Towne & Country’s own credits success to late grandpa, bowling family

Cotie Holbek is a bowling lifer, and he credits his national championship to his supportive family and employer, Towne & Country Lanes. (Submitted/SLN)



By Tim Wester

Sports Correspondent

It’s not bragging if you can back it up.

After finishing his final round at the 2018 United States Bowling Conference National Bowling tournament in Syracuse, N.Y., Cotie Holbek turned to his mentor and friend Jerry Riemer and said it’s going to be tough for anyone to beat him.

Holbek won the Regular Singles Division championship in April with a score of 802.

He shot a 278 in each of his first two games before finishing with a 246, en route to defeating 16,600 competitors from all over the globe.

“I told Jerry that someone is going to have to go out and bowl really well to beat my score because the lanes were tough,” Holbek said. “They were going to have to strike a lot and if someone came out and beat me, they will have had to out-bowl me. If someone did, I would be the first to congratulate them.”

Most of the congratulating went to Holbek, who officially got the call from the USBC that he was the winner Monday, July 9.

“I actually was aware I won the night before by just doing the math with the other scores, Holbek said. “But it was a great feeling getting the call from the USBC.”

Holbek was also thankful to share the moment with Riemer.

“Jerry was just so happy, and I owe a lot of my success to him,” Holbek said. “I have a special relationship with him and was very honored to have him be a part of helping me with my success.”


Starting at an early age

Holbek also credits his grandfather, Ed Wagner, for introducing him to the sport when he was 3 years old.

“My grandpa was the main reason I’m bowling today,” Holbek said. “He got me into it when I was like 2-3 years old and coached me a little bit.”

Holbek parlayed his guidance from his grandfather into a successful competitive bowling career that started at 13. Holbek then became a four-year varsity performer at Burlington High School.

Along the way, Holbek’s grandfather passed away in 2008, leaving a huge void in his life. But Wagner’s hard work and belief in his grandson’s talent didn’t go to waste.

Merrill Draper, owner of the Towne and Country Lanes in Burlington, Steve Enger, and Riemer all played vital roles in continuing Holbek’s development.

Holbek continued to bowl competitively after high school in area tournaments before eventually participating in his first Masters tournament in 2014 in Ashwaubenon. Holbek then participated in his first USBC National Championship in El Paso, Texas in 2015.

Those experiences helped set up Holbek’s return to Nationals this season where he put it all together.

“The experience of 2015 helped me a lot because you don’t see the type of lanes at nationals at other tournaments,” Holbek said. “Most tournaments tend to put the oil in the middle of the lane, but at nationals, most of the oil is on the outsides of the lanes.”

Holbek was more than ready for the tougher lane conditions this year.

“I tend to bowl better in tougher conditions because I tend to spin the ball, and there is not as much dry area so I’m able to be more aggressive and play through the oil.”


Bowling is his life

Now with a national championship on his resume, Holbek looks to find similar success in future tournaments.

Holbek is sponsored by Draper, Brunswick bowling, and Fuzion Custom Apparel in Antioch to help with costs. Holbek is also the daytime manager and Pro Shop Operator at Towne & Country Lanes.

“I’m a full-time employee at the bowling alley, so bowling is pretty much my life,” Holbek said.

Holbek’s ultimate goal is to make the Professional Bowlers Association. Reaching his goal won’t be easy as maintaining an income bowling is not easy.

“It’s hard to be a full-time professional bowler without a national staff contract that pays you a salary,” Holbek said. “Bowling is not nearly as popular as it was 25 or 30 years ago, where if you won Masters, you get $100,000. But now you get like $25,000 to $30,000.

Holbek added, “It’s just feasible at the moment, but if bowling gets bigger and the earnings get bigger, I may get my shot.”

As for now, Holbek is enjoying playing the game that he loves.

“Bowling is a lifelong sport, and we have some guys who bowl into their 80s,” Holbek said. “My uncle bowled up to the point he died at age 94.”

“Whether you are a competitive bowler or just want to come out and have a few drinks and have a good time, bowling is a great way to go.”

Bowling certainly has been a great way to go for Holbek.