BY ADAM KENT-ISAAC
On December 3, 2012, Bradley Branam bowled two perfect games in a row. That’s 24 consecutive strikes, for those not hip to bowling. “It’s always been my dream to bowl two three-hundreds,” says Branam, 22. “It was awesome. Unreal.”
A Bloomington native, Branam has bowled since age 12, learning from his father, Larry. By his own admission, his skill comes from tireless practice: three games a day, six days a week. When he’s not working his job on the night shift at IU’s Residential Programs & Services, he’s at Classic Bowling Lanes knocking down pins.
Branam’s form is unorthodox. He hurls the ball forward with both hands, leaning down with his shoulder and throwing the entire right side of his body into the motion, following through gracefully and consistently every time. But not everyone has applauded his success with the technique, he says.
“They [competitive bowlers] threw a fit when I switched to two hands,” says Branam, who competes in tournaments around the country and claims his competitors were merely intimidated by his power with this technique. “They knew I could be good with it. I bowl a lot of strikes.” Branam averages 224 out of a possible score of 300.
A good bowler, he says, must read the lane conditions the same way a golfer reads the green and use trial-and-error to judge the right ball to throw depending on the lane’s oil pattern. Bowling balls vary by total weight, weight distribution, and composition. Branam prefers 15-pound Hammer brand balls and brings four or five of them to the alley each time he bowls.
“Next year, instead of joining so many leagues, I’m going to compete in more tournaments,” he says. That’s the path Branam ultimately wants to go down. “You win tournaments, you win money,” he says. And there is plenty of money to go around in bowling. Equipment companies pay up to six figures to sponsored bowlers, and tournament prizes range from a few thousand to a hundred thousand dollars or more.
Until then, Branam can be found most every day at Classic Lanes, honing his technique and preparing for that big break.