In The News

Rolling to strikes
Disabled Bowler Knocks Down Pins – Raises Score and Awareness

By Phil Sandoval
Free Press Sports Editor
February 14, 2007

Jon MusgraveJon Musgrave releases the ball during a recent practice at GJ Scores. Musgrave practices five times a week for three hours daily and competes in a weekly league.

Jon Musgrave angers other bowlers. That’s not his intention when he wheels his way up the GJ Scores alleys. It’s just that the wheelchair-bound Musgrave usually outscores most able-bodied bowlers who happen be in the next lane.

“Today, he bowled next to an able-bodied guy, and Jon beat him every single game,” said Musgrave’s wife, Tricia. “He beat him by at least one pin, if not 20 pins every game.” Seeing those results on the scoreboard is pleasing. But that’s not the reason Musgrave took up the sport. Rather, it gave him an opportunity to get out and compete. “The best thing is being able to bowl with my son,” Musgrave said. “It’s nice to have the chance to be competitive again. I think it’s bred in you.”

Musgrave, who’s wheelchair-bound as a result of a 1991 accident when a large truck hit his motorcycle after running a stop sign, has been bowling for a little more than a year. He’d tried the sport in the past without success. But last year, Tricia discovered a mechanical bowler that produced success. “There’s a magazine that we get that has handicapped devices,” she said. “I came across this bowler. It looked really neat.” She’d bought her husband different types of devices in the past – they usually didn’t work. But this particular device was the exception. “He put it on and rolled the ball down our hallway and he said, ‘Let’s go to the bowling alley,'” she said. “He used it, and he’s pretty much used it every day since.”

Musgrave normally practices three hours a day, Monday through Friday. The practice hones his skills for league play, where Musgrave bowls with his son, Jon Jr., on Monday nights. The bowler Musgrave currently uses creates the spin on his bowling ball upon release. A helper, usually Tricia, places the bowling ball on top of the device. Then, it’s up to Musgrave to control the action. “There’s a weight in every ball. You have to figure out where to place the weight to put the spin on the ball,” he said. “Then, its all controlled with the action of my wheelchair. The breaking of the wheelchair, causes the ball to release — It’s my driving. So it’s really me.” And Musgrave has driven himself to high scores.

He’s rolled a career best of 231 and averages 158 per game in league play. “The best thing is seeing Jon bowling, then looking around, scoring and beating able-bodied people. And being able to compete again,” Tricia said. “(Instead of) sitting at home in front of a TV thinking about being in a wheelchair or something. He’s out here competing with able-bodied people.” “It’s a lot of fun,” Musgrave added. “Bowling is a great way to take your mind away from everything and just be happy.”