Based on enthusiasm alone, Frank “Butch” Benhatzel should have made the Greater Buffalo USBC Association Hall of Fame a long time ago.
Benhatzel is a member of the Hall of Fame Class of 2014 and will be inducted in the Veterans Category in November.
“In all honesty – and this is from my heart – I should have been in a long time ago,” Benhatzel said unashamedly. “That’s the way I am. I don’t hold anything back.”
Benhatzel grew up in the Broadway-Jefferson neighborhood on the East Side. He went to Masten Park High, then East before he dropped out of school. He was just getting started.
He was a left-handed pitcher of some accomplishment in the MUNY and Cheektowaga Classic leagues, good enough to be elected to the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008. He was the MUNY League Player of the Year in 1960. At 5-foot-6, 145 pounds, Butch wasn’t very imposing physically, but he was lethal on the mound. “I was sneaky fast,” he says. “My best pitch was my drop.”
Benhatzel turned his passion to bowling in the 1960s, and he’s virtually done it all, both locally and nationally, as a PBA Tour member, competitor and pro shop owner. He’s owned and operated the No Round Holes Pro Shop at Wimbledon Lanes in West Seneca since 1985 and has been active in charitable events and causes throughout his career.
Benhatzel bowled, mostly on the “rabbit” squad on national PBA and Senior tours from 1985 to 1995, when he gave it up after almost dying from prostate surgery.
Lacking a sponsor on Tour, he survived by drilling bowling balls for other pros.
Locally, he was the runner-up to Dennis Major in the 1975 Obenauer Masters. He had third and fifth-place finishes among the 30-something Obies he bowled, 23 in a row starting in 1971.
Bowling with Ray Zygaj, he won the City Doubles title in 1980. That same year he bowled with Zygaj, Major, Al Phelps and Dick Fern to win the City scratch team title as Bowlers Club. The year before the same five won the City scratch title bowling as Pit Stop Transmission. Benhatzel bowled the first 300 game in the history of the prestigious Western and Central Tournament in Rochester. In 1984-85, he bowled high average (208) in the Black Velvet All Stars travel league.
There’s a lot more. Benhatzel’s recollections could fill up this newspaper, not just this column. His shop at Wimbledon is a personal bowling museum, with photos, scrapbooks and other memorabilia from a career that brought him into contact with most of the sports greats in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s … names such as Anthony, Salvino, Durbin, Troup.
With the slightest prompting, story after story and name after name come tumbling out of his 77-year-old mind. “Bowling. I lived it and died it,” he says. Now living in Clarence with his wife, Lana, they are great-grandparents.
Sellens tops Johnson
Shannon Sellens, a 31-year-old former Wichita State University standout from Long Island, defeated Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, 279-189, in the championship match to win the 43rd New York State Queens Championship at Hoe Bowl Holiday Lanes in Wappingers Falls last weekend. Top prize was $1,050. Johnson was the top qualifier with 1,150 for five games.
Kristina Porter of Waterlook won the Classified Division, defeating Sandra Restieri of Rochester, 258-136, for the $550 first prize.
Marion Singleton (Lockport), Michelle Sterner (Niagara Falls) and Julie Selk (Lancasster) also qualified for the 24-bowler match-play portion.
Sterner eliminated Selk in the first round of match play, 220-179, then lost to Liz Johnson, 248-127, in the second. Singleton won her first two matches before losing to Rebekah Van Scoyk of Kingston, 209-184.
Moving a short distance to Mardi Bob Lanes in Poughkeepsie for the New York State Women’s Championships, Johnson took the all-events lead with 2,195 in the Scratch (190 average and over) Division. She bowled 699 in team, 756 in doubles and 740 in singles.
Kaylee Hart of the Tonawandas USBC has the second-highest singles score, 763, while Holly Filarecki is third with 750. Johnson is fourth. Liz and Sue Jeziorski stand third in the scratch doubles with 1,372. Jennifer Kowal of Buffalo leads All-Events in the 149-and-under handicap division with 2,218. Kowal bowled with the Ithaca 2, which is leading its team division.
• PBA Hall of Famer Amleto Monacelli of Venezuela won his third career PBA50 Tour title when he defeated 37-time PBA Tour winner Norm Duke, 259-190 in the championship match of the Pasco County Open in New Port Richey, Fla., earlier this week.
In the semifinals Duke defeated Mike Dias of Lafayette, Colo., 225-183. Monacelli defeated Hall of Famer and two-time defending PBA50 Player of the Year Walter Ray Williams Jr. of Ocala, Fla., 236-225.
Buffalo native Tom Baker of King, N.C., was eliminated, 2 games to 1 by Michael Henry of Brunswick, Ohio, in the round of 32, but earned $1,025.
• The third annual Tonawandas USBC Scratch Eliminator Classic will be held at Manor Lanes on Sunday, April 27. Start time is 11 a.m. Sanctioned bowlers from all of New York are eligible. Entry fee is $60 and walk-ins will be accepted on a lane availability basis. First place prize is a guaranteed $1,000 based on 40 entries. Applications are available at all Tonawandas bowling centers or by visiting the association website at tonusbc.com.