Surrounded by his family, Adam Zimmerman made it all the way to a Long Island Youth Bowling Tour tournament final using his two-handed delivery before falling to his 16-year-old opponent.
He was 6 at the time.
Back then, Zimmerman, now a Deer Park sophomore, couldn't even lift a bowling ball with one hand. Years passed and that particular problem disappeared, but the delivery remained. Don't mess with a good thing, his father, Steve, a certified bowling coach, thought.
Another good thing that hasn't changed: Where Adam competes, the Zimmermans follow. Bowling is in the blood for the first family of Deer Park Lanes. Adam's parents, Steve and Karen, were two of the four who successfully petitioned the Deer Park school board to start a program eight years ago. Big brother Erik, once a four-year starter, is the president of his bowling team at the University of Delaware. At the high school, Steve, who also bowls in three leagues, serves as an de facto adviser, and even helped first-time coach Kyle McCourt improve from a 75 in his first game back after a 15-year bowling hiatus, to a 201, which he bowled last week. That jump happened in the span of a month and a half.
Karen is the team scorekeeper. Adam? Well, he's the star.
"He's better than me now," said Erik, who was first brought to a bowling alley at two weeks old. "He's always been good, and he's always been a little bit faster than me at getting to certain scores. It's great watching him."
Zimmerman has gone from a 215 average in 2012 to a 235.86 average this year -- tops in Suffolk. He's also earned a county-high 31 match points this season, with a high series of 779.
The goal this year is to make it onto the Suffolk All-Star team, which will compete in the state tournament in West Babylon.
"I've been practicing hard," Zimmerman said. "But I'm surprised because [my improvement] is such a big jump, and I wasn't expecting it. I'm throwing it harder and getting bigger."
Around Zimmerman, the Falcons, who won one match all of last year, are 9-3 in League I. He's earned around $20,000 in scholarship money competing in tournaments, McCourt said, and has 14 perfect games in his amateur career, Karen said.
"There's a certain amount of skill to it, but he works his butt off," McCourt said. "And the other kids see that, and it's like a ring they can grab a hold of. It's like, maybe I can . . . and now I have kids that went from bowling a 20 in the beginning of a year to a 150."
Steve, McCourt said, helps monumentally -- going as far as hooking up most of the novice bowlers with package prices for equipment. For Adam, "It's good to know [the family] is always there. I can always go to [my dad] for help to figure something out."
The family has traveled across the country attending bowling tournaments, and Adam and Erik were even able to bowl together on varsity when the youngest Zimmerman was in seventh grade. Bowling runs so deep, Steve and Karen even met at a bowling tournament 27 years ago.
It's no wonder the Zimmermans didn't give up after the school board rejected their first petition to start a team nine years ago. A year later, they brought along a representative from the United States Bowling Congress and "we had Erik and Adam read something to them at a board meeting," Karen said. "Adam was 7 and he read a prepared statement."
Adam doesn't remember reading the letter, but knows he'd been bowling about three years at that point.
"It tugged at the heartstrings," Steve said. "It was a little more effective."
Erik joined the team immediately but didn't start until freshman year because of the abundance of skilled seniors chomping to compete. He excelled using his standard delivery, while Adam matured and perfected his two-handed delivery, joining the team as soon as he could, six years later.
"None of us bowl that way," Steve said. "But it allows him to impart more and a stronger revolution . . . When you start so young, you bowl with two hands. He developed success with it at an early age and I knew it would become a much more prevalent way of bowling. I decided to leave him alone."
Adam's take: "I threw it. It worked."
Like we said: Don't mess with a good thing.