Varsity bowling is back in East Hampton.
Fifteen Bonackers make up this year’s team, which returns to the lanes after a four-year hiatus. The East Hampton bowling program was canceled when East Hampton Bowl shut its doors after more than 50 years in business in June 2013. Mike Vitulli is the head coach of the team and was thankful to Scott Rubenstein and East Hampton Indoor Tennis, where The Clubhouse is located.
“Scott Rubenstein obviously did a great job of putting this place together and allowing us to use this,” he said. “It’s an unbelievable place. They’ve been awesome, very accommodating, helping us out every which way they can. [The] kids really appreciate it.”
No one appreciates it more than Samantha Schurr, an East Hampton senior who has traveled all over Suffolk County, not only so she can play competitively, but so she can practice as well. Now she only has to take a short drive to The Clubhouse, where she can work on her game along with her teammates, which include Juan Amay, James Barros, Jax Cantwell, David Carpio, Guillermo Cedillo, Ray Chan, Rene Criollo, Anthony Gonzalez, Hayden Luengas, Christopher Pitts, Estabon Procel, Samantha Totten and Sy Webb.
When asked if she was excited to play the game she loves with a bunch of her classmates in a brand new, state-of-the-art facility, Schurr answered with an emphatic yes.
“I’m really glad that this many people want to bowl and be a part of the bowling team, because without them I wouldn’t be on a team or anything,” she explained. “They’re all improving, they all want to learn, so it’s great.”
The co-ed team will compete in the boys division, in League IV. Comsewogue, Longwood, Middle Country, Riverhead, Rocky Point, Sachem and Southold will all compete in the league, with Sachem and Longwood being the top competition.
East Hampton will only be able to practice—not host matches—at The Clubhouse due to it implementing a string-pin system, rather than the more commonly used mechanical system. The string-pin system holds the bowling pins in place with strings and such a system is currently not sanctioned by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association or Section XI, the governing body of Suffolk County high school athletics. Therefore, East Hampton will host its home matches at The All Star bowling alley in Riverhead. A few other teams, including Riverhead and Southold, also call The All Star home, so East Hampton will play nine of its 14 matches there.
“We’re just trying to build this from scratch,” Vitulli said. “We have 15 bowlers this year. Five are in the starting lineup and you can sub if you need here and there. We have one experienced bowler, everyone else is pretty new to the sport, so we’re really just working on technique, learning how to bowl the right way, and finally, enjoy the game.”
East Hampton has had a successful program in the past, producing college prospects, such as Erick Bock, who was the first ever six-year varsity bowler for East Hampton and was the first Bonacker to bowl a perfect game. He was the fourth-ranked rookie in the country, 46th overall, in his graduating year, 2002. He turned his successful high school bowling career into a full scholarship to bowl in college and later on turned pro. Bock was inducted into East Hampton’s Hall of Fame last year.
Schurr only has one year to prove herself at the high school level, but she’s ready to do so, and since she’s the only senior on the team with competitive bowling experience, she’s ready to lend a helping hand to her teammates.
“I don’t want to say that I have expectations—I know that we’re going against one of the best teams in the league and we’re just starting, so I know we’re not going to be one of the top teams—but I definitely want to get stronger and stronger,” she said. “I know when [East Hampton] used to have a team, the team was amazing. A personal goal would be to make the [county] All-Star team. I really just want to see how this goes as a team.”
East Hampton plays its first match of the season this Thursday, November 29, at The All Star against Southold at 4:30 p.m. and will play Sachem at Coram Bowl on Tuesday, December 4, at 4:30 p.m.