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Local teen uses bowling as means to greater end

Zack Hattori is a 17-year-old senior at Silverado High School with big plans for the future, ones that include attending medical school and becoming a surgeon, a dream he plans to live by being one of the nation’s best at attacking a Cheetah and Viper and Scorpion and Shark.

No, he’s not going after local AYSO U-6 players.

Try oil patterns on bowling lanes.

Where in the world are Roy Munson and Ishmael Boorg when you really need to understand the sport of pins and bad pizza?

“Up until I was 14, I was one who just sort of threw the ball and thought, ‘Let’s see what we get,’ ” Hattori said. “But then I started to realize the game meant a lot more. Now, I actually play it. I think it.

“I played soccer for a little bit. Some baseball in Little League. Normal sports. But I just loved bowling. People would always ask me what I did. I told them I bowled. They would say, ‘You bowl? How can you just bowl?’ When they see it, they realize there is far more than meets the eye.”

There has to be. He talks bowling and I hear Mandarin. He talks patterns and breaks and angles to attack, and I wonder what I was doing rolling the ball straight at all those birthday parties over the years while wearing ugly shoes with the number size on the heel and pretending to have a clue holding my hand over a blower.

Most kids know Duke basketball. Hattori idolizes Norm Duke. The kid is more an expert on oil than T. Boone Pickens.

He knows his stuff well enough to have bowled six sanctioned 300 games and two sanctioned 800 series, to be the 2010 Teen Masters Champion and the youngest competitor at the PBA World Series of Bowling, running now through Nov. 6 at South Point. He ranked in the top half of more than 250 bowlers after play Monday.

The goal is to make a few semifinals on those animal patterns next week. I’m hoping he makes it on Scorpion, given my son has been stung countless times and we have developed a bizarre sort of affinity for the nasty little buggers.

That’s for now. Hattori is not a high school senior talking about grand plans for a professional career, though if one should come, he could see himself on the tour for a year or so. He also aspires to make Team USA for juniors and compete abroad.

But the sport his grandfather introduced to him at age 5 is more a means to an end defined by college and perhaps an operating room in his future.

Hattori was born in San Diego and lived there until age 12, when his family recognized this whole bowling thing was far more than a phase and moved to Las Vegas, where bowling centers are included in several casinos across the valley.

Bowling houses in paradise, it seems, were financially crashing quicker than waves at Mission Beach.

“Bowling is just so much bigger here than in California,” Hattori said. “You can play a different event all the time here. I’m not sure people understand how intense it can get unless they come and watch.

“People didn’t give me too hard a time about it growing up. When I got to high school, I had to explain what it was really about a little more.”

The move certainly paid off. He bowled for Silverado his first three years, won a few state titles, almost won a third, then decided he would miss too many important events and tournaments by continuing on the team this year.

The NCAA doesn’t sanction men’s bowling, but that doesn’t mean a player as gifted as Hattori won’t earn aid for college. Any prize money he has won to this point and beyond is deposited into a SMART account, which since 1994 has offered the bowling community a way to manage scholarship funds.

“Bowling is going to help pay for my education,” said Hattori, who carries a 3.89 GPA. “My parents have always pushed me in my schoolwork. I could see myself just staying as an amateur — there are a lot of really good tournaments every weekend. For now, bowling is going to help me get to be where I want to get in life.

“Being a surgeon would be great. I like to get my hands dirty.”

Makes sense.

What would you expect with all that oil?

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 2 to 4 p.m. Monday and 2 to 3 p.m. Thursday on “Monsters of the Midday,” FOX Sports Radio 920 AM.

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