On this Dave Trip, we set our sights a bit farther out this time, up to central Louisiana. Alexandria to be exact. Even though the miles were long, the man we met hails from Lafayette. Rusty Bethley, has spent much of his life staring down 39 boards and smashing 10 pins, taking up the sport when he was only four years old.
I asked if he’d ever made the "Wide World of Sports!" but Rusty says he has never made it that far.
"No, never made it on a TV show. Got a couple of checks but not a TV show."
Regardless of that fact, Rusty’s been pro, traveled the country, and is even in the Hall of Fame.
"I’m in the Louisiana Hall of Fame as well as the North West Louisiana Hall of Fame."
He’s a one-time national champion, and has a few perfect 300 games. Nineteen, according to Rusty.
"The first one is exciting," says Rusty. "And I shot my first one at 16."
Naturally, you’d think a lifetime bowler would transition to owning his own shop. But an event by nature forced him to re-rack.
"I got into this business by default thanks to Hurricane Katrina. I was in medical sales. Basically, 80 percent of my territory was wiped out by two storms, Katrina and Rita just whoop, done."
He then had an opportunity to move to another place.
"I can put you in Dallas, I can put you in Phoenix. I’ve got openings at either place, and I said George I can’t do that to my wife, she just got promoted. And I can’t ask her to do that an pull up and move."
But a call from a buddy got him in the bowling biz.
"He said, ‘Well, you ever thought about opening a pro shop?’ and I said, ‘Nope.’ He said, ‘You might want to think about it.’ He made me an offer, to buy the place lock stock and barrel," says Bethley. "I told my wife the worst we could do is lose the money. The first week I was open I don’t think I did 50 bucks."
Famous people have paid a visit.
"Shaquille O’Neal came into my store. All the balls on that top shelf were 15 pound balls. He just reaches up and palms a 15-pound ball and picks it up off the shelf!"
Rusty can make custom bowling balls fit just for you. It’s not just drilling holes. He even made a custom ball just for KATC.
"It’s all about comfort," says Bethley. "That’s 90 percent of the game. If the ball’s comfortable, you’re gonna be happy with it."
He’s also helped fellow bowlers overcome injuries and arthritis.
"I’ve had at least five who were ready to quit bowling because it was too painful," says Bethley. "I talked them into letting me redo the ball for them using this tri-grip and all five of them are still bowling."
He’s even helped friends fix their game.
"He said, ‘You know my game drill me something you think I can throw.’ And I said, ‘Okay.’"
Needless to say, Rusty got it right! And, after using a customized ball, he bowled a 300 on his first game.
So Rusty drills this fancy KATC bowling ball with my measurements and I’m expecting my best game as we head to the lanes. I lace up my bowling shoes. He gears up like he’s going to battle.
Let’s just say that bowling talent is also needed to gain a better game. The custom ball really does help.