Pro bowling: Couture rolls into another hall of fame

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Pete Couture was a diminutive kid who picked up a heavy bowling ball and eventually found himself traveling to alleys around the world, proving that a young man from New Auburn belonged on the Professional Bowlers Association tour.

The Edward Little High School graduate spent more than two decades on the PBA tour, and now, the PBA50 Tour champion will be inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame on Feb. 1 in Shawnee, Okla.

This is Couture’s sixth hall of fame induction, including two in Connecticut, where he lived after 29 years in Maine.

“I was (also) inducted in the USBC Hall of Fame, which is the biggest hall of fame that there is in the world. The PBA is not as big, but it is more special because of what I did for a living,” Couture said from his apartment in Cocoa, Fla. “You know that old saying: You find something that you love to do and find a way to make a living at it, and you are going to be happy. I was able make a living doing something I love. I consider myself very fortunate.”

Starting out

Before Couture became a 10-pin bowler, the 1963 EL grad began his career as a candlepin bowler. Learning the sport was a family thing for him. His mother, Irene Boies, was a top local bowler who became a Twin Cities Ladies Champion.

“I would go to the lanes with my mother. She was member of bowling leagues and I would bowl a few games after she was done,” Couture said. “She was one of the best lady bowlers around and obviously watching her bowl after her leagues got me started.”

Couture’s father, Lewiston native Al “Shiner” Couture, was well-known in the boxing community for knocking out Bangor’s Ralph Walton in exactly 10½ seconds. Peter’s parents divorced when he was young, and he went to live with his mother.

“Pete’s mother, Irene Boies, was the best of all the women in the early 60s and his stepfather, Roger Boies, was very good,” Gerard Dennison, a fellow bowler from New Auburn, said. “When the New Auburn Lanes opened in 1961, they had a teen tourney, and I won the pee wee division at 13 and Pete was the junior champ at 16. Then we had to defend every week against the next high scorer down the list in a five-string match.”

Standing at 5-foot-4, the PBA tour bowler felt playing other sports in high school was out of the question because of his stature.

“Basically, it was the kind of sport where you didn’t have to be six-foot-two, 200 pounds to compete,” Couture said. “I shot a lot pool at the same time for a lot of reasons. You could excel without being a big physical specimen.”

Moving on and out

Couture turned his attention to 10-pin when he discovered this different way of bowling offered more opportunity.

“It took me a while because lanes just opened up a couple of years before I started,” Couture said. “I was Twin City Junior Candlepin Champion at the time, so it is hard to give up something when you’re the best in your age group to starting all over.

“I saw that 10 pin offered a lot more opportunities to bowl tournaments and such, where candlepin there was no city tournament or state tournament or anything else. That was the part that attracted me to the 10-pin, that and the fact that there was more things to bowl in.”

After speaking with a couple of bowlers who put on exhibition, Couture was convinced that it was important for him to stay with bowling, and that 10-pin would be a more lucrative and challenging way to participate in the sport.

He made a deal with a bowling manager to work weekends without pay in return for free bowling

“For the next year, I bowled 10 games a day, seven days a week without missing a day for one year, and I went from below 180s to 200, which was high in the house at the time,” Couture said. “When I first started out, my goal was, I wanted to become good enough to bowl on the PBA tour. My early goals were just to bowl good enough to (earn) cash and to support myself. And as I got better, I changed my goals and gradually I ended up bowling pretty good.”

Couture ended up moving to Windsor Locks, Conn., to be nearer to tournaments, and to stiffer competition.

“I moved to the Windsor Locks area because, basically, I was traveling the furthest to bowl monthly tournaments in New England,” Couture said. “They have the New England Bowlers Association, and I had to drive two or three hours to get to the tournament, and drive home after I was done bowling. Basically, I moved to get closer to the tournaments and to be able to bowl with more better bowlers.”

Going on tour

In Connecticut, Couture worked feverishly to perfect his game before taking a chance on entering the PBA tour.

“What I did when I moved to Connecticut is, I got a job working in the pro shop in Windsor Locks,” Couture said. “Being up there, it was like three years before I actually got good enough to start making money on the PBA tour. When I moved up there was ’74, my breakout year on the tour was in ’77.

“Finally, I took a chance and bowled some winter stops in ’77 and made back-to-back TV shows and never missed a tournament for the next 10 years after that.”

Some of his most triumphant moments came when he bowled on ABC bowling shows, where some of the best bowlers in 10-pin competed.

“Most of the highlights for me came in my senior career,” Couture said. “I turned 50, and I was rookie of the year my first year on the senior tour, and the three years later, I was bowler of the year.

“Those were some of the highlights, plus on the senior tour, I won two majors, which was the ABC Senior Masters at the time. Those are pretty much the biggest ones that I won.”

According to bowl.com, Couture had numerous accomplishments, including a third- and sixth-place finish in the 1986 and 1980 USBC Masters, respectively, a second-place tournament team finish in 1994, and a 203 average in the USBC Open Championships for 20 years.

Still hanging out in alleys

After a fruitful career, Couture, 70, lives in Cocoa, Fla, working in a pro shop, and he still bowls once a week in addition to playing golf.

“If it wasn’t for bowling, I‘d still probably be living in Maine, which I am not saying that is a bad thing, but because of bowling,” Couture said, “I got to bowl in almost every state in the country.

“I got to bowl in an invitational tournament in London, England, and another year in Paris, France. In my senior tour, I competed in Japan. It has taken me to a lot of places that I would have never got a chance to go.”

And Pete Couture has certainly gone far in a career that spanned across the globe.

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