By Jim Goodwin on May 27, 2019 4:07:14 PMThis week's Bowl TV Vault release is truly special. Imagine bowling on television for the first time. Now, imagine it is in a major tournament. Finally, try to imagine rolling a 300 on the finals TV show and winning $50,000.
For most people, this would fall in the realm of 'Beyond my wildest dreams' . . . but it all happened for Jason Queen in the 1997 American Bowling Congress Masters Tournament held at the Von Braun Civic Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
Never before or since have we ever seen a more poised and incredible performance than the one provided by Queen, a 23-year-old amateur that day.
Queen not only made the top five in a field of 540 bowlers that week, but he shocked the world by tossing 12 strikes in the semifinal match and then defeating a top professional player and event leader, Eric Forkel, 248-194, to win the $50,700 top prize and the coveted Frank Baker Trophy.
"I guess I was just unconscious that day," said Queen looking back on the biggest moment in his bowling life. "I know it sounds clich‚, but I remember just thinking about one shot at a time. I remember I barely made the cut to the top 64, and after that, I had some pretty big match wins to get to the show. I can't really explain why I did so well because it was all new to me."
Indeed, one never knows how it will go in big situations until it happens for the first time . . . and it is an understatement to say that Jason Queen passed the test with flying colors.
After the 300, many expected Queen might have the normal letdown that often happens, but he credits Ebonite's Brian Pursel for helping him through the transition and setting up his Red Wolf Pearl to do exactly what he needed.
Queen also has a special memory of Norm Duke giving him encouragement after he defeated the legendary player in a match leading to the show. "Norm was a real gentleman after our match," said Queen. "He told me to just keep it going and assured me I had the talent to win."
Queen defeated Dennis Horan, Rick Steelsmith, and Brian Boghosian (who would win the Masters two years later) in matches to earn the second seed on the show. Forkel was the only lefty on the show, and had dominated all week. He set an all-time Masters record when he rolled a 300-874 to defeat Teata Semiz to earn the top seed.
Those who watch this video will also get to see the phenomenal Teata Semiz as the No. 5 seed, trying to become the oldest Masters champion at age 63. A decade later, this amazing man finished second in a Generations Pro Bowling Tour event at age 72.
Bobby Fleetwood looked like the player to beat after he opened the finals with the front nine strikes to defeat Semiz. Fleetwood then got by Ron Papp before running into Queen's perfecto in the semifinal.
A few other interesting aspects of this show - the announcers were Mike Jakubowski before he became "Laneside" and the great Earl Anthony. And the lane setup, complete with brass tube hand dryers in front of the ball returns, was by the Heddon Company; VP of Sales Dorman Spencer was there to brag about the equipment which was rather historic because these events had always been either Brunswick or AMF in the past. Bill and Barb Chrisman were also on the show because Storm sponsored the Pro-Am that year. And listen close when Earl Anthony reveals what famous bowler was inside the space suit during the opening of the show.
Queen also has special memories of Earl Anthony calling the show and having very nice things to say . . . at one point saying "I can't tell you how impressed I am with this young man."
"I always admired Earl growing up," said Queen. "So, having him call this show was an honor for me."
Queen may bowl the senior tour in five years, but for now, he and his wife, Trisha, are helping their 19-year-old son battle leukemia during his first year of college.
"When something like this happens, it makes you realize how important family is," said Queen . . ."But the good news is he is halfway through the treatment and it is looking very good."
Queen still lives in his hometown of Forsyth, Illinois, and works at the printing business his dad started. He bowled a few years on the PBA Tour after the new ownership took over and did okay. He won the final Super Hoinke event ever held, another big payday.
We are betting he didn't even break a sweat for that one.