Local bowlers roll into Hall of Fame

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Todd Mishler | November 5, 2015

DELAVAN--Larry Marzahl's passion for bowling grew out of fear.

“I was born and raised on a farm north of Elkhorn, but then I worked at the bank from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., you know, banker's hours, and I knew if I went home that Dad would want me to help,” Marzahl said with a chuckle. “I needed to find something else to do, and Harold Mishler owned the bowling alley across from the pharmacy store (in Elkhorn), so I asked him if he would teach me how to bowl, and he said he would if I bought a ball from him.

“So, I did — a rubber one named Black Beauty — and every day after work I went over and he gave me lessons for about an hour, playing 10 to 20 games,” while sipping coffee at Delavan Lanes, one of his homes away from home.

Mishler proved to be an excellent teacher, and Marzahl a topnotch pupil. Marzahl and Ted Tinberg are the two newest members of the Wal-Roc USBCA Hall of Fame.

The event will be held Saturday, Nov. 14, at Evergreen Country Club in Elkhorn; social time starts at 6 p.m. with dinner at 7 p.m. and the induction ceremony to follow.
Marzahl, 71, said it means a lot to join such select company, learning that something was up while chatting with friend Bruce Van Fleet.

“We were at our Tuesday night league (in Clinton) and he was trying to keep it a secret, but he kept asking me all of these questions,” the Elkhorn resident said. “I told him, 'the only reason you're doing this is because you're filling out the application form for the Hall of Fame. I found out for sure that I made it when Rhonda Sundown brought Ted and his wife out during our Monday night league.”

Marzahl definitely has earned his place among the area's best with a long resume of success stories, several of which stand out among the dozens of highlights:

• Recording 13 300 games, eight of them at sanctioned events and the first coming at Delavan Lanes in the 1980s with his two oldest sons in attendance

• Finishing 44th out of 166 competitors in a Senior PBA regional tourney in Peoria, Illinois

• Winning a scratch doubles title with a traveling team at an event in Milwaukee

• Earning a state seniors title in Stevens Point in 2005

Naturally, some of the names, dates and years have faded, but his accomplishments and the stories surrounding them remain vivid for Marzahl.

“I remember competing in an over-40 tournament up in Stevens Point,” he said. “I won my first match and in the second round I went up against the guy who owned All-Star Lanes in Madison. He left the 10 pin and then hit the next 11 strikes in a row for a 290. I made the first 11 strikes and then left a wiggling 4 pin on my last shot for a 299. In the third round I lost to the guy who won the championship.”

And Marzahl won't forget the experience at the Illinois tourney.

“It was about 20 years ago and I talked myself into trying the Senior PBA event,” he said. “It was a 10-game qualifier, with five games in the morning and five in the afternoon. Understandably I was a little nervous … I was bowling in the same event with (Hall of Famer) Dick Weber, guys I grew up watching on TV. After five games, I was 166th. We had a 90-minute break and, of course, I was beating myself up about it. But I ended up finishing 44th overall … only the top 24 advanced, but I felt really good after that.”

Marzahl wouldn't have been so successful had he not listened to the urging of others and undergone a major life change.

“A number of people told me that I could do it and should play in more tournaments,” Marzahl said. “It always had been just a night out with friends and stuff, but after I got divorced in 1992 is when I decided to take it more seriously. So, I got in a lot of tournaments and did pretty well. I never won, but I never went into them to win; it was always to try and get in the money.”

Marzahl has kept his average between 191 and 211 for nearly the past 25 years, a testament to always remembering one of his first lessons.

“Accuracy is so important, and having the same delivery, but back in the beginning the goal was always to make spares and take the strikes now and then,” Marzahl said. “It was all about consistency. And now, even with all of the high-tech stuff, it's still about being consistent, and I try to remember that at any tournaments I'm in.”

Marzahl has maintained that mantra despite having both knees replaced, his left one nine years ago and his right about 18 months ago.

Still, he isn't about to slow down. He bowls in morning and evening leagues Mondays in Delavan, Wednesdays he goes to Burlington and Tuesday nights and occasional Fridays and Saturdays you'll find him in Clinton.

“As the age goes up, the average comes down,” he said. “But I'm not retiring as long as I have my health. I enjoy the company, the camaraderie and the wonderful people. It keeps me active. And I'm a fanatic.”

And now he's a member of the Hall of Fame.

“I feel blessed, honored and respectful,” Marzahl said. “I'm very glad to be going in with an individual like Ted. I have a lot of respect for what he's done with the Delavan Association and Wal-Roc. He's done a lot of work for bowling in this area.”

Read more about another new local name in the Hall of Fame, Delavan bowler Ted Tinberg in the upcoming Nov. 8 Walworth County Sunday.

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