PBA TECH TALK with Ted Thompson
BOWLING Magazine March 2002
Reprinted with permission from the USBC
Koivuniemi combines International experience and American grip adjustments to compete on PBA Tour
When Mika Koivuniemi wins a tournament in the world of bowling, he wins big. In 1991 while still an amateur, Koivuniemi won the Federation Internationale des Quilleurs World Grand Masters. In 1997 he won the Super Hoinke for $100,000. After Koivuniemi turned professional in 1999, his first victory was in the 2000 American Bowling Congress Masters. In December, he added another of bowling’s most coveted crowns, the 2001 U.S. Open for another $100,000 first place check.
Those are good reasons to look at the tools Koivuniemi uses to conquer the tough conditions usually found in these major events. Koivuniemi grew up in Finland and therefore learned to bowl mostly in his homeland and Western Europe early in his career. There his game developed, like most of us, a style that enabled him to excel in the environment in which he was competing. The conditions over there, he said, “were one of extremes.” Either the lanes had very dry heads and tight back ends, or short oil patterns that made the ball hook almost uncontrollably. Koivuniemi therefore developed a style that had an excessive amount of loft built into his game.
This excessive lofting of the ball enabled his ball reaction (the hook) to be delayed, which worked well on both types of conditions that were prevalent in Europe. “It was normal for me to loft it as far as eight to 10 feet on a consistent basis,” Koivuniemi said. He also possesses the intangibles shared by most champions in all sports — excellent concentration and the ability to keep his emotions on an even keel, never getting overly excited or dejected. With strong physical and mental games, it’s no wonder Koivuniemi achieved world-class status in bowling before he joined the PBA Tour.
But the PBA Tour is a different animal. To continue the status he enjoyed worldwide, Koivuniemi soon realized a couple of adjustments were necessary to continue his road to success against “the world’s greatest bowlers.” On tour, one of the major challenges for most players is getting the ball to read the mid-lane and then continue its motion into the pocket with no violent reactions. This makes for a very readable ball reaction that is a necessity for consistency from pair to pair.
To achieve a more predictable ball reaction, Koivuniemi increased the reverse pitches in his finger holes to one-inch reverse. This is the most reverse pitch in the finger holes anyone on the PBA Tour uses today. It’s an attempt to get the ball off his fingers as fast as possible and onto the lane as quickly as possible. With this adjustment, Koivuniemi achieved a ball motion that reads the lane sooner with a less violent hook on the backend which is exactly the type of reaction a player needs to be consistent on the PBA Tour.
To continue the status he enjoyed worldwide, Koivuniemi soon realized a couple of adjustments were necessary to continue his road to success against ‘the world’s greatest bowlers.
Koivuniemi has a very high, loose arm swing which makes for fast ball speed. Again, that’s a product of the environment he grew up in and a challenge for him on heavily-oiled conditions. This is where specific ball choices and layouts come into play.
When the lane conditions are more on the higher friction side of the spectrum, Koivuniemi will use a ball that is reactive in nature only and stay away from the particle balls. He will use a layout that puts the pin 5 1/2" from his positive axis point and not use an extra hole. Both of these types of layouts help Koivuniemi keep the ball on line the majority of the time.
Koivuniemi would be considered a “Tweener” in today’s environment, someone who doesn’t go completely up the lane, but also prefers not to hook the ball across a lot of boards. With these changes combined with his natural game developed in Finland, Koivuniemi has proven himself to be a threat every week on the PBA Tour. ■ Bowling March 2002