In a lane of his own: Rico Pura rolls with smooth consistency |

In a lane of his own: Rico Pura rolls with smooth consistency

Anthony Gentile
Rico Pura holds his follow through while watching his ball roll down the lane at Tahoe Bowl during the His and Hers bowling league earlier this month. Pura has rolled two perfect games at Tahoe Bowl, doing so with a smooth delivery.
Anthony Gentile / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

After five steps and a flick of the wrist, the ball heads toward the pins — and the result is almost always a strike. It’s that simple for Rico Pura.

The 57-year-old Pura currently bowls in the His and Hers league Tuesday nights at Tahoe Bowl, where he has competed in leagues for the past half-decade. He began the sport 25 years ago in his native Philippines, and ever since has been perfecting his craft.

At Tahoe Bowl, the end product is on display — an effortless, fluid delivery that produces consistent results. Starting on the right side of the lane, Pura takes a step with his right foot, a half-step with his left and then three more strides — as his left shoulder comes down to put the ball on the lane, his left leg slides behind.

After the ball leaves Pura’s left hand, it eventually breaks from left to right, hitting just behind the head pin every time. And all the pins fall down on a shockingly repetitive basis.

“I select one of the boards and then I focus on it — that’s it.”
Rico Pura
on his approach to bowling

“He’s one of the best bowlers I’ve ever bowled with or against — he’s just as good as the guys on TV,” teammate Kevin Root said. “Even in a tight game, the pressure doesn’t seem to bother him — he just doesn’t get rattled and continues to pummel the pins.”

Pura describes his rolling motion as a “handshake” — and it appears as simple as that to onlookers. He chose that motion after hours of watching different professional bowlers on film.

“There are so many kinds of strokes — I selected a simple one,” said Pura, who works at Harvey’s. “It’s just handshake and follow through.

“It’s very simple — it’s better when you’re focusing on the target.”

When he first adopted the handshake motion, Pura aimed for the arrows, then it was the dots — finally, he picked a spot between both. That recent shift in focus as he approaches the fault line has taken his game to another level.

“I select one of the boards and then I focus on it — that’s it,” he said.

On his approach, Pura picks a distinct board in the lane and puts the ball in that spot every time. He implemented this plan last fall, and it produced immediate returns.

“If my timing is right and I hit the target, I know I have a strike,” Pura said. “When I tried the board between the arrows and the dots, I knew it was a good approach because my stance was steady — when I raised the ball, my body didn’t move anymore.”

Less than a month after the change, Pura bowled his first perfect game in a Tahoe Bowl league Oct. 14. His first career 300 made for a night he’ll never forget — but didn’t come without nerves.

“It was very special — but I was very nervous,” Pura said. “When it came to the last three balls, I couldn’t move my left foot — after the perfect game, my stress was gone.

“It’s a big reward for myself.”

A month after reaching 300, Pura rolled his second perfect game as part of an equally rare 800 series. On Nov. 11, he began with a 300 and finished with a score of 838 after three games — a series that featured 21 straight strikes and only two spares.

“I had a nice stance and my target was really consistent — my friend told me maybe I would get a 900 that night,” Pura said.

Pura’s talent and consistency is evident after watching him bowl for just a couple frames. Judging just how good he is based on his demeanor at the lanes isn’t quite as clear.

“He’s totally humble — you wouldn’t know he’s the bowler that he is,” Root said. “Most bowlers like that are a little cocky, and he’s really cool.”

Pura said his skill has been honed through repeated practice at the alley. Every Saturday, he is at Tahoe Bowl with his 12-year-old son Steven to bowl three games — the younger Pura already has multiple games over 200.

“If you want to be better in bowling, you have to practice because practice makes perfect,” Pura said. “And you have to study your movement and stance — it’s very important.”

Pura has participated in various senior tournaments over the past few years, and plans to play in more tournaments this year. He competed in the USBC Carson Country Senior Championship Tournament two weeks ago.

“I’m focusing now on tournaments because I’m confident in my game,” Pura said.

After he takes five steps and flicks his wrist, it’s easy to see why.

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