The Bowler and the Builder

Written by Amy Dee Stephens in the June 2020 Issue

Eric Jones admits his father might have gone a tad overboard when he built a fully-functioning bowling lane next to the house—but he’s not complaining. It was one of those father/son projects that started small and ended with twelve trips to the hardware store. 

Heath Jones, the father, is not a handyman, but his son needed a bowling lane. Why? Because Eric, an Edmond 8th grader, is a competitive bowler. Every day for four years, Eric has practiced bowling—and then the pandemic hit, and bowling alleys closed.

“He had no way to train for his next national tournament, which was pushed back to August,” Heath said. “Eric saw a YouTube video about a pro bowler who built his own practice lane and wondered if we could copy the idea.” 

“I said, ‘Dad, if we make it, let’s go big!’” said Eric. “We both put in an equal amount of effort in the beginning, but then he went a little crazy and took over."

It started with just a lane, but then Heath tired of leaning over to reset the pins—so he added a pin-setter and then a see-saw style ball return. Although the initial set-up took about three weeks, the Joneses have continued to improve their set-up. The pin-setter ropes became cables, and the lane now has three coats of polyurethane. “And we’ve started spraying the lane with cooking oil,” Heath added. 

Even after the pandemic, the homemade bowling alley will remain a secondary practice zone. Eric enjoys the convenience of walking out the door to bowl, and Heath enjoys playing the game with his son. They quit every evening by nine so they don’t annoy the neighbors. 

Eric developed the bowling “bug” in third grade after watching online videos of champion bowlers and trick-shot bowling. “So, I took him and he scored 128 his very first time! I thought, ‘Wow this kid is something!’ After that, he begged me to go bowling every day,” Heath added. 

Eric, who describes himself as “insanely competitive,” hopes to become a professional bowler. “In December, I barely made the qualifying round at a tournament in Texas, so I decided I wasn’t going to waste my opportunity. I won eight out of nine games,” Eric said. 

During his 8th grade year, Eric won $11,000 at competitions, which all went into a scholarship account. Heath, who is a musician, is super jazzed about that. “When I was in college at Oklahoma Christian in 1990, I was in a rock band. Our very first job was playing at the bowling alley, the same alley where Eric now practices. Now, I play saxophone there every week while Eric is practicing. It’s funny that thirty years later, bowling and music are still part of my life,” Heath said with a laugh. “Of course, all the money I earn playing goes to pay for Eric’s lane fees.” 

And the custom-built alley in their backyard.

“I’m thankful he built it, although he’s probably more excited than me,” Eric joked. “Dad thinks it’s pretty sweet. I do, too.” 

 

 

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