The polished lanes glisten from the overhead lights, in hard contrast to the gutters, as if in defiance. Cheers and high-fives fill the air, but all other noise is drowned out by the squeak of rented shoes, the rumble of heavy graphite on a mission, and the roar of polyester coverstock-eating pine. An entire musical scale of crashes and clatters announces pins that spin wild and defeated into the dark ether of the pin deck, offset only by the insolent quiet of those who dare remain standing.
In the Pocket
The scent can make you queasy with sentiment: leather, floor wax, the delicacies at the snack bar. For Fayette County folks, this is the sensory joy of Vandalia Bowl. To sophomore and bowling superstar Macy Jones, it’s a devoted combination of a ritual proving ground and second home.
“Anyone that’s from Vandalia knows we’ve had great bowlers that went on to accomplish awesome things,” Macy says, evoking the name of four-time PWBA title winner and Vandalia native Josie Barnes. “She worked her butt off. She practiced every day.” This type of dedication to the sport is what Macy considers part of the recipe to discover her own athletic career at a school like Vanderbilt University, where Barnes attended and now coaches.
Macy lives and breathes bowling, mainly on the premises of Vandalia Bowl, to the extent that Tony Richardson, owner of the bowling alley, is considered family. “The other day, we were talking, and he was like, I just think of you as a daughter,” she says. “That means something to me because we’re around him all the time. He treats us like family.”
The obsession first landed like a lofted ball onto the lane: it wasn’t intentional but made a resounding bang. Macy was introduced to the game that has and will go on to define her in a rather unlikely place. “We were at my cousin’s birthday party,” she grins, as she loves telling the story. “I was bouncing around between so many sports at the time. Softball, tumbling. I was good at bowling but it wasn’t something I really loved.” That changed not long after. When she was 9, her parents suggested she try out a Saturday morning youth league. The trial run at the lanes produced less than spectacular results. “The first time I bowled a 38,” Macy laughs. “But the more weeks that I went, Tony would help me.” The Vandalia Bowl King gave her suggestions on technique, namely hand and foot placement. She was ten when Richardson gifted her the first bowling ball she owned, a Storm Tropical Surge that she swears smelled like “birthday cake.” And why not? What better fragrance than one that reminds us to savor personal milestones joyfully?
Now a flourishing athlete who routinely ranks in the top three at sectional, regional, and state competitions, Macy shows a unique humility we don’t often see in sports. She agrees that bowling can appear an unassuming activity but assures us it holds all the same fiery competitive trappings. There’s also a powerful wisdom to it. “One of the biggest lessons from bowling is not to give up,” she explains. “There’s a lot of times you’ll be bowling a tournament, and the sport pattern is really hard. You can’t figure it out.” The key, she says, is patience, improvisation, and trying new approaches. “You find a way to hit the pocket, find a way to strike, and pick all your spares.” By Macy’s account, remaining patient with a lane open to hope is “one of the biggest life lessons” of the game.
Macy’s creed is as follows: “If you want to be great, you have to practice like you are going to be the best in the world.” It’s the kind of attitude we’ve learned to expect from a Vandal, and she admires the hard work and persistence she witnesses in her community, whether it’s football, wrestling, machine operating, or nursing. The strength she draws on to reach for success is not the bowling alley as a lofty metaphor but an actual, physical place where the people she loves gather to relax, make the pins dance, and continue knowing and supporting everyone else in town, frame by frame.