We are all still talking about the amazing 2017 Ultimate Fan Experience. Michael recently sent us a recap of his weekend with Bowl4Life - it's absolutely worth the read!
Michael Harlow - Winner of the 2017 Ultimate Fan Experience
"My life changing experience all began on Sunday March 26, 2017. At 2:00 pm that afternoon Chuck Gardner II, otherwise known as CG2, had a Facebook live drawing for the Ultimate Fan Experience, “UFE”. The winner of this drawing would receive:
- ½ hour lesson from Chuck Gardner, the PBA tour Brunswick Rep/Coach, and his son Chuck 2, Pro Shop of the year and manager of bowling solutions.
- Invite to the Gardner Estate for a BBQ, with a number of PBA50 Pro’s, and even a few Hall of Fame bowlers such as Walter Ray Williams JR, Amletto Monacelli, and Johnny Patraglia, before the PBA 50 stop in Mooresville, NC
- Attend the PBA50 Tour practice from 9am-1pm with Chuck Gardner, listen to conversations between coach and pro’s, go in the ball trailer and watch the layout of equipment for the Pro’s
- Bowl in a Pro-Am with 3 different Pro’s.
On that Sunday afternoon, March 26, I was at Red Ray Lanes with my buddy Bryan selling hotdogs and chips as a fundraiser for our boys to go to the Jr. Gold youth bowling tournament in Cleveland this year. That evening I received a text from another buddy saying congratulations!!! I had no clue what he meant. Tyler, my son, had bowled today not me?
On Monday he sent another message and I received one from Tiffany Gardner indicating I won. I was super excited, yet super scared, and super confused. I watched the live drawing 15 times, and then I woke up my wife to watch with me twice. I was in shock, opportunities like this only happen to people on TV.
The next day I messaged Tiffany Gardner and received the information that I had won this amazing trip, and that all I had to do was get my butt down there and they would take care of the rest. That certainly brought forth a whole bunch of different emotions. I was amazed, excited, and scared all wrapped into one.
A few days later I called CG2 and we discussed itinerary, flight times, and if I was going to ship my equipment down for the lesson and the Pro-Am? I laughed and he asked what’s up? I mentioned I only use one ball and it is not really mine, it is Ed Grimes, my local Pro shop owner’s, ball and it fits well enough and I use it every week. He laughed and said ok.
As the weeks went on I became more and more excited, but more and more nervous. I was flying out Friday April 28th at 5 :30 from Grand Forks; however, I was also coming home from a week-long adventure with my daughters 8th grade class at Wolfridge Environmental Learning near Duluth MN.
The flight left Grand Forks on time and I was in the Minneapolis airport waiting for my plane to Charlotte, NC. I grabbed a bite to eat and met someone who is in the same campground as my family and we have never met, small world and the first of many remarkable things that would happen over the weekend. On our way to Charlotte the plane had to stop in Knoxville to add more fuel, I sent a message to Deborah Gardner and let her know she said Chuck and Jon would be there.
We landed in Charlotte at 1 am, I called Chuck and he said he would be right outside the door. I walked outside to see a blue Escalade with Bowl4Life on the plates…must be my ride I told myself. Jon Stites got out and shook my hand, and I met Chuck at the back of the vehicle and put my 2 backpacks away for the ride. We drove for what seemed minutes and got to know each other a little. I explained I worked at a flour mill, married for 17 years, 3 wonderful children and 3 dogs that I adore. We arrived at Chuck’s house and I met Deborah, then headed up to my room, only to find a small gift pack on the bed. Chocolate, and some awesome Brunswick stuff. I then fell asleep before I could even turn the TV on.
Saturday morning I woke up but was afraid to open my eyes, I did not want this to be a dream, I opened them and I was in NC still so I got ready and headed downstairs. Chuck and Deborah were sitting watching the lake and having some coffee when I arrived downstairs. They asked if everything was ok, I was proud I did not breakdown and start crying then, I said everything was amazing. We sat around and chatted about Pro Wrestling, fishing and racing. Chuck and I hopped in the truck and headed to Gastonia for my lesson.
We pulled into George Pappas’ Liberty Lanes in Gastonia, NC. I was a nervous wreck, I wasn’t sure if I had to pee or puke. I met CG2 and Tiffany right away and got to the lanes. I asked if they had Mt. Dew and Tiffany asked if I had ever had a Sundrop? I hadn’t tried one, so I figured what the heck. Caffeine helped the nerves until Chuck mentioned that Gary Faulkner and James Lord were practicing in the house this morning. I shook their hands and they were awesome guys, very down to earth and congratulated me on winning the UFE. I grabbed my bag and went to the lane I was going to bowl on and started to get ready.
Slipped on my shoes, and then my Cobra wrist brace that Larry Benjamin had given me 20+ years ago. I took the ball out and they had me throw a few balls. I finished and they said the only thing I did right was picking up my ball from the ball return, laughing of course. The span is a little short, the fingers are way too big, and so is the thumb, but hey I was averaging close to 200 for the last half of the season. CG2 looked at it and walked away. We worked on holding the ball lower and close to my body, moving the ball out 6” and letting gravity collect the elbow. We worked on my biggest problem, in my opinion, walking straight to the line. Mo Pinel from Radical came over and gave me a few pointers, how cool is that? We also worked on throwing the ball without my wrist brace, I never do this except for single pin conversions.
To work on the release we used a 1-step drill, then incorporated a slide drill into it also.
As I am bowling and working hard trying not to look like a dork, and Chuck hollers to come to the Pro shop. I threw my last ball and headed in and Tiffany had her camera up for a Facebook live event. Chuck shook my hand and told everyone that I did not own my own ball. I would rather spend every dime I can for my children or the youth bowlers than purchase a ball for me. He opened the box and there was a DV8 Grudge Pearl drilled for my hand by Mr. Matthew Wilborn of Bowling Solutions. I broke down, this was amazing, and I felt so special and was completely overwhelmed. I got a huge hug from everyone and could not wait to go throw the new ball. It felt like a glove on my hand, overwhelmed by the gift, and all the new things I had learned was mind blowing. We finished up bowling and went back to Chucks to get ready for the party.
CG2 and I set up a few corn hole boards, and were relaxing by the pool when people started to show up. I tell ya, I felt like Elvis that weekend. I met so many Pro Bowlers and Hall of Fame bowlers they all congratulated me. The best part was that each and every one of them had at least one bowling story for me. They all asked about my bowling and we laughed, and then I mentioned about coaching our local high school team and they were super supportive. I met Tom Carter, who says when you have 10 in a row move 2 boards right kid, Jeff Schrum, Mr. 300 Bob Learn, Peter Knopp, Ted Staikoff, who was actually in my hometown and came down to our local center and met my son Tyler, my buddy Bryan Renner, and some of Tyler’s teammates. Johnny Petraglia told me a story about Sammy and his bodyguard Bobo. I was able to give Walter Ray Williams Jr a ride in a golf cart from his car to the party, and during that ride I talked like a dolphin meaning unable to talk straight or even make sense, I was in awe.
Later that evening I was talking to Mo Pinel and someone tapped me on the back. I turned around and it was Amletto Monacelli, boyhood idol of guess who? ME!!!!!!! I also had the pleasure of meeting many of the staff at Bowling Solutions, and friends and family of the Gardner’s. I know I am missing names, and I could go into such detail about the talks and secrets but I will keep them special to me. Brandon Davidson, the live entertainment for the evening, finished up his last song and we headed in for the night. Sitting around the dining room table telling stories was something I will never forget.
The next morning we get up early and head to Mooresville, NC and George Pappas’ Victory Lanes. The PBA50 tour was having a practice session from 9am-1pm. Walking around watching these pros practice, try different things, different balls, and even ask for help was quite amazing. Everyone from the night before came up to me and shook my hand and said good morning. That was the most amazing part of the Pro experience. Genuine great guys who would remember my name and say hello just floored me. I was able to meet Pete Weber, Norm Duke, Ryan Schafer, Tom Baker, and a whole bunch of other pros. The Pro-Am was at 2pm. I did not bowl very well, the pattern was incredibly long and I was incredibly nervous. Oh well it was an amazing time.
We got back to Chuck’s and went out to eat. Chuck, Deborah, Jon, Mona, Chucks Mom and I went to an incredible Mexican restaurant. I would have to say that was the time I hold so very true and dear to my heart. I felt as if I had been there my whole life. The next morning Marcus picked me up at 5:30 am and I headed to the airport to come back to my wonderful family and friend in North Dakota.
The day I returned to North Dakota my daughter Emma passed and received her drivers permit, I posted this on Facebook and it was so cool showing everyone, and explaining all the pro bowlers who liked the post. I still talk to CG2 at least 2-3 times a week, I have sent countless videos of Tyler to him to critique, sorry pal.
The greatest part of the entire trip was the amount of people I met that truly love bowling and support youth bowling across America. Bowl4Life has helped me meet numerous people and connect on a different level. I am so fortunate to have met everyone, and to have experienced the trip of a lifetime. If there is ever anything I can do for the Bowl4Life foundation please let me know.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the Ultimate Fan Experience weekend. It was an amazing event - all in the name of being able to #growbowling.