Up-and-coming ten pin bowler Naeem Vallee wins at the National Bowlers’ Open.

A Wits student won first place in the Division 4 segment of the Gauteng Central National Bowlers’ Open (NBO) in Northcliff last weekend.

Naeem Vallee (24), who won a cash prize of R2 000, played his way through 14 games against 10 competitors on Saturday, September 21, to amass a total pin fall (highest combined score) of 357 to qualify for the semi-finals and finals on Sunday, September 22.

“I thought the NBO would be a good opportunity for me to test my skills and see how I can compete against others, because I hadn’t competed against others outside my friendship circle,” said the sixth-year medical student.

Vallee said a “seed” had sprouted in him to officially begin bowling in January 2019 when he was doing his psychiatry rotation at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital.

He had about two-and-a-half hours to spare between ward rotations and tutorials, which time he decided to spend bowling.

“On June 6 I bought my own bowling ball and my bowling shoes, so from then I could start to use the professional lanes at the bowling centre [at Northcliff] … enough to get a sense of the maintenance and fresh lines of the oil patterns [on the lanes],” said Vallee.

There he met the organiser of the NBO, Fanus Thomas, who encouraged him to enter the tournament.

“I could see the excitement in his eyes … I was super excited for him and knew he was going to love the experience,” said Thomas.

Vallee paid the R1 200 admission fee and entered Division 4 of the NBO for competitors averaging a score of 149 or below.

According to Thomas, Division 4 is for entry-level bowlers who are beginning their journey in the bowling community and do not belong to the Ten Pin Bowling Association of South Africa. Division 1 bowlers, on the other hand, have scored 180 and above in tournaments and leagues and/or have represented South Africa.

Thomas told Wits Vuvuzela the winner of each division had to “endure, fight and play their way through 14 games of qualifying. Once the qualifying rounds were completed, the field of entries in each division was cut”.

On Sunday the remaining four competitors in their respective divisions played against each other in a two-game playoff, and the one with the highest combined score progressed to the final round.

“This is where the competitiveness, nerves and sheer thrill really take place,” said Thomas.

“Spectators lining up behind you, cameras recoding your every move: this is what makes ten pin bowling a sport of champions.”

Vallee entered the finals against 33-year-old opponent Johannes Raymond Fourie and the two bowled head-to-head in a two-game playoff.

“I don’t think I played my best in the knockout rounds or the final as I was bit fatigued. Overall, I really enjoyed the tournament. The scores were really tight throughout the weekend, which made it really fun and enjoyable,” Fourie told Wits Vuvuzela.

Vallee, having an advantage over Fourie, whose total pin fall was 304, bowled 163 in the first game against Fourie’s 151, crowning Vallee as the winner of Division 4 of the NBO.

Thomas said Vallee played with no experience or real knowledge of how the competition worked, “but he performed like a true champion.

“He became my favourite to win his division. People approached me and asked who this Naeem gentleman was, and my response was merely, ‘He is my secret weapon’,” said Thomas.

With a “very keen budding interest” in the sport of ten pin bowling, Vallee wants to join one of the leagues at Northcliff and try to make it onto a provincial and then national team.

“I am convinced he has now been bitten by the bowling bug,” said Thomas. “It’s in his blood and I am super excited to see him continuing his journey.”


FEATURED IMAGE: Naeem Vallee at the National Bowlers’ Open won first place in Division 4 with a score of 163. Photo: Imaan Moosa