NORTH HILLS — Most bowlers would give their right arm to have Bryan Alpert's right arm. Or even his left.
Alpert rolled perfect games with each limb during a four-year stint with the Professional Bowlers Assn. tour. Alpert also pulled off the more difficult feat of scoring an 800 series both left-handed and right-handed during his days as a pro.
Alpert estimates he's bowled about 30 perfect games, including four in PBA competition. He's even scored 299 right-handed and left-handed. Twice.
"He has perfect form with both hands," friend and fellow bowler Bill Puntillo said. "It's like looking in a mirror."
No two ways about it, Alpert knows how to bowl.
Too bad he can't make a living doing it.
Alpert, 33, a graduate of Calabasas High and now a teaching professional in Northridge, hasn't finished trying his, er, hands at a competitive career.
Two years ago, after a seven-year layoff, Alpert applied for reinstatement with the PBA and has begun to compete again part-time. Alpert plans to compete in five regional events this season, beginning with the American Bowling Congress Masters tournament in Albuquerque on June 12-17.
"There are many bowlers like me that have had some success and decided it's not worth it to stay out there and try to be the next great bowler," Alpert said. "Just to make it, you have to be [in the] Top 10 or Top 15 every week. If the money had continued to escalate, I'd still be bowling."
Alpert, who began bowling at 14, long ago abandoned dreams of professional stardom--if there is such a thing in bowling. But he still makes his living in the sport, giving lessons and running the pro shop he owns at a bowling alley in Northridge.
There are easier ways of paying the bills than traveling the country, striving for perfection rolling a bowling ball down the lane. But Alpert gave it his best shot.
At 18, Alpert, ambidextrous and already bowling over observers with his skill, turned pro and competed full-time for four years.
"I was absolutely addicted to bowling," Alpert said. "I probably averaged, over a five-year period, 20 to 30 games a day, nonstop."
Relying heavily on his mother for financial backing, Alpert earned about $100,000 in four years but pretty much broke even considering expenses.
"I don't think my career was a failure," Alpert said. "But if you can't pay your bills, that's kind of a failure in some respects. The money on the tour is so thin."
Alas, professional bowling probably never will achieve mainstream popularity. But the sport has been a topic of conversation lately.
The ABC recently reported a drastic increase in the number of bowlers rolling 300 games, both professionally and in leagues throughout the United States. No surprise, say serious bowlers who have witnessed a combination of factors influence scores over the years.
Bowling balls, crafted from reactive resin and proactive urethane, are "more aggressive," Alpert said, while pins, generally, have remained the same weight.
With the advancement of balls has come an evolution of lane conditions, with bowling establishments steadily increasing the amount of oil applied to lanes.
That, in turn, allows for better scores, another benefit for proprietors.
"It's gotten so all you have to do now is hit the pocket and you'll have a strike," Puntillo said.
Alpert can't argue.
"It's a combination of bowling balls and lane conditions," he said. "It's getting to the point it's laughable. It really started with the manufacturers making balls so aggressive that they started tearing up the lanes. So, proprietors had to resurface and treat the lanes more often.
"As they put more oil on the lanes, the manufacturers started making balls hook more."
All of which makes being able to bowl with both arms more of an accomplishment.
"Over the long term, with the same equipment, the better players are still going to be the better players," Alpert said. "It's the same with any sport. I think if I didn't have some credibility--I've competed against the best bowlers--people wouldn't give me credit for being a better bowler. I know in my heart what I'm capable of."