Chad Mee was once in Nate Maloney’s bowling shoes.
Mee, the all-world Frontier senior, once was the talented, younger teen who made a difficult, pressure-filled sport look ridiculously easy during scholastic competition in area bowling houses.
Perhaps that’s why he and Maloney, the freshman phenom from Niagara-Wheatfield, hit it off the first time they bowled together in a high school tournament two years ago, and why they try to bowl together in events whenever possible. It’s only natural for two competitors to gravitate toward one another, to be curious about the other’s game and how the other deals with certain situations in match play.
“We respect each other’s games,” Mee said. “We both bowl well. We ask each other questions. Try to see what the other is doing. … We’re both pretty good shotmakers.”
“Competing with him and bowling against him is pretty fun,” Maloney said. “He throws the ball really well. He throws it a little better than me. He’s been bowling longer so I expect it. ... We’re good friends. It’s good competition.”
“He’s really good,” Mee said. “He’s like me when I was that age. ... He’ll be the best bowler in the section by far.”
Maloney will likely be the heir apparent to Mee as the area’s dominant male high school bowler down the road, but there’s no doubt regarding Mee’s current status as Western New York’s kingpin. Mee will be the bowler carrying the best average in the area (234) into this Saturday’s Roy Sommer Memorial Invitational at 9 a.m. at Thruway Lanes.
The Roy Sommer provides top area teams and individual bowlers with a final chance to compete against each other before the Section VI championships, which will take place in the same facility. The boys sectional tournament begins at 9 a.m. Feb. 13 and the girls at 9 a.m. Feb. 14.
“There’s a comparison between us but he’s definitely the better bowler,” Maloney said of Mee. “I’m always right behind him.”
Maloney averages 225.69, which ranks second in the area, and has an 816 series to his credit this season – second best to the 845 rolled by North Tonawanda’s Kyle Behr. Lewiston-Porter’s Tyler Roskwitalski has the third-best average with a 220.06.
Maloney helped the Falcons win the sectional title two years ago and earned a spot on the All-Section Team that placed second at states last year.
The four-sport athlete – he also plays hockey, golf and lacrosse – has quite an impressive history in the Section VI Tournament, but it still pales in comparison with Mee’s.
Mee has been to the state tournament each year since eighth grade either as part of the All-Section team or as a member of the Section VI team champion.
Mee won the Section VI individual championship as an eighth-grader. As a sophomore, he led Section VI to the state title and bowled the highest six-game set (1,344) of anyone in the state tournament. Last year, he helped an unbeaten Frontier team win its first sectional title since 2005. The Falcons finished fifth at states.
He won the individual title at the Festival of Lights Tournament last month, averaging 250.5 per game en route to a winning six-game total of 1,503. Maloney finished 105 pins behind in tying for second.
Mee also kept the Falcons’ chances at another unbeaten season in ECIC Large South alive while helping them inch closer to a division-title clinch the last Thursday when he and fellow senior Matt Kinn closed their match against Orchard Park with six straight strikes – Kinn delivering the first three and Mee the final three Frontier needed to avoid its first defeat since Mee’s eighth-grade season.
“Matt gave me the opportunity,” Mee said. “It was a team effort but I like needing to punch out to win. It makes the match pretty exciting.
“They’re still exciting,” Mee said of high school matches. “Everyone gets pumped. Both matches against Orchard Park” this season “came down to the last frame and needing a strike to win. I needed a double both times in the 10th and got it. That was pretty exciting. ... Team aspect is great. High school bowling is all about the team. That pretty much takes over the individual aspect of the sport. When I’m doing high school, it’s all about the team.”
“This guy, he’s like the Mariano Rivera of bowling,” said Frontier coach John Cordier for Mee’s penchant for dialing it up a notch and delivering in key situations.
Of course, bowling often against seasoned adults, including touring professionals and winners, does tend to make it easier to relax.
Mee has won five one-day adult tournaments in Erie, Pa. – the first title coming against PBA Tour winner Mike Machuga. He’s also finished 15th in a PBA Tour Regional Tournament. One can’t forget his Obenauer Masters Tournament run last spring, when he finished with the top qualifying score (1,659) en route to a ninth-place finish in the who’s who of local bowling tournaments. Touring professional Joe Ciccone won the championship.
Mee will participate in the USBC Masters on Feb. 16-23 at Brunswick Zone Carolier in North Brunswick, N.J.
Mee has earned more than $20,000 in prize money competing against adults. That cash will be paid out in the form of a scholarship as part of the USBC’s Scholarship Management and Accounting Reports for Tenpins program and help pay off his tuition the next four years at the University at Buffalo – where he and good friend Andrew Herbert, an Eden graduate, hope to form a bowling club. The school doesn’t offer bowling as a sport.
Mee is attending UB to major in chemical engineering, opting to do that instead of accepting a partial Division I scholarship from other schools that do not offer his future major. He plans to continue bowling against adults locally and dabble in a PBA Regional or two. Although his mother, Lori, and father, Jim, both bowled professionally, he’s not too interested in pursuing a pro career due to the financial situation of the PBA.
But that’s all down the road.
What matters most right now to Mee is performing well in the big tournaments over the next month with his high school. He wants to go out a champion with his Frontier teammates. The only way that happens is if the Falcons defend their Section VI championship and get one last shot at that state title.
It won’t be easy. Maloney and his flock of Falcons will be among the many standing in Frontier’s way.
“We’ve got a good team,” Mee said. “We definitely can do it.”