This story was published in the Spring 2023 issue of Total Sports Quinte magazine
Thirteen-year-old Isaac Kerr of Belleville and Gracie Hagan, 14, from Brighton earned medals in bowling competition at the Ontario Winter Games in February.
Both bowl out of Presqu’ile Lanes in Brighton and were the youngest members on their respective regional U18 men’s and women’s teams.
“It was awesome, there were a lot of really good bowlers,” said Hagan, whose U18 women’s team captured gold at the Winter Games. “I was the youngest player on my team and my teammates were great. I’ve never won anything like that so when we won I was proud and so were my parents.”
Kerr said he entered the Winter Games with the goal of earning a medal and his team did just that, claiming silver in the U18 men’s division. It was a gruelling two days of competition with 13 games being played. He’s more accustomed to three games in league play and up to five during tournaments.
“We were so tired and exhausted after seven games on day one. We had four playoff games on the morning of day two,” Kerr said. “We made it to the gold medal final and thought we had won, but the score was incorrect and we had tied. We had to play one more game, a tiebreaker to get the gold but unfortunately we didn’t win it. I know that to succeed we needed endurance and focus during all 13 games. Competing at the Ontario Winter Games and earning a silver medal was an amazing experience.” Hagan, whose team had 12 games, also found the schedule demanding, noting “my biggest challenge was endurance. It’s hard to stay focused playing 12 games especially when you’re tired.”
She was introduced to bowling through family as both her grandmother and father were bowlers. In fact, her dad was a youth bowler at Presqu’ile Lanes, she noted.
“I love bowling because I enjoy being active, meeting new friends and competing against the best players,” Hagan said.
Hagan will also compete at the Youth Bowling Canada national championships in Regina, Saskatchewan from May 7-9.
“I’m looking forward to meeting new people and facing even tougher competition,” she said. “My goal for next season is to continue working hard to get better and to make it to the YBC national championships as a senior.”
Kerr, meanwhile, had aspired to compete at the Ontario Winter Games for a few years. He was only 10 the last time the event was held and the minimum age requirement is 12. He bonded with his teammates in short order and faced strong competition from teams representing regions such as Thunder Bay, Windsor, Toronto and Cornwall.
“The experience was pretty awesome, it was very different compared to any other tournament that I’ve competed in,” he said. “My team was great and I definitely want to do it again in 2025. It was a great feeling to bowl against the best youth bowlers in Ontario and to win a medal.”
Kerr got an early start in bowling, first taken to the lanes when he was just three and eventually joined a YBC league in Belleville. His dad even got him his own bowling balls to use. He improved in quick fashion and began winning medals and trophies.
“In 2020 I was tuned up and ready for the YBC national tournament, but as for many other things, it was cancelled due to the pandemic,” he said. “When I heard I wasn’t going to Calgary I was sad because it felt like all my hard work was for nothing.”
It was disappointing for Kerr he couldn’t bowl due to COVID provincial restrictions and on top of that his league in Belleville was discontinued.
Then he made the move to Presqu’ile Lanes in Brighton.
“It felt great because everybody welcomed me and my sister into their YBC youth program like we are family. I am so happy to be back bowling again,” Kerr said.
“I definitely love the family feel of the bowling environment. You can play as an individual and on a team,” Kerr said. “I love target games. The amount of focus and strength that you need to succeed is a challenge I enjoy. I really like my friends at Presqu’ile Lanes and other bowling alleys that I have made over the years. Most bowlers are nice and welcoming and want to have fun. Sometimes the fun turns into a friendly competition.”
Entering his final year as a bantam-aged player, Kerr has three specific goals for next season including raising his scoring average, winning a provincial championship and competing at the YBC nationals with aspirations of winning there as well.
“I would love to keep bowling for the rest of my life and even compete professionally in Canada,” he said.
Kerr invites more youth in the Quinte region to give five-pin bowling a try.
“You can meet new people and going to tournaments is exciting,” he said.