The ball, the lane, and a whole lot of success


Christopher Brummels

Jr. Cayden Brummels sending the ball down the lane in hopes of a strike.

Nathan Riley and Tyler Berens

The lights reflected off the synthetic wood at Thunderbowl Lanes; the crowd noise was almost drowned out by his ragged breath. Then all fell silent. Jr. Cayden Brummels stepped up, slipped his fingers into the ball. As he brought the ball to his chest, the lane stretched out in front of him. He shook off the doubt and strode forward, planted his foot near the middle of the lane, swung the ball back around, then torqued his ball to wrap back around his body. With practiced precision, Brummel’s muscles worked collectively to hurl the ball forward. The cool, smooth surface of the ball left his fingers, and with a resonant smack, hit the lane, rushing toward the pins. Smash. He spun, grinning ear to ear, hands raised in triumph.

   Brummels just played his way through the 2021 National Tournament in Alpena, Michigan. It was just him, the lane, and a whole lot of success. “I love the solo and mental aspect of the game. It’s just you, there’s no team involved, just you and your craft,” said Brummels.

   Brummels loves the individuality of bowling, but he couldn’t have succeeded without the people close to him. Brummels’ father introduced him to the sport he loves when he was two. “At Cayden’s third birthday party at the bowling alley he didn’t want to stop bowling even with piles of presents waiting there. I had to force him to stop so we could go home.”

   One of his favorite parts of bowling is the mental challenge. The preparation for each shot and the composure needed to bowl well after a poor frame keeps Brummels competing. He relishes in the satisfaction of success and improvement after a high score. He believes other people should consider bowling, whether competitively or just for fun.

   Brummels feels people don’t try bowling because they don’t take the sport seriously. “I think a lot of people don’t consider bowling to be a sport, which I take as offensive because they don’t realize just how difficult it is to replicate and produce high scores,” said Brummels. 

   Brummels is very talented, demonstrated by placing 12th in his first ever state tournament at five years old. He has four top ten state finishes and is ranked 232 in the nation. He has multiple youth, city, and family championships.

   His average score is 208 but is projected to be 223 for the upcoming season.

   Despite competing by himself, Brummels enjoys playing against the friends he made through bowling. “Bowling practice on Fridays is fun, and I like having somebody that knows and understands bowling, who can help when I’m struggling,” said 8th grade student Dillon Barnes. Barnes attends Zeeland West Middle School and is a close friend of Brummels.

  Brummels wouldn’t be where he is today without the correct equipment. He brings six to eight balls to every tournament, each serving a specific purpose. Brummels uses three types of balls with distinct cores. These cores are either plastic, urethane, or reactive resin. Plastic bowling balls don’t contain weight blocks, the mechanism that causes the curved path of the ball, or hook, so they roll straight. Urethane hooks slightly, while reactive hooks the most. Each bowling alley has unique characteristics which affect the spin, hook, and effectiveness of the ball, changing which ball Brummels chooses.

   Brummels hopes to continue his success into college, where he intends to bowl while studying to become a doctor with some of the scholarship money that he won.

   However, Brummels aims to do more than score well. “My goal in bowling is to inspire the people around me to try and get them to bowl, especially young kids in my youth league, because I remember when I was in their shoes,” said Brummels. Despite the individual nature of bowling, the sport can still have a meaningful impact on others.

   Brummels has an upcoming youth masters tournament at Lodge Lanes in Belleville, Michigan on November 12 and 13. He hopes to bowl well in front of scouts to prove he has the capability to compete collegiately.