited.”

It might be surreal to Norris Jr., but to those who know him, the feat is hardly surprising.

“Mike is a good, solid player and able to consistently do well in PBA Regional competition,” says Jeff Richgels, owner of four USBC Eagles and 28 PBA Regional titles. “It doesn’t surprise me that he could shoot a score like this. He has a great strike ball.”

Mark Martin, who serves as Metro Detroit USBC Association Manager and has known Norris for 10 years, agrees.

“Mike is one of the best players in Detroit,” Martin says. “He was a PBA member, and he has bowled very well on some very tough PBA conditions over the years. In our Masters tournament, we have a Sport shot and he has excelled at that. Same thing with our State Masters tournament.”

Norris credits his years of experience in both national and regional PBA tournaments for the success he enjoys on Sport Bowling conditions, and emphasizes an unrelenting willingness to learn and practice as keys to success on the most challenging conditions.

“You’ve got to keep learning. Learn about surfaces and equipment. And, of course, practice, because on Sport shots it is not easy; you can’t just throw the ball all over the place. You have to keep it within the goal posts,” Norris explains. “My biggest advice to people who want to bowl Sport leagues is to work hard, practice, get familiar with the patterns, and start matching up equipment.

“With today’s technology it’s like a nonstop adventure; you have to keep up. No matter where you bowl or what you bowl on, it’s a constant learning process.”

In a city where bowlers walk in the shadows of giants — Ed Lubanski, Buzz Fazio, the Stroh’s Beer Team — you don’t earn a reputation unless you’ve got some serious game. But even as Norris hears the accolades of distinguished peers such as Richgels, he does not forget the names of those legends that preceded him.

“I don’t exactly consider myself Eddie Lubanski, or any of the absolute greats that have come through the Detroit area,” Norris says. “Those guys are Hall of Famers. I am still just trying to work on becoming a Hall of Famer, so being considered one of the best in the city makes me really happy.”