At just 12 years old, Clifton Toomey III is gearing up to head to the Junior Gold Championships in Indianapolis, Ind., to compete against the best of the best in youth bowling. Though he’s only been bowling competitively for two years, Toomey has quickly risen through the ranks and become one of the best young bowlers in the state.
Initially, his mother, Donna Toomey, said, “It all started just by coming out to the lanes. We decided as a family to come bowling, and we noticed how good he was and said, ‘We’ll put you in a league and see how you do,’ and his team won first place. He really, really enjoyed it.”
“When he started,” his mom said, “he started in the younger bracket and, technically, he could’ve stayed down there, but he was doing so well, they decided to push him up. Now he’s bowling with the kids on his team who are anywhere from 14 to 19 years old. He’s kind of the young dude, but it’s been great for him, because he’s been able to be challenged.”
Toomey said his favorite thing about bowling is getting to bowl against different people. He added, “It’s really fun to get strikes and spares, and it’s cool because you get to use different bowling balls from different shops.”
He said he usually practices at least once a week with a league and then comes to the lanes once or twice a week to practice on his own. On Saturday mornings, his mom, said the Millsboro Lanes will sometimes open early so that he can come in and practice with different oil patterns on the lanes.
So far, that practice has paid off, as his personal high score sits at 268 — just shy of his goal of breaking 300 and getting a “300 ring.”
As he looked ahead to the competition in the coming week, Toomey said, “I’m looking forward to bowling against different people from different states and bowling in tournaments where I can win and get trophies,” an achievement he sees as “really important” in working toward becoming a pro, like one of his favorite Professional Bowling Association members, Norm Duke.
He’s already got the Pepsi Tournament under his belt. There, he competed in Wilmington against other Delaware bowlers for a chance to represent that state at the national tournament, which will take place July 16-23.
As he heads off to Indianapolis, he’ll have a fan section back home cheering him on.
“My family supports me,” he said, and “my friends think it’s pretty cool.”
His mom added that all of his friends from school and baseball loved getting to see him bowl on television.
Toomey said that bowling has helped him become more of a leader, as he’s been mentoring some of his friends and teammates.
“I’ve gotten better at being more attentive to other people, and when I come out here for leagues, other people come around and want to know what I’m doing,” he said.
His mom has also noticed a positive difference in her son since he started bowling.
“At the end of the [school] year this year, he made the Principal’s List, which means straight A’s. He’s always been a good student, but I think bowling has helped him concentrate and put focus into things. He’s always been very diligent in his work, but bowling has given him an opportunity to succeed, and he likes doing well.”
Toomey insists that the secret to bowling a good game is to keep calm and relax.
“When you’re bowling, you really don’t want to stress out — you want to keep the fun aspect of it, because when you’re bowling and you’re stressing out and nervous, you kind of bowl badly. If you’re having fun, then you bowl well,” he said.
Toomey and his family were set to leave at the end of this week for Indianapolis, where Toomey hopes to win big and bring home the prized crystal bowling ball trophy.