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For bowler Johnnie Englehart, the glow shines brighter than ever

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What’s wrong with Johnnie Englehart?

The veteran bowler didn’t quite reach his average Monday night at Canoga Park Bowl and he was just as even-tempered as if he bowled a 300 – which is rather often.

Said teammate Bob Adams: “Johnnie didn’t pound a counter, he didn’t clench a fist or kick a rack. He’s basically a true professional.”

Incidentally, Englehart’s average in Canoga Park Bowl’s “River Maniacs’ league is a scalding 246. And he didn’t quite make his average Monday despite blasting an “Andy Varipapa 300” – or 12 strikes in a row over two games.

That feat may represent a huge celebration for most bowlers. But for Englehart, who has blistered a whopping 52 perfect games and 60 800 series, he didn’t even notice it until a reporter pointed it out.

Englehart’s mellow and unobtrusive style is unusual in the world of league bowlers, who constantly display an array of histrionics in the event of disappointing shots.

What Englehart does best is just roll strike after strike, enabling him to rank among the super elite of San Fernando Valley area bowlers. And he does it without drawing attention to himself.

“Johnnie is just a very, very humble type of person,” said the 73-year-old Adams, who averages 193 and has bowled on the same team as Englehart for about six years. “You’d never know the type of bowler he is. He doesn’t have an attitude and is not a prima donna. He doesn’t flaunt it.

“And if anyone needs help, he’ll always work to help him. He’s helped me a lot. He’ll help anyone with his problem.

“There are a lot of good bowlers, but as far as consistency, attitude and everything else, I think he’s the best bowler I’ve ever seen.”

As calm as Englehart is outwardly, he remains full of energy about the game at 55 years old. He says he’s “still just as excited about bowling my last 300 as my first one.”

What that means is that Johnnie Englehart has been experiencing an exciting life. In this year alone, he’s crushed four perfect games and four 800 series, giving him eight honors scores.

The right-handed Englehart didn’t reach this level overnight.

He started bowling at age 5. By age 12, he was rated No. 2 in the country among players in his age group by a bowling magazine.

“That was my first ‘wow’ in the bowling world,” says Englehart, “and I don’t think the glow has gone away.”

In addition to his stratospheric 246 average at Canoga Park Bowl, Englehart holds a 221 average in Thursday night’s highly competitive league at Mission Hills Bowl.

“He is the most consistent and accurate bowler I’ve ever seen,” said Kelly Gold, arguably the best amateur woman bowler in the Valley. “He just doesn’t miss. Just doesn’t.

“And he’s so humble and soft-spoken. He just does what he has to do and doesn’t shine the spotlight on himself. He’s really a great guy, a nice guy. He’s a role model for many people.”

To demonstrate Englehart’s high expectations of himself, he said he was “not happy with this year’s performance.”

He explains that “my consistency has lagged. That’s what’s set me apart from other bowlers.”

One has to put those comments in context.

When one is averaging in the 240s, consistency is not so easy to maintain. A split or two can throw a bowler’s average for a loop.

For so many years, Englehart’s performances have been off the charts.

In 2009, for instance, he smoked back-to-back 300 games in his first two games at Canoga Park Bowl, finishing with a 209 to give him an 809 series. Two years later, he put together another series in which he bowled two perfect games. He rolled games of 300, 269 and 300 at Canoga Park Bowl for a career-best and otherworldly 869 series.

One of his goals, he admits, is to improve on that 869 series.

“I’d love to shoot a 900 and there’s plenty of fuel in the tank to do that before I hang them up,” he said. “But the window is closing faster than I want to admit to it.”

Englehart, a Canoga Park resident, says surprisingly that those double-300 series do not rank as his biggest highlight of his career. Rather, he cites a 12-day period in early 2012 when he bowled four straight 800 series, two at Mission Hills Bowl (815, 804) and two at Canoga Park Bowl (835, 817).

“I don’t know what they put in the food for those weeks,” Englehart joked. “It was like shooting fish in a barrel.”

Englehart is adamant that his enthusiasm for the sport remains strong.

“I love to bowl,” he says. “I’ve had good success and I hate to fold a winning hand.”

On Monday nights at Canoga Park Bowl, Englehart can view his 22-year-old son, Scott, following in his dad’s footsteps.

Scott, who bowls on a different team with his friends, is averaging 208 and has rolled a 299 game.

“He can be better than his dad,” Englehart said. “He’s got all the tools. He’s bigger and stronger than I am. He’s got all the raw talent. He just has to harness it in the right direction.”

Even though he talks about how talented his Monday night league is, Englehart acknowledges that the toughest competition rests in his Thursday league at Mission Hills Bowl.

“I love the Thursday league,” he said. “I’m not going to lie to you. The competition is so good, it just brings out the best in me.”

And he added, jokingly, “And sometimes it doesn’t.”

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