A fixture on the local bowling scene for many years, Markis takes his game the next level
An athlete, a businessman, and a class act.
Those are the top three adjectives one would be most likely to use to describe Tafton's own Michael Markis who last week, finished 44th at the United States Bowling Congress Masters held at Brunswick Zone-Carolier in North Brunswick, New Jersey.
Fresh off one of his most exhilarating performances of his bowling career, Markis sat down for an exclusive interview inside Strike It Rich Pro Shop.
During his interview, Markis discussed his nearly lifelong journey, from youth leagues to professional bowling, as well as his mindset before, during and after what was arguably his best tournament of his career — The 2013 United States Bowling Congress Masters.
Michael Markis began bowling when he was just a child, but his passion and love for the sport has carried through well into his adult years.
The Harrison, NY native began with only a mid 90 average and has done nothing but exponentially improve each year. Today, Michael boasts an average nearing the 250 marker.
His passion however, has shifted over the years from being victorious in leagues to competing and winning on the PBA Tour ... something Markis knew he wanted to do from the time he was 12-years-old.
When asked what his biggest youth accomplishments were, Markis responded: "Probably all the state titles. I won [the Coca-Cola Tournament] two years in a row and that was how I qualified for Junior Gold."
In 2006, Michael traveled to Carolier Lanes to compete in the 63rd United States Open — his first professional tournament ever. He competed in this tournament as an amateur. There, he finished in 156th place out of the 460 person field.
It was there, that Markis fell in love with the professional environment.
"I obviously wanted to do better, but I should have done [as poorly] as I did," he said.
Markis explained how it was nice not to be the best at this tournament and how it gave him the drive to be the best.
"In youth leagues, I became [used] to being the best in the area," he said.
As in any other sport, being around better, more experienced athletes gives one the drive and desire to reach the pinnacle of that sport. For Markis, this would entail winning a tour title.
A Pro in Every Sense
Bob Costas, when eulogizing Mickey Mantle, said: "We used to crease our caps like him, kneel in an imaginary on deck circle like him, run like him — head down, elbows up."
Indeed, Mickey Mantle's on field persona was gentlemanly and classy, but the life he lead off the diamond was anything but.
From his early teenaged days, Markis understood the importance of professional athletes behaving as such both inside and outside the arena in which they compete. It is for this reason — as well as his natural talent— that Markis idolized Amleto Monacelli
"Amleto holds himself to a higher standard," said Markis of his boyhood roll model.
Perhaps one of Markis' most admirable qualities is his self deprecating sense of humor. He is always humble while discussing his feats, yet always optimistic when discussing others' accomplishments, as was evident in his interview last week.
For these qualities, Markis has earned respect among both his professional colleagues as well as the league bowlers for whom he drills balls for.
This is especially true among the youth bowlers, many of whom seek him out especially for his opinion or his assistance.
The Masters is one of four majors on the PBA Tour. A major means more money and far more prestige than a typical PBA Tournament.
For Michael, this would be his first national tour stop since the 2012 US Open which was held at the same venue. Markis approached this with a totally different mindset than he had previous professional tournaments.
"I approached the Masters with more of an 'enjoy yourself while you are there' attitude," he said.
He also made a point to eat healthy, get enough sleep and, once again, conduct himself in a way a professional should —taking care of his body and treating it as a job rather than simply a sport
Playing the Lanes
Markis is known amongst his fellow league bowlers as being anything but a down and in player.
However on tour, Markis has made a point of getting straighter and more direct with his game.
The qualifying format of the Masters entails three, 5- game rounds, with two rounds on fresh oil and one on not fresh oil.
This is commonly called the "burn squad" by the players because the oil is burned up and the lanes are inconsistent.
During the two squads, Markis bowled on fresh oil, his approach was to play outside and straight in an effort to cut down on his angle to the pocket and leave makable spares.
"I tried to play as straight as I could for as long as I could," said Markis.
On the burn squad though, this approach drastically changed, at the advice of Brunswick/DV8 Pro Tour Product Specialist, Chuck Gardner.
"Chuck told me that Norm Duke and Walter Ray didn't play the gutter [on the burn squad] and that is their A Game," said Markis.
Markis, recognizing that both Norm Duke and Walter Ray Williams, Jr. play the gutter whenever possible, knew that the smart decision was to, in fact, move inside and play deeper.
"On the burn squad, I was considerably further left than I was at any other time in the tournament," Markis commented.
Heading into the last day of qualifying, Markis knew that match play was well within his reach, but he also knew that nothing was going to be a given and that hard work and determination were going to be needed throughout the day.
After the first day, Markis had one personal goal.
"Going through my head from the end of day one, I knew what the cut was going to be around and I knew I had to get to 200 over."
Coming down to the wire, Markis, who was working on a string of strikes in the final game of qualifying, needed the first strike in the 10th frame to advance to the match-play rounds of the tournament.
"I needed the first hit in the 10th to clinch," he said.
Markis would seal the deal and advance to the match-play portion of the tournament. There, his first opponent would be fellow DV8 Staffer, Ryan Ciminelli, Cheektowaga, N.Y. Markis would go on to defeat him 715-640.
His next match, against Mike Edwards, Tulsa, Okla., would not go as well.
He lost to Edwards, setting him up against another national tour titlist, Rhino Page, Dade City, Fla. Facing elimination, Markis knew he had to keep it close.
The match was never more than 50 pins in any one's favor. It would come down to a painful ending for Markis however, as Page would eliminate him from the tournament by one, painstaking pin.
For his efforts, Markis received a check in the amount of $2,000.
Markis noted during his interview that none of his success would have been attainable but for the opportunity bestowed upon him by DV8.
He said that he is hopeful that when his current contract is up, that he will be resigned.
"[Their product] is more conducive to my style than any other company I have ever thrown," Markis said.
Throughout the week, Markis rolled a DV8 Brutal Nightmare. On the Burn Squad, where he had to move in and hook the ball, he threw a more aggressive Brutal Nightmare off the player services truck.
Clearly, Markis' style and DV8's equipment are in harmony with one another, as his scores reflect.
If there is one thing Michael Markis is, it is a family man.
Although Markis keeps his emotions to himself, he made it quite clear in his interview that he is beyond appreciative of the support he has received from his family and friends.
"My friends and family always find a way to make an appearance at major events," he said.
Markis was especially certain to give thanks to his mother, Julie Markis, Hawley, and his girlfriend of four years, Lindsey Bree.
"My mother and Lindsey especially are about as supportive as any two people could be," he said.
Markis also thanked all the friends who made the journey to North Brunswick this week to watch him compete.
"This week I had about 17 people—family and friends— on my guest list," said Markis.