Jacee Correa knows what it means to qualify for a national tournament.
The 15-year-old Correa, who lives at the Tule River Indian Reservation and will be a sophomore at Porterville High School, says he takes pride in representing the Reservation and Porterville on the national stage.
“It means a lot to me because not a lot of people from the Central Valley make it to the national tournament,” he said. “So it's a big deal. I'm the only one from Porterville.”
Actually Correa is the first ever from Porterville to qualify for the Junior Gold National Championship Tournament to be held July 8 through 18 in Indianapolis. Correa will be bowling against the best young bowlers in the nation at the event.
There will be about 4,000 bowlers competing in the event and more than 500 bowlers in Correa's 15 and under division. But Correa said he won't be intimidated. “I've earned the right to be there because of the hard work I've put in to qualify,” he said.
Correa added he will be relaxed when he competes at the national event. “It's just not to overthink anything,” said Correa about how he will approach the national event. “Just to control what I can control.”
Correa qualified for the national event by winning a youth scratch no handicap tournament in Chandler, Ariz. Correa also won a scholarship at the event.
Correa maintains a 200 average and had a 190 average at the Chandler event. His high series for five games was 806 and his high game was 212.
He also recently placed second in a tournament in Lakewood, Calif., and won a scholarship there as well.
Correa's high game is 268 and his high three-game series is 625. Correa is left-handed and he said being a left-handed bowler can actually be an advantage sometimes.
Since most of the bowlers Correa competes against are right-handed they bowl on the other side of the lane so that side of the lane receives a lot more wear during a tournament as opposed to the side Correa bowls on. “Not a lot of people bowl on that side of the lane,” said Correa about the side he bowls on.
Correa has been bowling since he was 5-years-old when he began in the Porterville Lanes Bantam/Junior Leagues. Correa said he took the bowling right away. “I've just liked it ever since,” Correa said.
Correa has since moved up to competing in the Porterville Lanes Tule River and Friends Adult League. He said bowling against the tougher competition in the adult league makes him a better bowler. When asked if he was the best bowler in the league, Correa said, “I'm not too far behind.”
The effort to raise funds to help Correa with expenses for his trip is now underway. A fundraising tournament will be held on Sunday at Porterville Lanes.
Check-in is at 9:30 a.m. and the tournament begins at 10 a.m. Entry fee is $50. There will be a 50/50 drawing and side pots. The tournament will be a singles, 5-game handicap event.
Donation checks are also being accepted and can be sent to Correa's mother, Wendi Correa, in care of Porterville Lanes, 952 W. Grand Ave., Porterville 93257. Cash donations can also be dropped off at Porterville Lanes.