Evergreen Park junior takes 17th at state
By Alison Moran
Evergreen Park High School junior Zach McCormick's passion for bowling comes, in part, from the hours he spent enjoying the sport with his beloved grandfather.
McCormick recalled how he and his grandfather would spend hours watching the Men's PBA Tour on television.
“My grandfather’s in his mid-70s and still bowls a 170-180 game,” said McCormick, who via his season-long excellence and 17th-place finish at the IHSA boys state bowling tournament earned the title of The Regional-Reporter's 2018 Boys Bowler of the Year.
In those hours spent with his grandpa, McCormick also found a role model for his unorthodox throwing style – Australian bowler Jason Belmonte, who popularized two-handed bowling.
“Instead of putting your fingers in the holes, you palm the ball and cradle it,” McCormick explained. “With it, I can play from any position on the lane.”
McCormick began rolling seriously in eighth grade after joining a local league. At Evergreen Park, he clicked with Mustangs coach Ron Pula, who mentored McCormick's two-handed style while improving his mental edge.
“Bowling is really the hardest sport because you cannot see the playing field,” said Pula. “The conditions change from day to day and at different levels of the game. The bowlers have to adjust their game, mentally and physically.”
Pula initiated Evergreen Park’s bowling program as McCormick entered high school, and Pula took notice of his talent and leadership abilities.
“When Zach came to Evergreen Park, he was a 190 bowler, and today, he averages 211,” Pula said. “His greatest qualities are his willingness to learn and set an example for the team.”
“Coach set the structure for my game,” added McCormick. “He encouraged me and told me what l needed to know to improve.”
McCormick was also a team captain from the earliest days, mentoring his teammates including Matthew Bila, Aidan Doogan, Patrick Doyle, Marty Elwood, Terrell Gavin, MIguel Madrigal, Colin McCarthy and Conner Suszynski.
“He sets a great example for the team,” said Pula. “He’s patient, he's constructive in his criticism. He can definitely go a long way in this sport.”
Evergreen Park had a stellar 2017-18 season, winning matches against Tinley Park, Rich Central, Reavis, and amassing a regular season record of 12-2. McCormick’s season highlights include placing fourth at the Oak Lawn Invitational in November; a fifth-place finish in regional competition (1,358 series over six games) and runner-up performance at sectionals. His 1,352 pins at sectionals were just 12 behind the champion and qualified him for the IHSA state tournament at St. Clair Bowl in O'Fallon.
The state tournament proved to be a mind game, as he struggled the second day.
“I had gone in with the idea that the surface was going to be a certain way, and it wasn’t,” McCormick said. “It took awhile to adjust.”
His two-day score of 2548 was, however, good enough for 17th place. He had been in 12th place after the tourney's first day, two places away from a medal.
“It was aggravating at first, being in the position to medal (but failing to do so), until l realized that l had exceeded my goal of qualifying for state,” he said.
The future for McCormick will definitely include bowling. He's looking into bowling scholarships as he plans for a career in medicine or business. But he still has another year of high school, and his goal for his senior season is to medal at state.
“And to beat my grandfather one-on-one,” he said.