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Detroit's Mason Brantley bowls for bigger prize

BY PERRY A. FARRELL
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER

For years, Mason Brantley, 29, has been one of the top bowlers in Detroit and recently bowled an 880 series at Plum Hollow, where he works as the center’s mechanic and lane dresser, to set the city record.

Brantley will bowl in the PBA Regional Players Championship at Thunderbowl in Allen Park this weekend in hopes of winning the $8,000 prize. But more important, he would be a paid entrant into the $1 million PBA Tournament of Champions — the richest tournament in bowing history. The RPC is for non-exempt players, so Brantley sees this as an opportunity to make the same kind of impact Saginaw’s Thomas Smallwood did a year ago by beating 2008-09 Player of the Year Wes Malott to win the PBA World Championship. 

Free Press sports writer Perry A. Farrell recently spoke to Brantley about his stellar series and the upcoming tournament.

Q: Talk about your 880 series.

A: I walked into the center and I was late. I used the wrong ball to start. I started off with a strike and I threw the next ball and it comes up kind of light. I said I better change to what I usually throw. I moved three boards to the right and I struck out (for 280). When we started the next game and I got the first six and I said to myself I don’t feel like the shot is going to move, so I said I can stay here for another six shots and that’s when I shot 300. The next game I threw a couple of shots and I said I still don’t think the shot is going to move so I stayed in the same spot for three games and I shot 300 again. That’s how 880 happened.

Q: What does the regional at Thunderbowl this weekend mean to you in terms of trying to reach the next level?

A: It’s time for my breakthrough. Honestly. Michigan bowlers are starting to etch their names in stone as far as being champions as far as Smallwood and (John) Nolen and Kerry Kreft. I would like to be considered one of the greats as well and win one of the top tournaments. I’m really going in with a lot of confidence that things are going to be great for me this year.

Q: Have you put down different shots at Plum Hollow to practice on?

A: Yes. I’ve been practicing a lot on the Shark pattern. It’s funny you asked me that because this past weekend we had a regional on the Shark pattern but I believe the pattern wasn’t applied right because the lanes were way too tight. I still managed to get to plus-32 on it and I missed cashing by three pins. I did a lot better with the way I’ve been practicing on it; changing my angles towards the pocket and I was able to keep the ball in play, just not enough to cash or place.

Q: There haven’t been a lot of successful African-American bowlers on tour, do you think about that?

A: All the time. I consider myself the guy that does what somebody else can’t do or in a position that somebody else can’t be. I feel like I represent not only African Americans; I represent the whole Detroit area. Everybody gets behind me and pushes me in a positive way to put Detroit on the map when it comes to professional bowling. If anything I feel like it’s a little bit of pressure on me, but at the same time I’ve always been in this seat. The key is I’m waiting on my breakthrough.

Q: Does what happen to Smallwood last year motivate you?

A: Tom Smallwood has always been a great player. I bowled against him in the Majors and all sorts of other tournaments and he’s always been good. He has been a hidden talent. When things happen and you have to get focused on something else, that thing has to become important to you. That is how life has always been with me, getting wins in bowling and winning in life. When I have to focus in on one thing and make it my top priority; that’s when I get the most success. The problem with professional bowling and Mason is I have so many other things going on. I have a family I take care of, I work, I take care of a bowling center and paying bills, then trying to squeeze bowling in on a professional level is hard. It’s hard to lock in and find all the tools I need to be successful in it. 

Contact PERRY A. FARRELL: 313-222-2555 or pafarrell@freepress.com.

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