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‘Major Mika’ sets bowling world on fire

December 13, 2011
The Mining Journal

Finnish phenomenon "Major" Mika Koivuniemi set the bowling world on fire about a decade ago, even though he wasn't allowed to set a bowling lane afire.

The 6-foot-4 Tampere, Finland, native visited The Mine Shaft bowling center in Houghton on Dec. 3, unfortunately for me a few days after I returned from a Thanksgiving week vacation.

Otherwise I'm pretty sure I would've made the trek to visit one of my old stomping grounds from the late 1980s and early '90s.

Article Photos

Senior Dustin Juntunen of Baraga throws a ball for the L’Anse team during practice for Saturday’s Upper Peninsula High School Bowling Conference meet held at Superior Lanes in Marquette. (Journal photo by Steve Brownlee)

I also was unable to inform all of you about it in this space since I didn't hear about his appearance until five days before his visit.

But I did talk to a high school bowler from Baraga who actually skipped the opening match of the Upper Peninsula High School Bowling Conference season to see one of Finland's biggest exports.

Senior Dustin Juntunen of Baraga, who bowls for the L'Anse cooperative team, told me a little about the day, including how he talked to Mika and asked him about how he should approach trying to turn pro.

I've watched Mika on TV numerous times starting even before his first appearance in the PBA. That dates back to the mid-1990s when PASS - the forerunner to Fox Sports Detroit - used to occasionally show World Team Match Play events, where teams would bowl Baker-style games.

Part of the U.P. conference competition is Baker games, which are games where team members alternate frames to come up with a single-game score.

I could go on and on about the strategies involved with that, whether in a five-player or two-player format, but I'll leave that to another day.

In the World Team Match Play, Mika was picked up by a team mostly from Lower Michigan, which I would guess influenced his decision to relocate his family there near Brighton as he embarked upon what became a successful PBA career.

Mika visited Superior Lanes in Marquette in 2005 as part of Finn Grand Fest, where he gave several exhibitions. Unfortunately, I didn't get to attend any of those events, but I did get to interview him on the telephone for a Finn Fest preview section in the Journal.

That's where setting the lane on fire comes from. Around that time, the TV bowling rage was to show PBA players challenging each other to pull off trick shots.

So I asked Mika as part of my interview if there were any tricks the PBA wouldn't allow. He explained that he proposed suspending a hoop from the ceiling and hanging it about three feet above the lane near the arrows.

A bowler would have to throw the ball through the hoop to have the shot count. The sticking point came from one of its features - the hoop would be set on fire.

A big no-no, considering the oil conditioner on the lane, whether it's made of wood or a synthetic material. Do YOU want to tell the bowling center owner where that big scorch mark came from, assuming the fire wouldn't just burn the whole place down?

Instead, Mika's most visually interesting trick was shooting at a rack of 40 pins packed in the triangle where 10 pins normally stand. I think just about every shot at that was a strike, since it was like knocking over dominos stood on end.

Still though, it was great to watch the ball hit, then slow down dramatically as if it weighed six pounds.

Now it's time for our amateurs-turned-pro-for-a-day, otherwise known as the Mining Journal Bowlers of the Week.

The big pros-in-waiting both came from Tuesday leagues at Country Lanes in Ishpeming.

The first is Stephanie Perry of Ishpeming, who rolled 142 pins over her 138 average in the T&T Ladies afternoon league with a 556 set. She opened with a personal-best 228 - 90 pins over average just in that one game - before adding 140 and 188.

League secretary Kristi LaForge says Perry is a Republic native and in her third year in the league.

Tops for the men was Joe Duckworth Sr., who hit 149 over his 176 average with 677 in the Miller Genuine Draft Major evening league on games of 256, 215, 206.

The next best scores were 154-average Mary Kaye Grady, plus-119 in the Thursday Coors Light at Country with 581 and a 211-213 start; 198-average Mike Musolf, plus-124 in the Friday 800 Mixed at Superior with 718 and a 255 high game; and 142-average Alan Swanson, plus-120 in the Tuesday Night Mixed at Superior with 546 and 206 high game.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.



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