Kokomo City Bowling Tournament History
The Kokomo Bowling Association was formed on August 17, 1916. The constitution and by-laws were adopted on August 24, 1916. George H. Strout served as first president, Karl Krebser as vice-president and Harry O. Davis as secretary/treasurer.
The Kokomo Bowling Association was formed to provide a governing body for the local leagues and to affiliate with the Indiana Bowling Association and the American Bowling Congress.
Shortly after its formation, the Kokomo Bowling Association organized its first City Bowling Tournament. Tournament rules were adapted from a set of rules provided by the Indianapolis Bowling Association. Entry fee was $1.00 for each event entered.
Handicap was based on two-thirds of the difference between the bowlers average and 170. The minimum average, for handicap purposes, was 140. Twenty-one bowlers had averages of 170 or higher and bowled scratch.
The first City Bowling Tournament was held from February 12 through 14, 1917 at the Menig Alleys located at 108 East Mulberry Street. The Menig alleys, built in 1915 and consisting of 6 lanes, was one of the states finest bowling establishments at that time.
On Monday evening, February 12, seven teams competed for the championship on a handicap basis. Eighteen doubles teams and 26 singles competitors bowled the next two nights, respectively. No practice was permitted before the matches. All teams rolled at "new wood".
Appropriately, a City League team named "Kokomos" won the first team event with a handicap score of 2590. Carl Heady and George Elliott combined for a score of 1167 to take the doubles title. Earl Tooley was the surprise winner of the singles title with a score of 627 (617 actual). Actual all-events winner was Carl Maudlin with a fine 1718 representing an average of over 190 for the nine games.
Starting in 1922, the all-events champion was recognized on a handicap basis. For almost 20 years, the champions were crowned on a handicap basis only. Starting with the 1939 tournament, actual and handicap champions were recognized for each event.
Over the years, the Kokomo City Tournament has seen tremendous growth. From those 7 teams in the inaugural tournament, the tournament grew to over 100 teams by 1939 and topped 150 teams in 1956. In those days the tournament took 5 weeks to complete. Participation decreased to less than 60 teams by the late 1960’s and below 50 teams about five years ago.
A recent resurgence to over 100 teams may be attributed to recent changes made by the Kokomo Bowling Association. A 2nd division has been added for bowlers with averages of 170 and below. Local business community "Lane Sponsorships" have been added to boost the bowlers prize fund. These, and other improvements, were made to encourage increased participation.
The City Tournament has been conducted in most of the bowling establishments that have existed in Kokomo. Menig Alleys hosted the event from 1917 to 1922. The Recreation Alleys held the tournament in the 1920’s and 1930’s. From the 1940’s through the 1960’s, the team event and the singles/doubles events were usually conducted at different bowling establishments, on a rotational basis. The Recreation Alleys, Evans Bowling Academy and Play Bowl Lanes were involved in that annual rotation. The Recreation Alleys were later called The Bowling Center. The Evans Bowling Academy became Sycamore Lanes.
Currently, the tournament is rotated among Cedar Crest Lanes, Don Lowry Lanes East and Don Lowry Lanes West, with all the events being bowled in the same center.
The Kokomo City Tournament has brought out the best in Kokomo’s bowlers.
In 1936, Kokomo Bowling Hall-of-Famer Fred Hurstel shot, what was then the all-time Kokomo series record, 721 series in the singles event. This series held up, as a City Tournament singles record, for 50 years. In 1941, the "Kokomo Recreation Five" rolled 3165 actual to win the team championship. This City Tournament team record stood for 48 years and has only been beaten twice. The "Kokomo Recreation Five" consisted of Stub Miller, Bobby Resener and Hall of Fame members Hurstel, Don Sellers and Harry "Doc" Sloan.
Four bowlers have struck perfection in the city tournament. Rolling 300 games were Dan Gibson in 1978, Jim Hundley in 1986, Max Snodgrass in 1988, Steve Huff in 1992 and Ron Harding in 1996.
Fred Hurstel also holds the most city tournament actual titles. He has won the singles event twice, the doubles event 3 times and all-events a phenomenal 6 times for a total of 11 minors championships. Fred also contributed to at least 4 team championships. Fred’s titles span 24 years, from 1928 to 1952. It seems only proper that Fred was the first Kokomo bowler to roll a sanctioned 300 game, accomplishing that feat on December 22, 1937.
Current actual Kokomo City Tournament records are as follows.
Team Actual -- DL&T Pro Sort -- 3305 in 1992
Doubles Actual -- Greg Harris and Brian Graham -- 1394 in 1996
Singles Actual -- Jim Hundley -- 778 in 1986
All Events Actual -- Jon Kelley -- 2075 in 1991
This brief history is dedicated to the pioneers of the Kokomo Bowling Association who gave their time and energies in service to the bowlers of Kokomo. It is also dedicated to the champions of old, for the rich heritage and tradition they have provided to the bowlers of today. Finally, it is dedicated to those local businesses who have supported bowling in Kokomo over the past 75 years.