The Righty Who Bowls Lefty0
By Chuck Slater
In my old bowling days, teammates would disparage one another after a good shot by saying, “That was so easy, I could have done it left-handed!” Well, the naturally right-handed Samantha Mills had to do so, for real. And now the Walter Panas sophomore is the Westchester/Putnam girls bowler of the year.
The nearly 5-foot, 4-inch Mills has always been right-handed all the way. She writes right-handed. In softball, as the starting JV second baseman who bats in the middle of the order, she hits right-handed and throws the same way. But almost five years ago she decided to push her scooter to the max. She ended up flipping over the handlebars and breaking her right wrist. This happened just before her fall bowling league. Not wanting to miss it, Mills threw a ball left-handed, awkward as it was at first. “Guess this is what we’re doing,” she told herself, and she worked her way through the frustrations of correcting her righty approach.
It finally felt natural and has been ever since. Now nimbly rolling with her off-hand, she averaged 154 over 45 games in the high school season and fired a 1,115 six-game series to finish 16th at the Section 1 tournament.
No one has been more impressed than her fellow Panas sophomore Nicholas Perrone, who is merely the best Section 1 bowler ever. “What she did is extremely difficult,” said Perrone, who this past high school season won the section and state titles after averaging an awesome 239 record during the season, breaking the section tournament mark with a 1,580 six-game series and adding a 1,392 at States.
“Have I ever seen anyone else do it (switch hands out of necessity)? I can’t say I have.” So how was Samantha Mills able to do it? “Determination and perseverance,” said Perrone. “You need a lot of both.”
After using her southpaw slants for Panas in the eighth grade, Mills didn’t compete as a freshman. Yet when she came out as a sophomore this season, coach Santa Trawick designated her team captain. “We have a young team,” Trawick explained, “and she’s proven a great leader. She’s always got time for less accomplished girls.” She’s also got time to fool around with right-handed bowling, but only when it doesn’t count.
There are, of course, certain shots where bowling right-handed would be an advantage, like a second shot with a couple of pins lined up on the left corner. But it’s not permitted. “You have to bowl the whole game with the same hand,” Mills said. “And when you qualify for a tournament, you must use the hand with which you made your average.”
Still, the forced-to-be-a-southpaw has been known to have a right-handed game. “Our team, which is close, sometimes does midnight bowling for fun,” she said. “Then I might try right-handed but the average isn’t too good.”
Mills will bowl — left-handed of course— in a summer league. And she has set her sights on her junior bowling season. “I definitely hope to make States (at sectionals),” she said, “and then to do well in the state tournament.”