Among the country's top 60 girls in her division, Brifman bowled 12 games, averaged more than 220 per game with her handicap, and finished fifth. Nine more pins and she would have eclipsed Amy Glover of Great Falls, Mont., who finished fourth and was the last to qualify for the match-play, stepladder finals. Brifman also was nine pins short of winning scholarship money--$11,000 was divided among the top four.
"Last summer was exciting," she said. "It seemed like I just got better and better every game. But this year is fun, too, because I feel like I have more control and know a little more about the game than I did before."
Dave Hawthorn, a local coach and a successful amateur player, started working with Brifman last summer. He immediately set out to correct her approach, arm swing and follow-through. The changes would be possible, he thought, because she had natural talent.
"She's got great form and we've been working real hard to even improve that in the last few weeks," Hawthorn said. "When I teach people who I think have ability, I try to take \o7 all\f7 imperfections out and give them nothing but absolute perfection."
Not only is Brifman talented, she is a quick learner. "If I tell her to do something, within three balls she'll do it," Hawthorn said.
Brifman has continued to improve while competing for the Greater Los Angeles Junior All-Stars on weekends. She bowls several days a week in Simi Valley at Brunswick Valley Bowl because Granada Lanes was destroyed in the Northridge earthquake.
Brifman's average improved 67 pins in the last year, impressing Diane Stanislawski, director of the national junior tournament.
"All of the bowlers that come there have the potential for greatness at some point in time," she said. "But for Lauren to go up 60 pins in a year, that's a major accomplishment. Your talking between five and six clean frames in a game. She's obviously learned to make spares, keep the ball in play and improve her striking ability. It takes a lot to master all that."
Brifman might someday push her average above 200, which would put her in the company of two noteworthy Valley women. Former pro Donna Adamek, proprietor at Rocket Bowl in Chatsworth, ranks 11th on the LPBT with a 207.2 career average. Tish Johnson of Panorama City, who has made more than $500,000 in 13 years on the tour, ranks fourth with a career average of 208.2.
"Every day when I bowl, I learn something new about me and how good I really am," Brifman said. "I underestimate myself a lot. I surprise myself with just my ability to do it."