For over 35 years, Mike Berlin has been a key member of the Muscatine bowling community. The owner of Berlin’s Pro Shop has been outfitting bowlers and teams with custom gear for years. Berlin is also a Hall of Fame bowler, and when he came back to Muscatine after being gone for five years, he felt the youth programs could use a boost.
Last summer, Berlin started a program to teach children how to bowl. An estimated 35 bowlers enrolled in the program and Berlin used his years of experience to teach the proper techniques to improve and develop these young bowlers. Three of these bowlers have taken the instruction well and have begun to have significant competitive success. Eighth graders Whittney Morse, Clair Wilson and Emily Payne are preparing to enter their first year of high school competition. Berlin said, “These three girls are about ready to burst onto the high school scene. They will join their high school team and be dominant bowlers for the next four years.”
One of the reasons Berlin is so involved with youth bowling instruction is that bowling is a growing sport collegiately. Berlin says, “Three hundred college programs are now offering bowling scholarships. There is a lot of money available for young people to help them pay for their education.”
Morse and Payne have participated in the Greater Iowa Scholarship Bowling Tour. This tour hosts monthly bowling tournaments where the contestants have the opportunity to earn scholarship dollars for their post-secondary education. Morse has had success this year on the tour. She qualified for the 2016 tournament of champions, taking tenth place out of twelve. Morse is the youngest athlete to qualify in the 25-year history of the event. To date, Morse has earned $1,300 in scholarships. Morse said, “I got into bowling because my Dad bowled, and so do my older siblings. I love competing. It makes me happy to win trophies and awards.”
Wilson said, “I like bowling because its fun. I like to come and hang out with my friends and be a part of a team.” Payne echoed similar sentiments. “At first I didn’t get into bowling. My older sister bowled and eventually I started. I like coming to practice and being with my friends. I also really like to get new balls and shoes, so that is always fun.” Payne’s father Troy told the Voice of Muscatine that “Emily is the youngest in Muscatine to roll a perfect 300 game.”
Berlin also started a middle school program this year. They had around 35 participants for that team. After the first four practices, the boys team took first in the state in the team rankings, while the girls finished first in the team rankings and had the top three individual scores as well.