SHERIDAN — The motto of the annual Teen Masters bowling competition is “the hand in the ball is more important than the ball in the hand.”
That motto is especially true when the hand belongs to 14-year-old Juliann Amende of Sheridan.
When Teen Masters begins in Allen Park, Michigan, Sunday, Amende will be the first-ever youth bowler from Wyoming in the event’s 25-year history, according to the Wyoming Junior Bowlers Tour. It’s a lot of pressure, Amende admits, but she’s excited to hit the lanes.
“I’m looking forward to the experience,” Amende said. “It’s pretty nerve-wracking, but pretty exciting too.”
Amende earned the chance to compete in Teen Masters in April after winning the Energy Lanes Open Teen Masters Qualifying Tournament in Gillette, and she said she isn’t taking the opportunity for granted.
Just days after returning from another bowling tournament — the Junior Gold Tournament in Grand Rapids, Michigan — Amende has been hitting the local lanes hard to practice. She bowled 10 games at Cloud Peak Lanes on Saturday, July 23, followed by six games each on July 24 and 25.
Amende said she is determined to bowl the best games she can when she is among the 300 teenaged competitors gathered at Thunderbowl Lanes in Allen Park during the event, which runs through Aug. 5. But even for someone who has been bowling half her life, Teen Masters provides new challenges for Amende.
In an effort to level the playing field among competitors, bowlers at Teen Masters must choose between just one of two balls, Amende said: a 12-to-13-pound plastic Storm Mix ball for younger competitors or a 14-to-16-pound polished urethane ball for older competitors.
Even though she typically competes with a 13-pound ball, Amende opted to use the 14-pound urethane ball for the first time at Teen Masters.
“My reasoning is that I will get a better reaction with a heavier ball,” Amende said. “So I’m practicing with that ball and getting used to that.”
The Junior Gold tournament, which was held last week, provided a great opportunity for Amende to prepare for Teen Masters. Amende played alongside 16-year-old Ranchester bowler Shane Hatzenbiler.
“Junior Gold’s a great experience for bowlers all over the country,” said Hatzenbiler, who competed in the tournament for the fifth time this year. “It’s a great chance to get to know more people and see how competitive bowling can really be. It’s also a chance to talk to colleges and show off your skills.”
“I think the highlight of Junior Gold is meeting all the different players, and seeing how good they are despite how young they are,” Amende said. “It reminds me that I still have a lot of work to do.”
2022 was Amende’s third year competing in Junior Gold. Amende said the tournament was a great way to build up confidence in the leadup to Teen Masters.
“I was better — more confident and less scared,” Amende said. “The first year I went, I was very nervous because I hadn’t been to anything like it before. This year, I felt more confident and prepared for the competition.”
Amende said her ultimate bowling goal is “to get scholarship money so I can compete in college.” There is a lot of that scholarship money up for grabs at Teen Masters with a minimum of $50,000 awarded, including $5,000 each to the top male and female finishers. The top bowlers ages 13 through 19 will also receive a minimum of $500 in scholarships.
But for now, Amende’s eyes are not on the prize, but the pins. And with a lot of hard work and a little luck, she’s hoping to make her hometown proud.
“I’m pretty excited to see how it goes,” Amende said.