Keys will compete in national bowling tournament

Monday, June 26, 2006
Tyler Keys, 15, of Delta practiced at West Park Lanes in preparation for the Teen Masters tournament national bowling finals in Orlando in late July. (Fred Lynch)

The Delta teen will take a shot at the national title.

Tyler Keys will travel to Orlando, Fla., at the end of July for a shot at his first national bowling title.

But the 15-year-old Delta, Mo., resident is in no mood to wait that long. He's ready to get his roll on.

"I'm pretty nervous," Keys admitted. "I'm ready to go now. I don't feel like waiting. This is the biggest event I've ever bowled in."

And it doesn't get much bigger than this.

Keys qualified for the ninth annual Teen Masters tournament national bowling finals after blowing away the boys field in the regional qualifying event on June 3 in Jonesboro, Ark. Keys rolled a 1,113 over six games in the qualifying event on his way to a first-place average of 185, 19 pins ahead of the second-place male.

The overall winner, a girl, bowled a 1,183 series.

The top three boys and top two girls in each qualifier won berths in the national contest, which takes place Aug. 1 through 5. The tournament will be presented by Killer "B" Promotions and sponsored in part by the United States Bowling Congress.

"Last year I wanted to go, but you're supposed to be in high school," Keys said, adding that the competition will involve strictly those in grades 9 through 12. "So now I got my chance."

Keys will head to Florida with his parents on July 31 and get a feel for the 80-lane Boardwalk Family Entertainment Center the next day. The preliminary round will be held at the BFEC before the finals Aug. 4 through 6 at Universal Studios Orlando.

Keys' personal-best score is 279, and he knows he'll have to be on top of his game to have a shot at the national crown. Keys hopes to top the success of his brother, T.J., who placed 12th in the national event four year ago.

"My mom and dad and brother got me into bowling," Tyler Keys said. "I've gained a lot of experience through it all.

"I'm stuck on 279," he added. "I've had at least four of those. I just keep stopping right there, I guess because I get nervous."

Keys, who started bowling when he was 5, has been entering bowling tournaments in St. Louis for the past two years. He travels north once a month in the hopes of gaining college scholarship money, which is awarded to the top two high-bowlers in each class. So far, Keys has racked up $850 towards a college education. He finished in the top 10 in 10 of the 12 tournaments last season, including one first-place finish, and he has tallied four top-10 finishes so far this season after moving up to the masters class, the highest of the three divisions.

"Since they moved me up, it was tougher," he said. "There's usually one or two 300 games, and I usually bowl around 210 to 215."

Keys, who plays basketball for New Salem Baptist Academy in Marble Hill, finds time to fit three or four 30-plus-minute trips every week to Cape Girardeau or Jackson to bowl.

He hopes to someday bowl competitively in college.

And Keys is well aware that a strong showing in Orlando could be just what he needs to fulfill that goal.

"I'm hoping I've got a chance to win it all," he said.

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