Bob Summerville - an unforgettable character By John Jowdy



    BWAAJohnJowdy.jpg The prestige of Bowling This Month bowling publication has been nothing short of miraculous, particularly the impact it has had on fervent bowlers. With all due respect to other bowling publications, BTM has become the Bible among pro shop operators and bowlers who take the game seriously.

    It is the realization of a dream come true for its founder, Bob Summerville, the most passionate bowler-person I have ever met. Summerville not only published the magazine but, in order to make an honest evaluation of various balls sent to him by manufacturers, he tested every ball personally.

    I'll never forget the first time I spoke to Bob. Following a suggestion from my good friend David Husted, Mr. Summerville called me in September 1995. He phoned me at my home in El Cajon, Ca. from Houston, requesting an interview.

    The following month, I received a copy of BTM with my picture on the cover. True to Bob's character, the interview was written verbatim…in exact words, taped and unedited. I still have the copy and shudder at the words and adjectives I used to express my feelings and answers.

    Bob and I had several conversations after that. He loved to talk bowling. Many of our conversations lasted from 30 minutes to an hour. Strangely, I never met him in person until he asked me to be one of the coaches at the first Super School in Taylor, Michigan in 1997. I'm honored to have coached at every Super School but, more important, it is gratifying to be apart of Bob Summerville's legacy.

    I've been in the game over 60 years and can honestly state I've never met anyone with a greater passion for the game. I can't recall anyone who not only emphasized the importance of proper instruction…he supported his belief by striving to conduct the most comprehensive instructional programs ever attempted.

    Over the years, Bob's selection of top coaches/instructors for Super Schools included greatest names in the game: Fred Borden, Jeri Edwards, Palmer Fallgren, Susie Minshew, Rolf Gauger, Carmen Salvino, Bill Spigner, Bill Hall, Bill Holt, Susie Reichley, Mo Pinel, Dr. Dean Hinitz, myself and other highly qualified but lesser publicized instructors.

    Bob and I did several bowling clinics together in Pinole, Ca., a short distance north of San Francisco. Bob drove from Houston because he refused to fly. Our clinics, were arranged by another passionate bowler and successful pro shop operator, Al Louie.

    We met every morning for breakfast and one thing stuck in my memory. Bob never drank coffee. Nor did he drink milk. He drank cokes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and sipped many more in between. He never used alcohol and didn't smoke. He had energy to burn and never sat still.

    Bob asked me to become a staff writer for BTM shortly after we became friends. At that time, I rejected his offer because I felt a loyalty to Bowling Digest, a publication my articles had appeared in for several years. Later, after consulting with the editor of Bowling Digest, I was permitted to write for BTM, as long as the articles were not written in identical form.

    As well as I can remember, I penned my first column for BTM November 1999. Since then, with the exception of several issues where I have been neglectful of datelines, I have been a regular columnist and feel privileged to be included among some of the best writers/instructors in one of the greatest publications in bowling.

    Most important, I feel extremely fortunate to have been associated with Bob Summerville, a sincere gentleman, a true bowling enthusiast, and a real credit to the tenpin sport.

    Summerville's Super Schools inspired others to conduct bowling clinics. Although Dick Ritger's bowling camps preceded all others, Summerville's Super Schools were designed for advanced students and were conducted by the most astute instructors he could muster. His magazine became, and continues to be, the Bible for bowling pro shops world-wide.

    In my humble opinion, Bob Summerville is a prime candidate for the USBC Hall of Fame. He is certainly worthy of induction to the Texas Bowling Hall of Fame. His creative efforts set the standard for technical bowling publications. His super schools inspired others to follow suit.

    Unfortunately, Summerville died in 2001 at age 54. But one thing is certain. Bob Summerville is looking down on us from the Great Beyond, content that his contributions have made bowling more interesting than ever.

    Fortunately, his soul-mate, Alayne, continues to carry on the tradition. I can just see Bob bursting with pride at every Super School and every issue of BTM.

    Long live the Bob Summerville legacy!

    Contact John Jowdy at