It is the last ball in the 10th frame and the score stands at 290.
James Riddle is as nervous as he has ever been in his life. His wife, Kitti, is trying not to watch.
But they aren’t the ones who have to roll this ball. Their daughter does.
Amanda Riddle, a 13-year-old junior bowler and eighth-grader at Medical Lake Middle School, would like to be an oceanographer or a pro bowler when she’s older.
“It would be hard to be both being on the road with the (bowlers’) tour,” she said.
She may be well on her way to achieving the latter goal, but that’s getting ahead of the story.
“Amanda was as white as a piece of paper when she went up there to roll that last ball,” said Kitti, recalling the Sept. 28 event at Bowler’s World in Airway Heights.
By the time the 10th frame rolled around, Amanda had drawn quite an audience. Kitti was hoping Amanda would remember her words of advice:
“Move to the left on the last ball, when the pressure is on and you need to get a strike.”
It was advice Amanda forgot or did not hear. When she rolled the ball, it was so quiet it sounded like thunder rolling down the lane. Her ball came up high in the pocket, leaving the 3-7-10 split. With 11 strikes and those 7 pins she had rolled a 297, the highest game of her life. Everyone in the house exhaled and began to applaud.
Joyce Surina, who runs Bowler’s World with her pro-bowler husband Matt, is one of Amanda’s coaches.
“The yearbook only lists the highest (junior) game, not specifically girls’ or boys’ high game,” she said. “However, we do know she has the highest game for her age over the last five years in Spokane.”
Amanda learned to bowl from her father. Although James, whose game suffered due to an accident that nearly cost him the use of his left leg - causing an awkward right-footed slide - is not the highest-scoring bowler in the family anymore, he was the first coach for everyone in his family.
“When I was growing up, I loved to play all sports, but bowling alleys just did not exist in Thailand,” Kitti said.
She learned to bowl after they were married and moved to the U.S.
The family also includes three sons, all in their 20s.
“All the kids bowl, but Amanda is the best,” James said.
His oldest son, James Jr., is not much for bowling, but Dawayne and Jason still bowl with the family for fun and in league.
Like her mother, Amanda is into sports - baseball, basketball, volleyball and tai chi. The tai chi makes her stronger and helps her game mainly through better balance and improved concentration.
James and Kitti are not parents who push their children to do the things they only dream of doing. “I have always wanted to be a bowler,” Amanda said. “I drag them to the bowling alley.”
Not that it takes much dragging. This is a family that loves to bowl.
Tony Holloway is another of Amanda’s coaches. Amanda and her parents attribute much of Amanda’s improvement to the instruction and guidance of Holloway and Surina.
And by being encouraging parents, the Riddles have shown Amanda what positive role models can be.
Kitti makes sure Amanda gets to her tournaments on time. She also mentally rolls every ball with Amanda and silently stands back to let her daughter take the credit for doing something great.
James, who bowls despite his pain, also steps back and says, “This is not about me, it’s about Amanda.”
Their actions tell their daughter, “Anything you try, give it your best and we will be proud of you.”
James says, “I don’t worry about Amanda’s bowling. She has the help she needs from Joyce and Tony.”
He may not be an official coach, but he’s always willing to share his knowledge with any young bowler.
“I am not doing anything special. I am just teaching the kids that will listen,” he said.
Most importantly, they listen to him.
In these junior leagues, everyone does their part in teaching the kids to bowl.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: JUNIOR BOWLING LEAGUES Most bowling establishments offer junior leagues and have openings for all ages and skill levels from bumper bowlers to advance and scratch. Contact area bowling centers to check on schedules, age groups offered and availability: Bowler’s World (509) 244-3114 Lilac Lanes (509) 467-5228 Cheney Bowl (509) 235-6278 North Bowl (509) 328-7090 Chewelah Rec Center (509) 935-8338 Players & Spectators (509) 924-5141 Colonial Bowl (509) 328-0550 Saw Mill (Post Falls) (208) 773-7575 Copper Bowl (Colville) (509) 684-8035 Silver Lanes (509) 535-2961 Cove Bowl (CdA) (208) 664-8151 Sunset Bowl (CdA) (208) 765-2695 Deer Park Lanes (509) 276-5008 Valley Bowl (509) 926-6245 Funspot (Fairchild) (509) 244-2162