A-L Hall of Fame: Couture journey in bowling brings it back to where it started

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Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories on this year’s inductees into the Auburn-Lewiston Sports Hall of Fame.

Alan “Pete” Couture is no stranger to being inducted into halls of fame.

Couture, who grew up in Auburn and graduated from Edward Little High school in 1963, made his living on the Professional Bowlers Association tour and the PBA50 tour. He has been inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame, in 2016, and the United States Bowling Congress’ Hall of Fame, in 2004, among others.

But being inducted into the Auburn-Lewiston Sports Hall of Fame on Sunday at the Ramada Inn in Lewiston will be different than all the others.

“The difference is, this is a sports hall of fame and not a bowling hall of fame,” Couture said. “So that will be an original part for me. Plus, it also recognizes bowling as a sport at the same time, which those of us who have done this for a living know it’s a sport. Across the country, the average league bowler might not consider it a sport.”

His accolades include 11 straight years on the PBA Tour starting in 1977, where he racked up five wins. Once he made the transition to the senior tour, he won the USBC’s Senior Masters Title in 1998 and again 2002. He also had five more top 10 finishes in tournaments. He captured seven other PBA50 titles, and was the PBA Senior Tour Player of the Year in 1998.

Being inducted into the A-L Sports Hall of Fame will also be a homecoming event for Couture — it will be the first time in more than 40 years he’s returned to the state.

“Once my parents moved out, I didn’t really have anybody there for a reason to go back,” Couture said. “It also has given me a reason to go back and get back to my roots a little bit, and see how much Lewiston and Auburn has changed. I am sure it has changed.”

His parents divorced when he was young, and he moved in with his mom, Irene Boies, who was an avid bowler and got Pete into the sport. She was the Twin Cities Ladies Champion.

After some other young bowlers from Massachusetts competed against him in an exhibition match, Couture talked to them about how to get into the sport at a more competitive level. He was bowling between 180 and 200 at the time. After working at Auburn Lanes for a year on the weekends and being able to bowl for free, he moved his scoring average over 200.

He started to compete in New England Bowling Association Tournaments, which were mostly in Massachusetts and Connecticut. He remembers often being the competitor who’d traveled the farthest. He moved to Windsor Locks, Connecticut, not only to be closer to the NEBA tournaments, but also to run a pro shop.

Long road to the PBA Tour

Once in Connecticut, he was able to compete in PBA regional tournaments and PBA qualifiers before the actual tournaments. It was in 1977 when, after years of bowling in regional tournaments and qualifiers, he was ready to make his dream of being a regular on the PBA Tour a reality.

In those PBA qualifiers, there were usually 100-200 participants and the PBA would take the top 20 finishers for the actual tournament, which was usually held the following day.

“The first four tournaments, I was able to get through the qualifiers pretty easy, but I wasn’t cashing in the tournaments,” Couture said. “At the fifth tournament, it was at my home house, Bradley Bowl in Windsor Locks. I made the finals there in the qualifier and I think I finished around sixteenth, which gave me a lot of confidence. I was pretty much going to pack it up because I made the finals there the two previous years. It was like, ‘big deal, I am beating people in my own house.’”

The next tournament, though, was on Long Island in New York, and the prize money for the tournament was $100,000. He made the three-hour drive to Long Island as his “last shot”.

“I figured, what the heck, I may go there to see if I am really bowling better,” Couture said. “If not, I will go home and go back to work. As it turned out, I made the TV show and finished second. I bowled in every tournament for the next 10-11 years.”

His first win came in 1978 in New Orleans. Just like a golfer on the PGA Tour, a course may suit his eye better than others. For Couture, it’s just the same when it comes to different alleys on the PBA Tour.

“It’s hard to explain,” Couture said. “There are certain houses we go back to every year and for whatever reason it matches up with the way you throw the ball.”

He had to get through some formidable opponents in that tournament, including wins over two future Hall-of-Famers, Don Johnson and Dave Davis. Johnson won 26 PBA Tour Titles in his career, while Davis had 18 PBA Titles.

Couture said that what made winning his first title special.

He made his PBA50 debut in 1995 when he turned 50. and was the tour’s Rookie of the Year.

Life after the Tour

Couture currently resides in Cocoa, Florida where he still works in a pro shop on a part-time basis and also does lessons.

Bowling is something he continues to do a few times a week, but health issues have limited him from competing in tournaments. Despite back issues and the planters fasciitis limiting his time at the alley and the golf course, he still feels a part of the sport of bowling.

“I still feel connected,” Couture said. “I miss traveling and bowling in tournaments, but you know, Father Time catches up with you one way or the other. You got to make do with what you have.”

He’s also glad to see the PBA having a tournament in his home state, the OceanView Elias Cup at Bayside Bowl in Portland.

“I don’t think I ever thought pro bowling would ever get into Maine,” Couture said. “But I am absolutely thrilled it did. Judging by the fans reaction during the tournaments, people are pretty happy to have the pros there.”

Couture and the rest of the A-L Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2018 will be inducted Sunday at the Ramada Inn in Lewiston. Their images will join those of the rest of the hall’s inductees in the Hall of Fame Room at Gipper’s Sports Grill in Auburn.

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Pete Couture

Pete Couture

Pete Couture

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