Some people seem to have bowling in their blood.
One such person might be Gail Marlis of Tarzana.
How else to explain the metamorphosis she’s now experiencing as a converted left-hander after bowling all her life as a right-hander?
Marlis is an example of an inspirational athlete who has refused to give up after suffering a disabling injury that would sideline all but the most determined of individuals.
Perhaps her background can explain her drive to resuscitate her bowling career when it appeared as if it had surely ended.
Marlis started her bowling career as a 7-year-old at Compton Bowl, which was then owned by her grandfather.
“There were only 13-pound balls there,” she recalled. “They didn’t have balls that weighed less for kids. I used to go there and was lucky to get a pin down.
“Balls would stop in the middle of the lane or in the gutter. I didn’t have the power to get the ball down the lane. That’s how I started bowling.”
Things improved markedly for Marlis’ game a few decades later when she joined a league and fashioned a nifty 175 average one year (while bowling pregnant with her third child whom she delivered four days after the end of the season). She then left the game for 18 years but resumed league bowling 3 ½ years ago and really found her rhythm last year.
For four months, she was “tearing up the bowling alley” before disaster struck. The tendons in her right arm started bothering her more and more and “got so painful I couldn’t bowl any more.”
Her doctor advised her to quit the game – which she did.
But guess who’s back now?
And guess who’s been reincarnated as a left-handed bowler?
“I’d rather bowl with my left hand and not bowl really well and work my way up than not bowl at all,” Marlis said. “Not bowling is not an option.”
After skipping last summer’s season, Marlis rejoined her Shark Tank team for the fall season at AMF Woodlake Lanes in Woodland Hills.
“I talked to my team and we’re like family,” Marlis said. “They said, ‘we don’t care how well you bowl.’ I love our team.
“I never practiced as a lefty and my first game was a 30. My next game was a 45 or 50. My average for the first week was 50 and now I’m up to a 76 average and my high game so far has been 116.
“I’ve bowled my average or higher every week and that gives me hope that it’ll get higher. Bowling is like my play date with my friends.”
Marlis has received helpful advice from several people, including teammate Tracy Lavarnway, who has instructed her to take three steps to the foul line.
“What’s so funny is that everyone in the league is so close and cheers for me,” Marlis said.
Carol Tucker, who bowls in the same league with Marlis, said, “Gail's enthusiasm for bowling is catching. I always enjoy watching her bowl with determination, always trying to improve her game. She is a lovely person.”
Marlis’ high game as a right-hander was a sizzling 196 that she rolled last year.
“I’m the most unathletic person that has ever lived,” Marlis added. “My brother was very athletic. Both my parents are not here any more and my brother said that if my parents were still alive, they’d be hysterical knowing that I have a sports injury.”
Marlis is optimistic that she’ll continue to improve.
“I haven’t bowled less than my average since I started [as a left-hander],” she said. “Who knows, I might become a better bowler with my left hand. It’s been really fun.”
When the season started, Marlis hoped to bowl one game in triple figures. Now she’s raised her goal.
“My goal is 150 by the end of the year,” she said, “and I think I’ll make it.”