Sports

12 straight strikes make Tim Dixon the ultimate headpin headliner

By Jeff Stevens, Special to Postmedia News

Tim Dixon has 450 reasons to smile after bowling a perfect game. SARAH STEVENS/Special to Postmedia Network

Tim Dixon has 450 reasons to smile after bowling a perfect game. SARAH STEVENS/Special to Postmedia Network

You’ll have to excuse Tim Dixon for feeling as if he is living a Dickensian life this bowling season.

 

To put his season into perspective so far, it truly has been the best of times, and the worst of times.

The 64-year-old Welland southpaw has been putting together one of his most fantastic years on the 5-pin lanes, achieving some great personal firsts, and experiencing some of the highest highs, while off the lanes he has been going through some of the toughest physical times he has ever had to endure.

In the Niagara Five Pin Mixed Pro League he is in a back-and-forth battle with Tyler Wendel for the men’s high average title, currently sitting at 257.

Earlier this season in the same league he rolled his first-ever 1,000 series (1,023), and had the absolute pleasure of having that feat matched by his oldest daughter, Valerie Vallee, who rolled her second-ever 1,000 set (1,013), the first father/daughter duo to do so in the league’s history.

If the adage “practice makes perfect” holds true, then Dixon can be held up as an example. After 46 years of competing and coaching in the sport, he finally achieved every 5-pinner’s dream: a perfect game.

After opening his series at Pla Mor Lanes in Port Dalhousie last Friday with a 275, he ran into some headpin trouble and settled for a 209 in his second game.

To say the least, he seemed to have corrected the problem, rolling 12 strikes in a row to end up with his first-ever career 450 game.

After the first 10 strikes, Dixon said he thought he had lost it when he got up to throw his next ball.

“The 11th ball I took off wrong. I took my first step, and my second step went out, so I came back across (the lane) and had to wheel the ball way back over, and ended up jerking at the line to get the ball to go where I wanted.”

As ugly as the 11th strike was, the 12th was a thing of beauty that even Dixon knew was heading for the pocket as soon as it hit the lanes.

There was no need to ask him if he had ever thrown a perfect game before, as he let out a huge breath and said loudly to no one in particular “My first one!” as the rest of the league mobbed him on the lanes.

This wasn’t Dixon’s first time flirting with perfection. He has rolled 11 strikes in a row on numerous occasions but was just never able to cap it off, either punching a headpin, leaving a corner or just plain missing.

He was asked what the difference was this time.

“I told Val (daughter Valerie) after the last time that if I am ever in that position again, rather than get up there, get ready and then think about it before taking my first step, which has always messed me up before, I would just get my ball, get back out there and go.”

As great as things have been going for Dixon on the lanes this year, life off the lanes has been a different story. The retired production schedule foreman at Russell Metals has suffered chronic arthritis pretty much everywhere — hips, knees, elbows, shoulders, neck — since the age of 30.

He has been able to keep it subdued for much of that time with various arthritis medications, but that led to another problem. Earlier this season his wife of 27 years, Carolyn, and youngest daughter Becky noticed that his appearance was off somewhat, and lucky for Dixon, they didn’t listen to him and got him to the hospital where it was later discovered that he had suffered a heart attack.

He had three stents inserted into his heart in an emergency procedure.

All the years of taking the anti-arthritis meds contributed to the heart attack, so he has stopped taking them all, which has led to the most pain-filled season he has dealt with in a long time.

Miraculously, Dixon only missed one week of bowling and was back on the lanes the following week.

He started the sport rather late in life, at the age of 18, and skipped participating in the Youth Bowling Council (YBC), now known as Youth Bowling Canada.

He started with the YABA (Young Adult Bowlers Association) program for young adult bowlers between the ages of 19 and 29 before venturing to any of the local pro leagues.

“I was just making so much money in YABA, and winning tournaments. After that I started entering the Open.”

The Ontario Open is the provincial leg of the Canadian Open Championships, the most prestigious 5-pin tournament for adult bowlers in the country.

Once Dixon entered his first Open and qualified for his first Niagara team, he has not looked back, and has either been a member of the men’s, mixed or senior team

On the rare occasion when he didn’t participate as a bowler, he has been selected as a coach.

This season has been one of those years as, due to his heart attack coming on the week leading into the first 10 games of the 20-game qualifier, Dixon was unable to take part. The women who ended up qualifying for took full advantage of this opportunity and chose Dixon to coach them when they head to Hamilton on Easter weekend for this year’s Ontario Open.

Dixon has been a very active and nationally recognized coach as well. He can usually be found in one of the Niagara bowling alleys on any given evening or weekend, either bowling or coaching — in many cases both.

He has coached youth bowlers, adult bowlers and has been the driving force behind the Special Olympics Bowling program at Jeff’s Bowl-O-Rama in Welland, where he gets to spend time bowling with and coaching sons Ryan and James.

Dixon’s coaching accolades include the National Grassroots Coaching Award from the Ontario 5-Pin Bowling Association in 2006-07, which he also went on to receive the National Award for as well going on to win the national award the same year.

He received the Gord Sykes Memorial Trophy in 2008 for coaching amateur sports in Welland and was inducted into both Welland Sports Wall of Fame and Niagara 5-Pin Bowling Hall of Fame four years later.

Dixon didn’t hesitate to answer when asked whether coaching other bowlers has helped him with his own game.

“Absolutely! The thing with coaching is that you get to watch everybody,” he said. “I get to watch how every single person has a different way of throwing the ball, or a three- or four-step approach and how they deal with different lane conditions by changing angles and speeds. You get to see them all.”

“Doing that has enabled me to rather quickly be able to pick up and focus on whatever it is the bowler is doing wrong, and work with them to correct that flaw.”

His best advice?

“Focus, focus on every shot, and try to hit your spot every time,” he said. “If you can do that consistently, you will have a good day on the lanes.”

 



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