Sixteen-year-old Ralph Gross IV of North Port comes from a bowling family, and on the basis of his stellar performance in Columbus, Ohio, last week, it may not be long before the young righthander starts accumulating awards and honors of his own.
Gross, more commonly known as RJ, captured the championship in the Senior Boys (ages 15-19) division of last week’s U.S. Open Pro-Am competition at Holiday Lanes, which hosted the prestigious U.S. Open tournament, showcasing many of the world’s top bowlers.
With the pro-amateur event contested on a 3-6-9 format — in which all amateurs receive “automatic” strikes in the third, sixth and ninth frames of each game — Gross posted scratch scores of 193, 232 and 234 for a 659 total.
With an entering average of 124 and handicap computed on a 100 percent of 200 basis, his winning net pinfall was 887, which was the highest total among any of the winners in any of the eight junior pro-am classifications. He finished with a 27-pin advantage over runner-up Caleb Viney of Indian River, Fla., who had a net score of 860.
“I’ve only been bowling for three or four years, since my parents and grandfather got me interested in the game, and this was only the second tournament I’ve ever entered,” Gross said. “In the only other tournament I’ve entered, I finished 10th out of 98 kids when I was 14.”
Part of the inspiration for the youngster’s victory can be attributed to a perfect game rolled by Shannon Pluhowsky, one of the game’s premier players, on the same pair of lanes.
“I owe part of my success to Scott Long at A Better Pro Shop (inside Treasure Lanes in Port Charlotte),” Gross said. “Scott has helped with my game strategy, both physically and mentally, and he just recently drilled a DV8 (bowling ball) for me, and I used that for part of the tournament.”
The youngster’s proud parents, Ralph III and Renae, are fine bowlers in their own right. His father carries a current yearbook average of 179, and has a 298 game to his credit, rolled in league play in 2011 at Treasure Lanes.
His mother is, without question, one of the area’s top female bowlers, and she carried league averages of 208 and 202 at Treasure Lanes during the 2012-13 season. Renae has a high career game of 299, rolled in a 2012 tournament in Naples, and she fired games of 298 on two occasions during league play at Treasure Lanes in 2011. [To view a past usedview.com bowling column that featured Renae Gross, click here.]
RJ’s winning score was 62 pins better than any of the other junior pro-am entrants and seven better than the adult pro-am champ.
What are RJ’s future bowling goals? “I certainly plan on entering more tournaments in the near future, and naturally, I hope to win some of them,” he said. And with such an impressive victory under his belt, no one should be surprised if he achieves that goal.
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