That winning feeling: Tom Hankey Jr. earns the Teen Master crown
15 years of bowling and 24 games of rolling a 300 later, Hankey, 17, is positive that the 2017 Teen Masters Grand Championship in Richmond, Va. is the most difficult tournament he has ever won. There were 360 bowlers in the 42-game tournament.
"It was probably the toughest environment I've bowled in," Hankey said. "We were using very old [bowling] technology opposed to now. We weren't bowling on typical lane conditions and everything is setup where the ball helps you more than it used to, making it more of a mental grind. Of course, after playing 42 games you are ready to fall on the floor."
All 360 bowlers had to use the same two kinds of balls, taking the advantage away from anyone who may have bought more equipment for the tournament. The week-long tournament was played on two different oil patterns and the scoring was based on total pinfall at the end of the week.
Hankey recorded a pinfall total of 8,777, and a final score of 9,092, over 200 more than second-place Hunter Kempton of Buzzards Bay, Mass. Hankey averaged a 208.98 score per game over the 42 games.
As the winner of the tournament, Hankey received a $6,000 scholarship to put towards college. Hankey will also be playing the winner of the girls division, Allie Leiendecker of Wooster, Ohio, in Reno, Nev. in the fall that will later be aired on ESPN.
"We are still waiting on final dates, but I believe it will be toward the end of October or early November," Hankey said. "It's is going to be the biggest broadcast I've ever been a part of. This is the first time I have ever won a tournament then had to go on and face someone else."
This won't be the first time Hankey will bowl on national television. At the age of 15, Hankey won the United States Bowling Congress Junior Gold Championship, which was aired on CBS Sports Network. No matter how many tournaments he plays in, Hankey still finds himself a little nervous when stepping up to the lane, but he has recently discovered a tool to help him stay cool under pressure.
"I try to shut my mind off or to go somewhere else in my head," said Hankey. "I still get nervous, but somebody left a fidget spinner [at the Cove Bowling Lanes, his home lanes] and I found myself using that to calm down. I've never touched one before in my life. I found this about three weeks ago and it has been sitting in my pocket ever since. Every now and then I find myself using it without even thinking about it. It definitely helps keep my mind eat ease."
Hankey's parents, Tom Sr. and Sheila, own The Cove Bowling and Entertainment in Great Barrington, where Tommy has been working throughout high school. Hankey is going to be graduating high school a semester early and is focusing on bowling before moving down to Florida next summer.
"My mom is pretty jealous," Hankey said. "She wants to move down to Florida and get out of the cold. They have been at [The Cove] for so long that they are ready to move on. They want to build a house down there, which will also help me with in-state tuition."
Throughout his 15 years of bowling, Hankey's parents have always been right by his side, helping him get to different events and work on his overall game.
"The support means everything to me," Hankey said. "Just to compete every weekend, driving two-and-a-half hours every which way, it means everything to me."
When Hankey heads off to Webber to start his college career he wants to get a degree in business management, but he is also going to be bowling — a lot.
"I won't be doing a lot of individual tournaments until we get to nationals," Hankey said. "Personally, I think bowling in teams is going to be harder. If you are having a bad day, there are five other people counting on you, not just yourself."
When it is all said and done, Hankey wants to work at what he calls "The Science Department of Bowling." The Kegel training facility is where he is going to be practicing six to seven times a week starting next fall.
"I've been around the sport for 15 years now," said. "I love the science and math behind the game. The center studies bowling every single day, and my goal is to be a part of that."
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