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Youth bowling league takes root in Bigfork

by EVELYN VIGIL Bigfork Eagle
| April 24, 2024 12:00 AM

“Someday, Bigfork will be known for bowling,” stated Rhino Page, head coach of the youth bowling league at Grizzly Lanes when he bought the bowling alley in December of 2021.

Now three years later, that dream is becoming a reality with 55 kids ranging in age from from 4 to 17 years old taking part in its youth bowling league.

As a professional bowler for 14 years, Page wanted to bring his passion alive in the little town of Bigfork.

During the recent Pepsi tournament in Missoula, eight out of the 26 young bowlers qualified in the top six, with two going on to win gold medals. Alex Crowley won the tournament in the U15 boys division, and the U12 girls bracket belonged to Alayah Stevens.

Page and the other coaches drove down to watch their students compete. They could not be prouder of their bowlers.

“Only one of us has kids in the program,” says Gary Heil, a fellow coach, “but we all went down. They are kids we coach, we were just making sure they knew we were there, and helping them anyway we could.”

Heil’s devotion to bowling began in childhood.

“My grandparents owned a bowling alley in Billings, so of course that’s where my parents took me,” explained Heil.

After coaching for 22 years in Billings, Heil moved south to New Mexico. A few years later, he decided to come back to Montana. Page heard of Heil’s coaching experience and reached out to ask for help to get his youth league off the ground.

“Working with the kids and watching them start from beginning bowlers and go to these tournaments, [...] it’s pretty awesome,” Hiel continued.

“Bowling is my passion, and to see it grow from nothing to what it is now is so cool,” Page added.

Instead of giving out the typical plastic trophies, those involved in the bowling league are able to win scholarship money for college or training after high school. Run by the U.S. Bowling Conference (USBC), the scholarship fund was created to set aside money for students so that when they are ready, they can have some help.

“So far, we’ve awarded about $8,000 for the kids to use for college, dorms, books and things like that,” Page said excitedly.

The coaching staff look forward to giving out even more scholarships to help their bowlers achieve their dreams.

Page further revealed that he and others have been looking to institute bowling as a varsity high school sport.

“We already have the place, and it would be a good winter activity,” Page pointed out.

Despite how new this activity is to the Bigfork community, the impact of this program is already being seen. Page commented on how several of his current bowlers are looking to bowl collegiately — especially the girls who have had an incredible season thus far.

“We’ll get you scholarship money, we’ll get you a ball, we have fun coaches and create lifelong friendships,” Page said. 

    Members of the youth bowling league at Grizzly Lanes in Bigfork. (Photo provided)
 
 
    Members of the youth bowling league at Grizzly Lanes in Bigfork. (Photo provided)