By Sean Rooney on July 11, 2018.
Five years ago, Shawn MacKinnon got back in to high-level competitive bowling. He’d only been away from the scene a few decades.
Last week, the 48-year-old became a national champion for the second time. His first was in 1984.
“I started thinking about it when I won provincials back in March,” said MacKinnon. “That was the first time winning a provincial event since I was 15.
“It all started to come back. My mom was really excited about it. I kept her updated throughout the week.”
Thirty-four years after claiming a national junior title, he won his division at the Master Bowlers Association of Canada championships in Thunder Bay.
Playing in the teaching men’s singles division, MacKinnon bowled 21 games over four days. All of his matches were based on his average of 235 pins, with his score either plus or minus his average. In the head-to-head match play, whoever did better compared to their average won.
As it turned out, MacKinnon regularly beat his own average on the biggest possible stage.
“That’s one thing I’ve always been able to do,” he said. “The bigger the stage, the more good nerves a person has, as long as you use them in the right way. As long as you realize it’s good nerves and not fear.”
His 16-5 record was good enough to win, but just barely. Both he and Manitoba’s Jason Hoger dominated in the last two days, going a combined 17-1. The only loss? Hoger beat MacKinnon, 252 (plus-24) to 211 (minus-24).
That gave Hoger a 2-1 head-to-head record against the Alberta champion, which meant if their records were tied after 21 matches, Hoger would take gold.
“I had to match him win-for-win, because as soon as I lose one I’m tied with him… and he had the tiebreaker,” said MacKinnon.
Hoger held up his end of the bargain, going 15-6 overall. Playing Northern Ontario’s Phil Smith in the last match July 4, MacKinnon threw a 259 (plus-24) to Smith’s 161 (minus-19). He had it in the bag by the eighth frame.
“I didn’t want the team to know I was worrying about that, because the team thing I was putting first,” he said. “(The coach) gave me a smile and said ‘you’re fine.'”
If gold wasn’t enough, MacKinnon helped Alberta’s team to a silver-medal finish which wasn’t solidified until they beat Northern Ontario in that same final match. Singles matches counted as part of the team results, so needless to say that MacKinnon’s performance was a big reason for the Alberta podium finish.
MacKinnon is already looking forward to the fall, when he’ll get back on the lanes to try and qualify for provincials next year.
“I will have that circle on my back,” he said, adding he’s all too glad to have it. “There’s a lot of players that take years to go to nationals. Here I am, my first year I make it to nationals, don’t only get one medal but two.
“I make the most of it when it happens.”
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