Imagine if you had the opportunity to rub elbows with some of your heroes.
That’s exactly where bowler Robert “Zane” Lint, a native of East Taylor, found himself recently.
Lint was in elite company in the bowling world when he participated in the United States Bowling Congress Masters Tournament in New Brunswick, N.J., in late February.
The tournament featured some of the top bowlers in the nation and Lint said he was nervous about what he was getting himself into.
“I drove the whole way there with chills in my blood and just not knowing what to expect,” Lint said. “I never could have imagined how it was going to be, but it was by far the best week of my life.
“I went there with the expectation that I was going to roll the ball down the lane and didn’t know what it was all about or who was going to be there. I’ve seen it on TV, but have never been in anything of that nature and never bowled in a PBA tournament. Walking in, I saw guys that I idolized all of my life like Norm Duke, who’s been my No. 1 top guy in my life. The only thing that would have made it better, was if Earl Anthony had been there, but he passed away a few years ago.”
Before he left for New Jersey, Lint’s wife, Missi, asked him to get an autograph from Chris Barnes if possible.
As fate had it, Lint was paired with Barnes.
“I bowled with him all week in qualifying rounds,” Lint said. “I also had some unique talks with Pete Weber. I was pinching myself all week. I was competing with the guys that I’ve watched and idolized all of my life.”
Duke actually walked Lint through a practice session.
“Norm Duke took me up and down the lanes and was talking to me and giving me suggestions,” the Richland Lanes bowler said.
Lint, who has been bowling since he was 5, got the opportunity to attend the USBC Masters because of his qualifying average of 221. A bowler must average at least 190 and pay the fee in order to attend.
“If the form hadn’t shown up, I would have never thought about going,” said Lint, who bowls with Metro Minor on Mondays, Sportsman’s League on Thursdays and Pin Blasters on Saturdays at Richland Lanes.
Lint said he tries to get to two traveling tournaments a year, but nothing to the extent of the event he attended in New Jersey.
“I tried to keep it as quiet as I could before I went, because I didn’t want to be embarrassed, but I haven’t been able to stop talking about it since I went,” Lint said.
Lint finished 429th out of 468 bowlers and averaged 172.67 at the event.
“I don’t worry so much about how I finished,” Lint said. “I was with the best bowlers in the world and I had the experience of being there.
“Hopefully when I go back next year, it will be at least that good. I can’t imagine it being any better. And I will improve on my score and placing next year.”
The tournament, which was won by Jason Belmonte of Australia, was broadcast live on ESPN.