North American Bowling News

Fivepin's Finest: Fraser Hambly

Small ball bowling legend, Fraser Hambly

The Canadian border, while not a tangible barrier, should at least be regarded as one of nature's 'force fields'. How else can a person explain away the name of "Fraser Hambly" not being a household name for bowlers on the North American continent?

Fraser Hambly has to be one of the best kept secrets in the world of small ball bowling. Back in 1999, Hambly was voted the Number One bowler in Ontario for the first 90 years of fivepin bowling. Born in 1943, Fraser has compiled an unparalleled list of accomplishments in the fivepin game.

Hambly has had a lengthy and extremely productive career, posting over 60 tournament wins in a number of prestigious events. Competing in fivepin major leagues, Fraser has won the high average award in the "Majors" in 6 different decades, which is a true testament to his longevity while competing at the advanced level. In 1974, he won the heralded Canadian Invitational Singles event with a grand prize of $10,000. Nowadays, that $10,000 would equate to $100,000. Hambly has 16 perfect games of 450 on his bowling resume, and has held a high average of 289 for a single season. This 'high average' stat is truly remarkable.

It's difficult to get an appreciation of the magnitude of a 289 average on a week-to-week basis if you've never seen the game of fivepins (and fortunately this editor has seen several matches on video tape), but basically you've got to excel at or beyond your "A" game each and every week to reach such a milestone average.

What struck this editor as something truly incredible about Fraser Hambly was a posting on Facebook that I recently came across on John Honeyford's fivepin page. There was a reference to one of the huge team events in the fivepin game—the 1993 Ontario Open, and I noticed one of the posts mentioned that Fraser Hambly shot 440 in the final game. Everything was riding on that one game to determine the team championship, and so Hambly's Toronto team decided to move Fraser down to the anchor spot for the only time in the tourney. When asked about the roster move, Hambly recalls that he had past success on other occasions against the opposing "York West" team's anchorman.

Not being a native of the fivepin game, this editor didn't immediately realize it until stopping to think—a '440 game' means that a player had to open with 11 strikes in a row. This is truly the 'ultimate' in responding to the pressure of a team tournament situation, especially when, after reading further, the match was close all the way through until the last frame.

Fivepin member of the Duckpin Professional Bowlers Association, Jeff Young, has an interview page on Facebook (""), and he questioned Hambly about the circumstances surrounding the climactic moments of the 440 game, and the verbal interplay between Hambly and his teammates.

Fraser recalls, "It was actually during the championship match—Toronto versus York West. The match was high scoring and very close all the way, but we (Toronto) opened up a small lead in the 9th frame, and expanded it in the 10th. I was bowling anchor for the first time all tournament and when it came down to me, we had already clinched the title, which was very thrilling. I had started on 9 in a row, each one being important due to the closeness of the match. I threw the first 2 strikes easily enough (in the 10th), but then I think I was out of gas and I got very nervous. I got up on the approach, but didn't feel comfortable, so I came back and asked my teammates how we were going to split up the perfect game award (I think it was a trip). They laughed, but what I was trying to do was to get looser—unfortunately, in this case it didn't work, as I missed the headpin. I was never less disappointed in my life at missing a perfect game, as we were all so happy to have won the championship."

The accomplishments of Fraser Hambly are lengthy, and we'd be hard pressed to list them all here. Suffice it to say that if Hambly were a duckpinner, he'd be an icon.

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