The three men who were inducted into the Genesee Region USBC Hall of Fame on Saturday night shared a common theme – “giving back to the sport that has given them so much” over the years.
Tom Fluker of Batavia and William VanAlst of Stafford, both in the Meritorious Service category, and Tim Fonte of Dansville, in the Achievement Veteran category, were enshrined at the local bowling association’s annual banquet at Batavia Downs Gaming.
Ninety-six people attended the event, which also included the presentation of the Barbara J. Kreiley Scholarship Award to Alexis Patterson of Dansville, a standout youth bowler at Mount Morris Lanes who will be attending Canisius College in the fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Physician Assistant Studies.
Fluker, 51, served on the GRUSBC board for 12 years, including six as president. He was instrumental in promoting youth bowling, establishing the Genesee Region Youth Travel League and developing the association’s generous awards program. He also is a United States Bowling Congress Level I bowling instructor and traveled around the Northeast to conduct clinics for those wanting to teach the sport to kids.
About 40 of his former youth bowlers, their parents, family and friends on hand to celebrate his induction, Fluker thanked all of them and congratulated the members of the teams that advanced to the New York State Youth Team Championships on two occasions.
A Pepsi-Cola sales executive, Fluker said he “his competitive spirit” drives him to be the best he can be in all walks of life. An accomplished bowler with 11 perfect games, he said he got more satisfaction from watching his youth bowlers thrive.
“I sacrificed going to many tournaments because I was coaching,” he said. “And to me that was priority one. The kids knew Saturday morning was their time … and I got more enjoyment out of their success than mine.”
He said he encouraged his youth bowlers to put in the practice time to improve.
“I wanted to give them every opportunity to succeed, letting them know that today is the day to seize it because they might not have it tomorrow,” said Fluker, who was nominated and presented by Mike Pettinella, GRUSBC association manager.
VanAlst, 71, has been a fixture at Le Roy Legion Lanes for the past 48 years as a member and current secretary-treasurer of the Tuesday Night League and previously as coordinator of the youth bowling program and Le Roy Junior Travel League. He also served as secretary-treasurer of the former Genesee Valley Youth American Bowling Alliance that included nine bowling centers.
In his speech, he said he never has shied away from helping out when needed, but still didn’t imagine he would be involved in the same league for nearly 50 years.
He joked that Don Laurie “railroaded me into that spot (secretary) in 1977 and I’m still here today … and once you get elected to it, it’s pretty hard to get out unless you leave the area or pass away. Fortunately, I haven’t done either.”
VanAlst, a partner in a Rochester engineering firm for the past 49 years, thanked all of his fellow bowlers and his wife, Karen, who provided much assistance in compiling the scores and keeping the standings from the youth programs. He said they both got involved when their sons, Scott and Matt, were little.
“I wanted them to learn how to bowl correctly, how to keep score and how to play as a team member,” he said. “Bowling is a sport that you can enjoy year round and you can enjoy for your entire life. And it's good to know the proper way to do that.”
VanAlst was nominated by GRUSBC Director AJ Allenbrandt and presented by his son, Scott VanAlst, who shared that his father’s legacy is one of “dedication, commitment, loyalty, caring and kindness.”
Fonte has been an association member for 47 years – averaging over 190 consistently in the era before high scores and over 200 for nine of the past 10 seasons. He rolled a 300 game in 1997 and an 806 series in December of 2021 at the age of 73. His tournament victories include the Lilac City in Rochester and Wild Irish Rose in Canandaigua, and he placed second in the GRUSBC Senior Masters in 2019.
He also worked at the pro shop at Mount Morris Lanes for 25 years, serving as manager from 1994-2003, and coached youth bowlers there for 15 years.
A Vietnam veteran, Fonte said he started bowling and working at Panorama Lanes in Rochester, remembering the day he found a fingertip ball on the rack that proprietor Marcel Fournier said that he could have.
“That started by career,” he said, stopping to thank the Hall of Fame committee for inducting him and “Jesus Christ, my Savior, who made all of this possible.”
Fonte said he underwent 10 major surgeries after returning home from Vietnam, and found “that the only sport I could do was to bowl.” He then found his way to Mount Morris Lanes, where he joined a league and eventually learned how to drill bowling balls at the pro shop there.
He was nominated by GRUSBC Director Karen Bonner and presented by his son, Kris, who called his father and bowling teammate his “hero.”
Ray DiSanto Sr. of Rochester, a Batavia native and member of five bowling and sports halls of fame, was the keynote speaker.
DiSanto, 92, spoke about his numerous bowling tournament achievements – he averaged 200 at the age of 14 – and his career as a respected bowling coach and longtime owner of Bowlers World Pro Shop in Henrietta.
He also offered some tips to today’s bowlers, noting that creating ball speed is essential to achieving high scores with the technologically-advanced bowling balls.
In the modern game, he said, bowlers need to learn to be “late at the line to create more power and more ball speed.”
“The weight of the ball is not as important as it was years ago, when 16 pounds was the norm,” he said. “Today, 15s, 14s and even 12-pounders. So, if you think the ball is too heavy and you’re rolling it too slow, don’t be afraid to go down in weight. These balls are extremely powerful.”
Re-elected to three-year terms on the GRUSBC Board of Directors were Karen Bonner, sergeant-at-arms; and Frank Jarkiewicz, Joann Van Duser, John Wood and Gary Kuchler.
Champions of the GRUSBC Association Tournament also were recognized with plaques, as follows:
Open Team -- Jason Quilliam, AJ Allenbrandt, Michael Lambert, Mike Johnson, Batavia, 3,061;
Women’s Team -- Montana Bzduch, Joann Van Duser, Rachel Huntz, Katy Bzduch, Perry, 2,339;
Open Doubles -- Geoff Harloff and Ed Doody, Batavia, 1,504;
Women’s Doubles -- Christine Bovee and Karen Henry, Dansville, 1,276;
Open Singles – Ricky Daniels, Albion, 838;
Women’s Singles -- Donna Wolff, Batavia, 690;
Open All-Events -- Brian Cline, Middleport, 2,295;
Women’s All-Events -- Donna Wolff, Batavia, 1,997.
Seasonal league leaders received plaques, as follows:
High Series, Men – Brian Cline, Middleport, 847; High Average, Men – Curtis Foss, Medina, 240.
High Game, Women – VJ Frew, Piffard, 300; High Series, Women – Amy Allis, Medina, 735; High Average, Women – Amy Allis, Medina, 203.
High Game, Boys – Dominic LaPiana, Mount Morris, 268; High Series, Boys -- Gavin Baney, Albion, 690; High Average, Boys -- Ryleigh Culver, Medina, 197.
High Game, Girls -- Alexis Patterson, Dansville, 231; High Series, Girls -- Juliana Allis, Medina, 613; High Average, Girls -- Gracelin Mahnke, Medina, 175.
Winners of the annual grand prize drawing were David Lohmer of Canaseraga, Jason Quilliam of Batavia and Robert Nolan of Albion, $500 each, and Rick Pernicone of Dansville, Chris Huntz of Castile, Eric Sickles of Perry and Roger Allis of Medina, $25 each.