Meinhart hopes to trade in kegler bronze for Armed Forces gold
Published: May 6, 2012
He took third place in singles and sixth overall in last year’s All-Armed Forces bowling championships. Tommy Meinhart is hoping to take things several steps further over the next couple of weeks.
“This year, it’ll be a different story,” Meinhart said Sunday, his last league competition at Camp Foster’s bowling center before traveling to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, where he’ll take his 215 to 225 pins per game to the latest All-Armed Forces roll-offs.
Armed Forces includes singles, doubles and team competition. Meinhart and the Marines hope to take down defending team champion Air Force, but also improve on something the Leathernecks had not done in eight years, which was win the team event.
The 35-year-old gunnery sergeant has been bowling since he was 5 years old back in his youth in Houston. He joined the Marine Corps in 1998, and in addition to bowling showed a propensity for softball, making the All-Marine team which won the All-Armed Forces in 1999 and also in 2000.
But from 2002, deployments began taking their toll and Meinhart had to pretty much shut down all athletic activity to concentrate on that for which he enlisted – defend the country in far-flung locales ranging from Mosul to Kandahar.
Meinhart came to Okinawa in 2009 and promptly broke his left (non-throwing) hand during a company-level softball tournament at Kadena Air Base. That brought him back inside to the air-conditioned comfort of the island’s bowling centers, where he’s been a fixture ever since.
He bowls in Foster’s Sunday evening league and also in Japanese leagues off-base three nights a week, and six times has traveled to Japan’s main islands representing Okinawa in Japan Bowling Congress tournaments. So proficient he became – he’s rolled four 300 games, three off base and one on base – that in 2010, he applied for and got accepted to the All-Marine team.
“I like going back to not only bowl and compete in the Armed Forces, but to represent the Marine Corps,” said Meinhart, who at one time was a recruiter and regularly puts those persuasive skills to use, telling younger Marines who prefer to camp out in front of the computer about the benefits of being an All-Marine athlete.
“I try to get them to compete in sports, tell them that almost all sports have an All-Marine team and you can compete and go as high as the international or Olympic level,” Meinhart said.
As an added bonus, Meinhart’s family is planning to drive the seven to eight hours from Houston to San Antonio to catch him in action in the All-Armed Forces.