North American Bowling News

Royal Effort Lands McDonnell $4,000 Club Tour Victory

Club Tour Champion, Karole McDonnell (Photo courtesy Walter Heeney)

In a performance that is only fittingly described by one word—domination—the fivepin world crowned a new and deserving champion on November 20, 2011. Competing in Canada’s “Club Tour” open event at Stellar Lanes in Newmarket, Ontario, Karole McDonnell set a new benchmark for female and male competitors, averaging an astonishing 314 during her march in the head-to-head round to the hefty $4,000.00 grand prize. McDonnell, a resident of Elmira, Ontario, which is about 90 minutes from Toronto, conquered a field of some of the best small ball bowlers on the continent, and proved that accuracy takes precedence over power in the sport of bowling.

The event saw small ball rollers of the duckpin game from south of the Canadian border, including pros Andrew Rowland and Bernie Hipkins, making a bid at the huge payoff prize of $4,000 as champion’s compensation. The Canadian links in the chain that connects duckpins and fivepins included names like Dave Secord, Jeff Young, Christina Herbert, Marc Goneau, Mike Herbert, Bernie Menard, Kristi Lampman, Mitch Davies, Martin Talbot, Karole McDonnell, Peter Brown, and Jason Procher.

A field of 89 entries made up the qualifying round, and a 270 average for the 8-game preliminary block was what was needed to advance to the head-to-head round of the semi-finals. 20 qualifiers were taken, and in order for the event to proceed with a ‘SWEET 16’ tournament format, the bottom 8 qualifiers would have to do battle in a ‘wildcard’ round. 4 survivors would then advance from this round to make up the 13th through 16th seedings in the bracket. Each match in head-to-head competition would be comprised of 2-game contests, with total pinfall from the 2 games deciding the winners. In the wildcard round, Mike Herbert def. Erica Bortolin, 596-450, Terry Little def. Dave Bascardi, 484-459, Martin Talbot def. Mitch Davies, 513-500, and Karole McDonnell def. Chantal Renaud, 540-493.

With the Sweet 16 now established, Round 2 got underway. The anticipated feature match pitted Martin Talbot against the top seed, Bill Schwemlein. Schwemlein posted the best score in qualifying with a monster 2410 effort for 8 games. Talbot was ready for the challenge, up-ending the number one man in a tough match, 591-574. Perhaps the defining moment of the tournament occurred in the match between the 2nd seed, Shawn Haley and the 15th seed, Karole McDonnell. Haley posted a strong 2-game total of 577, but McDonnell went to another level in Round 2 as she shot what would be the highest 2-game score of the tournament, with a staggering 694 effort to advance to the Elite 8 round. Other winners during the Sweet 16 included Geoff Stevens defeating Mike Herbert, 587-467, David Phipps over Elizabeth Nicoll, 506-433, Emil Boljkovac over Jesse Stewart, 476-447, Bobby Torraville def. Pete Brown, 580-503, Jason Procher over Terry Little, 570-454, and in the most thrilling match of the day, Dave Slappendel and Kris Babuik, in a supreme battle of offense, ended in a 655-655 tie, with Slappendel winning the 2-frame roll-off, 43-37.

In the Elite 8 round, Karole McDonnell continued to issue a statement to the field of competitors, as she rolled another whopping score of 693, surpassing Geoff Stevens’ 497 effort. Jason Procher defeated Martin Talbot, 591-527, Bobby Torraville def. Emil Boljkovac in a tight match, 517-509, and Dave Slappendel def. David Phipps, 540-501.

In the Final Four, Karole McDonnell once again was unstoppable, posting another mammoth effort of 358 to Jason Procher’s 214 game, leading to an early finish to the match, while Bobby Torraville ousted Dave Slappendel, 538-496 to set up the final confrontation with McDonnell.

In a fitting climax accentuating her tournament run, Karole came out the gate as sharp as ever against Bobby, and just as she had done throughout the entire day, her first game ultimately spelled victory as she opened with another gigantic effort of 338. Torraville hung tough to narrowly outscore McDonnell in the closing game of the event, but after the smoke cleared, Karole had coasted to a 546-417 effort in the championship to win the Club Tour event title and the $4,000.00 grand prize.

McDonnell’s run in head-to-head competition was over-whelming. After the wildcard round, Karole climbed to a performance level at which no one else ascended and she remained there until the event was essentially decided in her favor. Karole’s scores from the Sweet 16 round up through the first game of the championship calculated to an incredible 347 average for the 6 crucial games—truly a steamrolling performance during the pressure of match play.

When asked if she approached this tournament in any special way, Karole replied, “I think this was the most I have ever concentrated in an event. I have terrible focus. I think the deeper I got in the stepladder, the crazier it got for me. I just kept texting my husband the minimum I could win if I got knocked out. My goal ‘going in’ was to make the cut. Then maybe, just maybe, beat a couple boys.”

McDonnell is no stranger to gritty tournament competition. In the summer of 2011, she made a most impressive showing at White Oak Lanes in one of the summer events for the ladies’ duckpin tour, the WNDA, where she qualified for the Sunday semi-finals, only to be nosed out on pinfall during divisional play by fellow Canadian, Connie Ward, for the all-important ladder seeding of the event.

Karole is a member of the legion of new faces from Canada that joined the ladies’ duckpin tour in 2011, along with formidable competitors Jen Galbraith, Kristi Lampman, Steph Hillmer, and Kelly Martin. Past imports from Canada who have made an impact on the women’s side also include Connie Ward, Christina Herbert, and Melissa Llewellyn.

McDonnell carries a 245 average in the fivepin game and bowls once a week. She began bowling at the age of 4 and her current prowess on the lanes can be partially attributed to growing up in a bowling environment, as her parents are the owners of Elmira Bowl. However, it’s pretty safe to assume that a natural talent for the game, along with exceptional timing and coordination, play a big part in Karole’s success.



Another drama unfolded during the Club Tour event in the preliminary round of the tournament that was the buzz of the fivepin world on the weekend of November 19th and 20th. Oshawa, Ontario’s Mike Herbert joined an elite group of fivepinners when he attained perfection by rolling a flawless 450 effort in the opening game of a re-entry in the event.

Along with the prestige of achieving perfection, Mike did his share to break the bank, as he won $2,000.00 in a special incentive ‘side pool’ offered for the first perfect game of the tournament.

Unquestionably, the moment must have been tense. When asked about the most nerve-racking point of the landmark effort, Herbert elaborated: “I found the 9th frame the most nerve racking, because it was the shot after a really heavy strike. I took off some speed on the following shot, which was the ninth frame. By taking speed off, I took a chance of not following through and missing center”.

Obviously, Herbert made the right adjustment, as he was unshakable on the 12th and final ball, and the decisive pitch that ultimately followed. The moment was indeed magic for Mike as he was immediately greeted with appreciative cheers from all in attendance who witnessed the spectacle.

This was Mike’s first perfect game of his career. His high effort prior to this was a 440 game, occurring when he was 18 in a youth event. At that time, Herbert was perfect through 11 shots, and ended up punching out the headpin on the all-important final delivery. This time, Mike once again stayed true and the result earned him a substantial $2,000.00 payday.

There were 2 bits or irony with Herbert’s 450 game. First, Mike now has held up his end of perfection in the Herbert household, as his wife, Christina rolled a 450 game last summer in a tournament event. And second, Mike did qualify for the match play round of the weekend’s Club Tour, but not on the basis of his re-entry, which included the perfect game—his initial entry in the event was just high enough to advance past the preliminaries.

As was the case with Karole McDonnell being a fivepinner who also excels at duckpin bowling, so is the same true for Mike Herbert. Of all the Canadians who have migrated to the men’s side of pro level duckpin competition, Mike has arguably taken the biggest strides towards winning a DPBA event. Although fivepinner Jeff Young has earned a DPBA Rookie of the Year honor and a recent 2nd place finish in 2011, Herbert was the first to break the ice to advance to a championship match on the men’s tour, thus bringing recognition to the Canadians as a force to be reckoned with on the DPBA. Herbert joined the duckpin tour a few years back, and was a finalist in the 2010 Duckpin Olympics in Hagerstown, Maryland, where he was runner-up to John Zikis in his quest for the $10,000 grand prize for the event.

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