Feb. 22, 2019 – The sport of bowling opened many new opportunities for one local middle schooler after he discovered a mentor with a vision.
Josh Oldham began bowling approximately three years ago. After meeting Jerry Ferrell Jr., owner of Tiger Bowl in Excelsior Springs, he said he discovered a mentor who would teach him life lessons he never thought possible. Oldham’s love of bowling and his friendship with his mentor also created another goal. Oldham said he wants to earn his first 300 game before he reaches the age of 16, the age Ferrell received his.
“My goal is to beat him and get mine before I reach 16 … and try to get it three years before him,” Oldham said.
The friendship began after Oldham’s mom Sarah suggested Oldham join a youth bowling league Ferrell and his wife Teresa began at Tiger Bowl. Oldham said he didn’t think he would be any good at the sport but said Ferrell always made him feel like he belonged. Ferrell’s lessons extended beyond bowling, Oldham said. Ferrell taught him about creating a good first impression, perseverance and hard work. These lessons served Oldham well as he recently competed in the Kansas City Open held at the Crown Lanes Bowling Alley in Leavenworth, Kansas.
Oldham said he began the tournament with a good first game and ended up averaging high enough to qualify first in his division. With his 17-point handicap, Oldham bowled a 764 and a 732 series in the qualifying rounds. In the finals, he bowled against Sydney Horton, a high school senior who recently signed with Drury University in Springfield for its bowling team, winning with a 262 game.
The award money will be added to Oldham’s bowling scholarship fund. Oldham’s scholarship fund also increased with the recent addition of an anonymous donor who plans to match all scholarship funds earned by the participants in Tiger Bowl’s youth leagues.
The donor also pledged to pay entrance fees for a year after any Tiger Bowl youth bowler earns first in their division at a tournament. This pledge could change the lives of many of the area youth.
Sarah Oldham said being a single mom often required her to decide what the household could do without to pay for Oldham’s tournaments. Now, she said, she must only be concerned with paying for the fuel to get them to the tournaments, which allows him to enter any tournament he wants. She said all the proceeds will go toward his future.
“He’s systematically working toward what he wants to do by bowling and his sponsor is allowing him to live that to the fullest,” she said.
Ferrell said he hopes the opportunities allow other youth bowlers to have similar experiences. He said he wants to get more kids involved and hopes this new opportunity creates something big for their futures.
In the past, Tiger Bowl sent one team to the state championships. Ferrell said this year, they plan to send at least three, possibly four. The entry fees for a team of four come to approximately $300 for a 4-person team, he said. For one mother who plans to send at least two of her children, he said the fees can add up. The Ferrells pay the team portion of the entry fee and the anonymous donor decided to pay the other half, Ferrell said. This will allow more bowlers to participate. This, along with the donor pledging to match all scholarship funds earned from the tournament, could help open up a world of possibilities for area youth. Ferrell said he hopes the opportunity will encourage those from some of the surrounding small towns to participate as well. Even though those kids live outside the city limits of a large city, he said, they should have the same opportunities.
The opportunities presented by bowling prompted the Ferrells to plan a new youth league for intermediate bowlers. Ferrell said he hopes this league can give these youth bowlers an opportunity to move into the next phase of bowling. The Ferrells currently look for area youth who want to excel in the sport and want to use it to further their education.
Anyone wishing to get more information on the newest or any of Tiger Bowl’s youth leagues can do so by calling the Tiger Bowl at 816-637-2901.
Sarah Oldham said her son’s relationship with Ferrell came at the right time. Her husband Brad battled cancer for about three years before passing away in April 2017. She said Brad would have liked to bowl with Josh, but he could not. Having Ferrell in his life helped Oldham through dealing with the pain of losing his father, she said.
Ferrell said Brad did what he could to support the Oldham children.
“I think he could see Josh’s willingness to take on bowling and trying to get better at it,” he said. “So, he did everything he could when he was as healthy as he could he, on the days he felt good enough to bring Josh in here and let Josh bowl.”
Ferrell said he believes a higher presence prompted his family’s initial meeting with the Oldhams. He said he wanted to purchase a bowling center, but it never worked out until Ferrell’s own father passed away. At a dual tournament in Olathe, Kansas, where Ferrell and Oldham won as a team, Ferrell said he believed some in attendance could not be seen with the bare eye.
“I believe that his dad and my dad was probably standing right next to each other watching both of us,” he said.
Oldham said lessons Ferrell teaches help him in not only being a better person but prepare for his future career. Oldham said he wants to bowl professionally as an adult. However, because he said his mom always told him to have a backup plan, he also plans to use bowling to fund college, where he plans to study business … beginning in 2023.
Sarah Oldham said currently the scholarships in Oldham’s fund equal approximately $400. With the anonymous donor’s recent matching funds, that comes to over $600. With Oldham averaging two tournaments per month, he could earn much more over the next four years, she said.
Oldham said he often remembers one of Ferrell’s lessons on his road to college. If he works toward a goal, he said, he will achieve it. This lesson also rings true in Oldham’s quest toward his first 300.
Ferrell said he backs Oldham 100 percent.
“If that’s what pushes him then more power to you buddy. Learn it. Get out there and do it,” he said.