Bowlers bid farewell

Pictured left to right: current coach Chris Preble, his wife Dana Preble and coach Glenn Carlson.
Photo Courtesy of Chris Preble

During the Brunswick Coca-Cola Classic in Las Vegas on Jan. 27, the men’s bowling team accomplished something that hasn’t been done in school history — a Baker 300.

Bowling in a Baker format, where five players line up and rotate frames, the men bowled a perfect game, scoring 300. This is a feat that hasn’t been done in the program in thousands of attempts, in more than 20 years of bowling in tournaments where it is used.

The celebration was short-lived as minutes later the team would receive the news that longtime coach and mentor Glenn Carlson, 71, had passed away.

Pictured above is Glenn Carlson’s old desk, which is now the current coach’s desk. He was known to students and friends as “The Ol’ Guy.” The license plate was given to Carlson as a gift from friends.
Joseph Vasquez / The Collegian

The pins just kept on falling while the players were unaware of what had happened. Good throws became great, and bad ones were just enough.

“I think he had a hand in it cause not all the shots were good shots,” said Chris Preble, a coach and a former player of Carlson.

The team is young and most of the new members knew of Carlson, but didn’t have the opportunity to interact with him. The news to them was upsetting, but it was the juniors and seniors who were really emotional.

“It was a real buzz killer,” said Matt Robinson, a senior member of the team.

A moment of silence was given before the positioning rounds, and the team continued on and won the tournament.

“We were glad to do it,” Robinson said. “After the tournament we felt we completed it all for him.”

Carlson was employed by California State University, Fresno since the building of and opening of the University Student Union (USU) in 1968.

He was instrumental in getting the bowling team together in 1970 and making it the team it is today, a nationally ranked powerhouse. Carlson retired in 2001, but continued to coach the team until his health no longer allowed him to.

“He was just a great teacher, coach and father-figure,” said Patricia Thomason, a friend of over 15 years and manager of the USU.

Throughout the years, Thomason traveled with the team and was approached by parents wondering how Carlson was as a coach. They heard many good things about him.

“They couldn’t be in better hands,” Thomason said. “When the kids would come away from home, he’d be that away-from-home parent.”

Carlson played in the Professional Bowling Association (PBA) in the 1970s and made a respectful name for himself among the ranks. He would play part-time around the West coast, but never committed to a full-time job.

“If he wanted to tour he could have done whatever he wanted in this game, but he wanted to teach, and that was his choice,” Preble said.

Though Carlson wasn’t in national tours, he is a legend in the collegiate ranks for what he has done for the sport. He was instrumental in establishing scholarships for bowlers and exposing the sport to colleges across the country.

“If he would have gone out on national tours, he’d be a household name for bowlers, everyone would know him,” Preble said. “He chose to stay here and now he’s a household name in the collegiate industry.”

Carlson’s contributions to the sport were recognized in 2006 when he was awarded the Kerm Helmer Horizon Award in recognition of his continued efforts to extend opportunities to young bowlers.

The bowling program allowed Carlson to help people on a personal level. He was known to find kids who enjoyed bowling and were going in the wrong direction. He would find a way to get them to go to school and be part of his program.

“The thing he was most proud of is that there were kids that came through this program that, by the virtue of bowling, if they weren’t bowlers they wouldn’t have wanted to be in school,” Preble said. “They just wanted to bowl. Well, in order to bowl, they had to go to class and after four years, they accidentally got a education.”

While spending time on the lanes, many people would come around asking how Carlson was doing. He would usually reply, “Not bad for an ol’ guy,” even though many of those asking would be many years his senior.

“He kind of gave that name to himself,” said Leroy Heisdorf, owner of the Cedar Lanes Pro Shop and long time friend. “The kids heard it and they started calling him that right back.”

Being involved in collegiate bowling allowed Carlson to travel to many locations for tournaments. His loss was felt around the country and further.

After his death, the PBA Web site had messages posted telling of their experiences with Carlson, such as: “I had the honor of knowing Glenn and bowling with him on a few occasions. He touched the lives of many people at many levels, including mine. He was truly one of the great people in bowling.”

“He’s going to be greatly missed,” said Thomason.

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