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In previous Inside Line articles, we showed how oil pattern breakdown happens with today's high flaring bowling balls and how different styles of play can affect an oil pattern in different ways. In this article, we will show how different groups of players with similar styles can greatly affect an oil pattern by strategically "managing the oil pattern" during practice time and the first game, and the resulting scoring pace for all those that follow these skillful "pattern managers."

The scene was the Men's Team event second block on the Seoul oil pattern during the 2013 WTBA World Championships in Las Vegas. The WTBA rule for practice time for 5 person team event is 15 minutes, then all teams bowl 3 games moving lanes every game. This gives us about 4-5 games per lane by the time each team finishes the 3rd frame of game one.

Our testing and after tapes at many modern day events show that when players play a similar line each and every shot during this time on a fresh oil pattern, over 50 percent of the lane conditioner can be removed from that area throughout the ENTIRE length of the applied oil pattern. This is significant and something all competitive players and coaches must be aware of in today's game.

Here was a test showing how much conditioner was removed in the area of play after each 3 games:

 

The significance and rapid pattern change is so prevalent in today's game that some Federations even employ multiple coaches during championships- one coach on the lanes helping the players during competition, and another coach "scouting out" the pair of lanes they will be moving to. Just knowing how and where the teams are playing on the lanes in front them can give them valuable information and help them get lined up quicker. In championship events, this can be the difference between winning, losing, or not even getting a chance to win. This played out exactly this way during the 2013 World Championships this year in the men's division.

Here is a graphic of the Seoul oil pattern just before the men's second squad of team event took the lanes - the graphic is with the perspective of looking at the oil pattern from the pins, so the 10 pin side is the left side of the graphic. Also shown below are the Sport Bowling ratios at multiple tape distances before the players took to the lanes:

 

As a side note, the WTBA Seoul oil pattern is asymmetrical with more oil outside on the left side than the right side, hence the lower ratios on the left side. You may also notice that at 32' this pattern does not fall within the 3 to 1 ratio parameters, but Sport Bowling ratios only use 22' and 2' before the end of the pattern to calculate whether it meets USBC Sport Bowling requirements, and the WTBA does not have any ratio requirements.

During this second block of team play, with these pairs of lanes being right in front of the tournament office, I was able to watch and see how each of the teams on these pairs were breaking down the lanes during the 15 minutes of practice. While watching Puerto Rico and Brazil on 57-58 play more outside, and the teams on 55-56 play more inside, I was wondering how much an effect that might have on the teams coming to these pair of lanes in games 2 and 3, so I planned on taking after tapes as soon as the block was over. Little did I know at the time, the way the teams on 57-58 broke down that pair would help Team Finland make history.

After 15 minutes of practice and three 5-man team games (15 plus games per lane), here is what the Seoul pattern morphed into on lanes 55-56:

 

From looking at these after tapes, it is clear how deep inside the bowlers on this pair ended up playing the lanes, which all came from how the initial teams decided to play the lanes in practice and game 1.

Here are the after ratios of lanes 55-56, calculated the same way as before:

 

The ratios normally get lower up front as the oil pattern gets depleted from the middle of the lane. What makes scoring pace rise as players break down the oil pattern is when all balls come together towards the end part of the oil pattern, which raises the ratios from outside to the middle. In this example the ratios from the fresh oil pattern went from about 3:1 to 3.6:1 at 32 feet and from 2.9:1 to 3.8:1 at 37 feet. This is enough for world class players to increase the scoring pace, and this block was no exception.

Here is the resulting scoring pace of each team for each game of this particular block of games on lanes 55-56::

 

As you can see by game 3 that pair became more playable because of oil pattern development with both Team Denmark and Team Korea breaking the 1100 barrier. It took longer because of how deep the previous teams played that pair. The reason it took longer is because when teams start in the deeper amount of oil, it takes longer for the ball to reach the "spark point", or in other words, break down the oil pattern enough for the ball to poke through the oil film and get to the lane surface. Once the ball sees the lane surface, it also sees friction. The earlier the ball sees friction within the oil pattern, the easier that pattern becomes because left of that is the created oil line.

And now the pair of lanes where the Seoul pattern was changed into something else, which helped Team Finland make history. The mutated Seoul oil pattern on lanes 57-58:

 

From looking at these after tapes, it is clear how much more outside the bowlers on this pair ended up playing the lanes, which also was decided because of how the initial teams decided to play the lanes in practice and game 1.

Here are the after ratios of this pair, calculated the same way as before:

 

While lanes 55-56 went to 3.6 and 3.8 to 1 towards the end of the oil pattern, the players on lanes 57-58 took the ratios to 5.2 and 5.6 to 1! This is borderline what many house shots are in today's game, but like I said before, most of the change happens within practice and the beginning of game one.

Here is the resulting scoring pace on lanes 57-58 of each team for each game during this block of games:

 

As you can see by the team game total scores, the teams that were fortunate enough to follow Puerto Rico and Brazil benefited greatly, but none more than Team Finland. This second team game with a score of 1225, along with the momentum that gave them and another 1200 plus score in game 3, catapulted them into the Team finals. After winning their semi-final match they defeated Team USA in the finals for the first team Gold medal for Finland in 30 years.

Fortunately, during this championship we also had available Kegel's LaneMap Guide of Sunset Station which shows the gravity influence on the ball based upon topography so we were able to see if one pair was significantly different causing that to be the reason for higher scores this block on 57-58, but that proved to be not the case, as the below graphic will clearly show. Both pairs have very similar characteristics.

 

Finally, one more look an after bowling graphic of both patterns and the resulting ratios side by side:

 

A well renowned Kegel laneman and now National Team Coach for Indonesia, John Forst, had a saying; "the applied oil pattern is only the pattern until the bowlers start bowling on it. After that, they are the ones that decide what happens, not the laneman."

In today's vernacular, the Seoul oil pattern, or any other named oil pattern for that matter, is only the intended pattern until players start rolling balls over it, and then that named pattern becomes something else. Some players can turn it into Easy Street, and some can turn it into the Highway to Hell. Keep your fingers crossed you follow players that can turn things into Easy Street.

Ted Thompson

Ted Thompson began his career in the bowling business in 1976 at the age of 15 working for the Florida based Galaxy Lanes chain. Beginning from the ground up in center operations, he has also been a long time Pro Shop proprietor, 40 lane center General Manager, PBA National Tour player, multi PBA Regional Champion, PBA Player Services Director, and even a bowling writer. Since 2004 he has been working with Kegel.

Ted has also coached bowling on many different levels. From basic Learn to Bowl classes and private lessons while in the Pro Shop business, he was also head coach for Florida State University, countless PBA professionals, and even coached Lisa Wagner to her last Player of the Year award in 1993. While working for the PBA, the late great Dick Weber even asked for some of his time. An experience Ted says "he will always cherish". Dick immediately won a Senior Sweeper and gave him $300. It was the most Ted ever received for an hour lesson, and it came from one of the greatest players of all time.

Recently, Ted has been deeply studying topography and the effects it has on ball motion. He is also on the Kegel Team helping make decisions for many of the oil patterns Kegel uses in competitions world wide, which has led to further development of Kegel's lane machines. Ted has a complete and unique understanding of bowling from many different sides.

Ted also named the world's and Kegel's most popular lane machine the "Kustodian ION" (pronounced "EON" in Europe) and spearheaded the creation of Kegel's Navigation Oil Patterns. The creativity may be heredity. In 1968 Ted's father created the famous Dodge Super Bee logo and spearheaded that marketing campaign.