Gold Level Coach Yokobosky wins his first PBA Regional title By Joan Taylor

    10/17/09

    United States

    USBCGoldCoachKenYokobosky.jpgThe word "leisure" conjures up thoughts of relaxation in a stress-free environment. To Kenny Yokobosky (pictured), Fredon, it means something entirely different. "I won my first Junior Bowlers Tour (JBT) tournament at Leisure Lanes in Fairfield when I was about 16 years old. And now (at age 43), I just won my first Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) Regional tournament at Leisure Lanes in Lancaster, Pennsylvania!"

    It was a long time coming, and you would think that this Gold Level Certified coach (there are only 35 of them on the entire planet) who is going to run the tenth annual "bowling boot camp" at Rockaway Lanes next year would have easily won many regional titles by now.

    "In a way it hurt when people said they didn't believe I never had a title," he said. It took him 23 years to get there, and it wasn't easy. "I had been missing the cuts in regionals, and not bowling well.

    I asked three top Team USA coaches and friends, Jeri Edwards, Gordon Vadakin and Fred Borden for help. They all worked with me and made some changes in my game. After all 'it's what you learn after you know it all that counts.'

    Then my friend (and coach) Bob Willis suggested I change to a 16-pound ball. And so everything fell into place. Hey, even Tiger Woods has a coach.

    I had just signed a contract with Vise Grips and used their interchangeable thumb called the "It" system for the first time. I'm now a proud staffer with the Storm bowling ball company. I used a Storm Virtual Gravity ball that I had just drilled on the Friday before the tournament.

    This was on the Shark pattern which is funny because my wife and in-laws will tell you that I have a deathly fear of sharks and won't go near any body of water because of it."

    And so on September 20th, Ken found himself in match play. The scores were low, which he prefers to a "shootout." "I don't consider myself a big strike bowler, but rather a good spare shooter. I like to figure things out, and this was one of my best spare-shooting weekends in my career. In the 17 games I only missed one spare that wasn't a split. I was fortunate with good breaks, too."

    In the final match he was pitted against touring player Michael Fagan. "It was pretty dramatic. I was down maybe 13 pins and in the ninth frame Mike left the Greek Church (a combination of three pins on one side and two on the other).

    He tried to convert it and only got one pin. I elected to finish the match first, to take the pressure off me. I got the first strike in the tenth. If I struck on the next ball I would shut him out. I threw the identical shot and had a messenger pin sail across and wiggle the ten pin.

    I resigned myself to finishing second. I figured here is this touring player and one of the best out there. But Mike didn't strike on his first ball and within seconds I just broke down." The final score was 182-167.

    The funny thing is that Ken's wife, Lori was in church with their friend and fellow bowler Noel Vega and text messages were flying fast and furious. Ken texted his wins after each match, but between the eighth and championship match there was no time to send a message.

    After his victory he texted "I won!" But they didn't know if he won a match or the tournament until he explained. "Ryan Shafer (touring pro, and twice guest pro at Bowling Camp) ran over and gave me a big hug. He's also on the Storm staff."

    "Having hosted regional tournaments at Rockaway Lanes, I know the work that goes into it. I give Carol Alison at Leisure Lanes all the credit in the world. We were treated very well there. I also have to thank Dr. Eric Lasser (author and sports psychologist) for teaching me the mental game. That's probably why I was relaxed during the bowling and so emotional when it was over."

    Ken has coached many people who have gone on to win regional titles, and it was now his turn. "I told (tournament director) Russ Mills ten years ago that when I get my title and he orders my banner (to hand over the lanes at each regional tournament), I want it to be Yankee pinstripes."

    And for this diehard Yankees fan and extraordinary bowler and coach, it will be done. I bet he can't wait to bowl in his next regional next year just to see that banner.

    Ken and Lori have two sons, Jake, 7 and Luke, 5. Yokobosky owns Pro Image Bowling (pro shops) in Rockaway and Sparta in addition to running the Bowling Camp and coaching individuals.

    "When I got home with the trophy the boys came running out to the car, saying 'Daddy, you are a champion.' Yes, finally. I did it for my family, but also for the fact that it was never about the trophy or money. From the time I watched bowling on television on Saturdays I wanted to win a PBA title."

    Congratulations, Ken! Even Derek Jeter would be impressed!