Bob Learn, Jr., has a resume’ that any bowler would love to have.
Five PBA titles, including the 1999 U.S. Open. Winner of the 1996 ESPY Award. He rolled at the time just the 10th televised 300 game at the PBA Flagship Open in his hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania in front of a capacity crowd cheering him on at the Erie Civic Center.
Add to that three PBA50 titles and 25 PBA regional titles and you would say that’s a pretty good career.
But Learn is finding fun going around the world conducting numerous bowling clinics as he did in Baton Rouge at All-Star Lanes with PBA Hall of Famer Amleto Monacelli.
And somewhere along the way he has the time to be a college bowling coach, starting his third season as the head coach of the Martin Methodist RedHawks men's and women's teams in Pulaski, Tennessee.
So surely when this guy comes to recruit high school bowlers to come to Martin, they know about this guy who produced the No. 9 moment of the first 60 years of the PBA and who has earned almost $1.4 million in prize money, right?
“I have some that do and some that don’t realize I even bowled. We sometimes start talking about a show — some kid brings it up — and the other kid might go ‘what are you talking about? You used to bowl professionally?’ Yea, so you get both. You get kids that want you to them a story about this player or that player and because I spent so much time out there I pretty much have a story on anyone.”
That day in 1996 in Eric, Learn smashed the four-game TV scoring record when he bowled 300 (for a $100,000 bonus), 270, 280 and 279.
Chris Schenkel’s call on ABC was one of those iconic moments: “He has just made his 52nd 300 perfect game, but this by far the most valuable — $100,000 ladies and gentlemen!”
“Anytime you can relive the greatest experience as far as performance goes that’s a positive,” Learn said. “The thing (the kids) look at it as a mental thing. Mentally you have to be so tuned in they are looking at it as just something they want to aspire to become. They can all throw it. My kids on the team are good throwers. But mentally there are different places everyone has to go, right? They see it as more a mental task than it was a physical task.”
I mentioned to him that when we hosted the NCAA Championships here in 2017, pro star Shannon O’Keefe was just as intense coaching champion McKendree as when she bowls and Learn quickly jumped in to say, “Mine is equal. Because competition is competition, right? As a coach you spend a lot of time with these kids and you want to see them excel. Let things happen and let them see successes you believe they both work for and deserve. To be able to be there, you have the same competitive juices going. You know you prepared them well for the events and you want to see them succeed, so you are engaged. You’re living vicariously through them.”
Hopefully the bowlers in Baton Rouge learned something from Learn and Monacelli during the “Bowling Revolutions” Clinic.
Regarding what was taught, it was “primarily the physical game,” said Learn. “Basically what we are trying to show them is the modern game as it is played today and try to forget some of the things they may have heard in the past because a lot of those things don’t exist when it comes to how we play the game today. Trying to give new fresh information that applies to today’s game.”
Monacelli, who is about to bowl this week with several PBA/PWBA players in Korea, enjoys these sessions with bowlers.
“I love it. We’ve been doing it for a while and the more I am getting into it, I love coaching because the satisfaction that you get when you see that people are getting better and they can see the difference, there is no better feeling than that.
“The key is to … you probably see a couple of things that are not right, but you actually make it simple and see the priority that needs to be changed. Most of the time it is regarding the timing and then even though you can tell them another thing, you cannot tell them too much information. You want them to focus on one or two things, no more than that because it can get confusing. The main thing of the clinic and the thing I tell everyone afterwards is to make sure and write down everything that we talk about in your own words so that when you practice you can read them and you can visualize and work on them so that you have a purpose every time you practice.”
Both are starring on the PBA50 Tour (Monacelli has nine PBA50 titles to go with 20 PBA titles) and Learn has some interesting thoughts about how good the senior group is right now.
“It’s funny. Some of the guys come out that just turned 50 and they go, ‘I thought you guys would be all worn out. You guys throw as good as you ever did.’ So it has changed a lot,” Learn said. “A lot of the guys really spent a whole lifetime bowling on tour. I actually wasn’t one of those. I was on and off. Amleto has bowled his whole entire adult life on tour. Pete Weber, Norm Duke, Brian Voss, Walter Ray Williams, Parker Bohn. That’s what they did their entire life. You don’t get any better than that. Guys are able to do it their entire life and make a living at it and now they are all of age if you will. What you are looking at if you look at 1996-97 — the last two years we were on ABC Sports — the people remember a lot of the players and those players are the ones that are now on the senior tour.”
Speaking of good bowlers, lots of great scores on the honor roll, so check that out as well. We will be back with you on Oct. 15 and as always, good luck and good bowling.