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Two seasons ago, Dawud Sanders was in a bowling slump that saw his average drop for a time into the 160s after he had been averaging over 200.

“It was embarrassing,” the East Side resident says of his bowling struggles.

Sanders, who is nothing but enthusiastic and serious about his bowling, set about to do something about it.

Well, he’s back on his game. In fact, he may be bowling better than ever.

Ten days ago, Sanders bowled his first 800 series, an 815 that included his fourth career 300 game and a 278 game.

“Incredible … I’m still up in the clouds,” Sanders said.

His big series came in one of the more competitive leagues in the area – the Kerm Helmer Memorial Doubles – which bowls Thursdays at AMF Thruway Lanes.

Many of the accomplished bowlers around here bowl in it. Sanders’ partner is Holly Filarecki, the 2012 Greater Buffalo USBCA women’s Bowler of the Year and the 2012 New York State Queens Champion.

When Sanders was bowling his 300, Team USA member Liz Johnson was bowling on an adjacent lane. Jim Wangler, another accomplished bowler and the Helmer League secretary, encouraged Sanders through his 300.

Obviously, Sanders has come a long way back.

“From 40 pins down to 40 pins back up,” he says proudly. He’s averaging a career-best 218 now in the Helmer and his team is in first place.

To do it took a lot of determination and a lot of help from friends and fellow bowlers.

Sanders reconstructed his game altogether, including getting his hands remeasured, altering the grip on his ball, and getting new equipment.

He credits Roy Decibus of Thruway Lanes, who is also the men’s coach at Erie Community College, for encouraging him, along with his friend, veteran bowler Joe Warr.

“Joe wouldn’t say anything to me,” about his bowling problems “until I came to him first and asked for his help. Once he knew I was serious he offered his advice,” Sanders said.

Beside the Helmer Memorial, Sanders bowls regularly in two other leagues, but he’s so intent on improving his game he is a willing and available sub in other leagues. Usually he posts averages in up to six leagues a season, according to USBC records.

“I just want to keep getting better,” he said.

Dawud was 9 when his uncle, Jesse Sanders, took him bowling for the first time at the old Amherst Lanes. Jesse, who is retired from bowling now, struck on his first ball and young Dawud was hooked right then.

“I knew that’s what I wanted to do, but I didn’t bowl in my first league until I was 19,” Sanders said.

The same with his occupation as a journeyman electrician with Local 41 in Buffalo. As a student at Seneca Vocational – he’s a 1985 graduate – he made up his mind what he wanted to do for a living once he saw the wonders of electricity in a lab experiment.

“A light went on and I knew right then that’s what I wanted to do,” Sanders said.

Being a bachelor gives Sanders plenty of time to bowl. It also gives him time to give back to the sport. He and others formed the TNT Junior Bowlers Club, which offers voluntary instruction to young bowlers Saturday mornings at Voelker’s Lanes.

Sanders was hesistant at first when he was invited to join the Kerm Helmer league because the competition was intimidating.

“I didn’t think I was up to it,” he said.

Back on his game and getting better, now he’s showing that he certainly is.

USBC plans tourney changes

The USBC will make some important changes for the 2014 Women’s Championships in Reno, Nev.

There will be a shift to four-player teams instead of the usual five and the tournament will return to an all-scratch format divided into five divisions based on average.

“Bowlers have told us they want four-woman teams,” said Brian Lewis, USBC’s managing director of tournaments. “Four-player teams will make it easier for teams to travel as a group and set up pairings for doubles.”

Pin chasers

• Two Western New York collegiate bowlers fared well in last weekend’s Mardi Bowl Invitational in Poughkeepsie. Derrick Geschwender of Canisius was second among the 106 men with 1,257 (210 average) for six games, including a 277. Eric Michalski of Niagara County CC was third with 1,245 (209.5 average). Alicia Alguire of ECC was second among the 35 women with 1,106 (184.33) with a 232 high game.

• Entries were to close Friday for the Greater Buffalo USBCA Me & Mine Tournament, which begins today at Broadway Sports Center with squads at 1, 3:30 and 6 p.m. Bowling goes on Sunday and Feb. 16 and 17 at the same times. The GBUSBCA will accept phone or online entries until Tuesday for the rest of the tournament. Already 155 teams are entered but there is room on most shifts this weekend for walk-ins. There were limited openings for today’s 6 p.m. shift, however.

email: mnorthrop@buffnews.com