Bowling event celebrates different cultures (video)

Jennifer Lee Preyss By Jennifer Lee Preyss

July 8, 2012 at 2:08 a.m.
Updated July 9, 2012 at 2:09 a.m.

Beto Hernandez, 54, of Corpus Christi, hits his first strike of the day during a warm-up session for the 35th annual Victoria Latin Bowlers Tournament.

Beto Hernandez, 54, of Corpus Christi, hits his first strike of the day during a warm-up session for the 35th annual Victoria Latin Bowlers Tournament.   Josh Morgan for The Victoria Advocate

When the bowling lane conditioner finished rolling a sheen across Century Lanes bowling alley, Beto Hernandez stepped up to the carousel at lanes seven and eight and grabbed a three-hole ball.

Squads of eager amateur bowlers gathered behind him, and around him, waiting for a turn to warm up. On his turn, Hernandez walked to the edge of the lane, stared down the triangular 10-pin placement, and calculated a mental mapping of how to best knock down the pins.

"It helps to see it scientifically, there are indicators on the lanes. You use those markers to carry the better angles to knock down the pins," said Hernandez, a civilian aerospace engineer for the U.S. Department of Defense in Corpus Christi.

A homogeneous rumbling of rolling balls, falling pins, and bowling strategy chatter echoed through the building.

After a 10-minute warm-up, the 54-year-old Hernandez who carries a 229 bowling average, was ready to compete in the second and final day of Sunday's 35th annual Victoria Latin Bowlers Tournament. Hernandez's team - the Texas Riviera - were aiming for a top-three placement at the close of the competition. On Sunday, there were already in fourth place.

"I've been doing this tournament for 27 years, and let me put it this way, there have only been four years that we haven't won any money," he said. "The main thing is the team. All five members have to be on."

Hernandez is one of the tournament's longest competitors. He's also a six-time first-place champion.

Tournament Director Lee Caballero said the event attracts hundreds of bowlers from across the state each year, and has watched the event grow exponentially in the past 18 years he's served as director.

This year, 480 participants signed up for the the two-day event - a total of 96 teams, 64 men's teams and 32 women's.

Each was competing for the coveted tournament trophy and top purses of $1,000- $3,000 for the top three men's teams, and $750-$2,000 for the top three women's teams.

"This is really an event for everyone," said Cabellero, who is also a past champion of the Victoria Latin Bowlers Tournament. "You don't have to be Hispanic to participate."

Tom Crowe, of Victoria, is a two-year participant of the tournament bowler, and has been a participant in the sport for 50 years. He isn't Latino, but said he enjoys the diversity the Latin bowling tournament offers.

"The cultures are so interchangeable here, so I don't really think about it ... I'm Irish," said Crowe, 62. "It brings us all together and it's wonderful to bowl with all the cultures."

Crowe's Stroud Vending five-man team was in eighth place at the start of Sunday.

Both Hernandez and Crowe said bowling is as much about competition and sport as it is about having fun and spending time with friends and family.

"It is about competition. You try to knock down those pins and it's frustrating when you don't do it," Hernandez said. "But this is fun for me. I bowl 39 weekends of the year. There are a lot of good people you meet, and a lot of the people here today I've known for 25 years."

Hernandez said he has bowled in tournaments nationwide, and at one time even picked up a fifth-place national tourney win that would have determined his ability to go pro.

"I gave it up. I wouldn't have been able to compete in these amateur competitions if I went pro," he said.

Crowe said bowling is unlike any other sport because it does not discriminate against age or gender.

"It's one of those sports you can be competitive in from a very young age, to a very old age," he said. "You won't find that in too many other sports."

Hernandez's team finished Sunday's tournament in fourth place with a purse of $700, but said the team is already strategizing for a 2013 win.

"As tough as the lanes were, we're OK with the results," he said. "We'll back to win it again next year."



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