So who is the best high school athlete in Lynn, the one boy or girl who outshines all of the competition in his or her sport?
Meet Jonathan Boudreau, a 17-year-old senior at Lynn English who is not only the best at his age at what he does on the North Shore – candlepin bowling – but he’s already considered one of the best in the world at any age.
Boudreau made a decision last year to turn professional. He had so convincingly conquered all challengers in his age bracket that he started competing against the adults – and he hasn’t missed a beat.
Boudreau finished third in a world singles tournament in Maine in November and on New Year’s day he bested a group of 40 professional bowlers at Central Park Lanes in East Boston with a sizzling 666 five-string total. He won $500 for his latest triumph and had a payday of $900 in the Easter Classic last April.
Boudreau owns a bowling average of 129 at his home house, Jim Barber’s Lucky Strike Lanes. He competes in the weekly Pro League with such Lynn superstars as Dave Barber, Shawn Baker, and Mike Morgan.
Boudreau has become somewhat of a celebrity in a sport that used to be televised weekly and drew sizable ratings. He has signed autographs, appeared on a children’s bowling TV show numerous times, and is known as “The Phenom” in the bowling community.
“He’s a great bowler,” said Chuck Vozzella, owner of Central Park Lanes in East Boston. “He conducts himself like he’s been bowling for 15 years. He has great form. He matches up very well with some of the great bowlers. He has a great future.”
A lefthander, Boudreau has textbook technique, a smooth style and three-step approach that he began using when he was three years old and bowling at Lucky Strike Lanes.
“I’ve been bowling at Lucky Strike my whole life,” said Boudreau. “I bowl there in a doubles league and I’m averaging 129.”
Boudreau has a high single of 181 and a high triple of 453. He started winning state championships at the age of eight and kept the pace going in each age group until he left the youth circuit as 16-year-old and started competing with the pros.
His last television appearance was on NESN last month and he delivered on cue, helping his pro-am doubles team win the championship with a phenomenal and clutch display of bowling. He won $250 for the TV appearance.
“Jonathan is an upcoming star,” said Rich Cocchi of Saugus, who bowls with Boudreau in the Lucky Strike league. “He’s already one of the best in the world.”
Steve Renaud, who produced a youth television bowling show, said Boudreau at 17 matches up well with other legends such as Peter Flynn and Tom Olszsta, who were unbeatable as teenagers.
Flynn was one of Boudreau’s earliest influences.
“Peter Flynn was a big influence,” said Boudreau. “He’s one of the best bowlers of all time. I grew up watching him and he’s a great lefthander. He’s still a great bowler. I got to bowl with him in the worlds last year.”
The Barber family, Hall of Famer Jim Barber and professional Dave Barber, provided early guidance, instruction, and support.
“I’ve known the Barber family almost my whole life and they’ve been great to me,” said Boudreau. “Dave is one of the best bowlers out there just like Shawn Baker is. Mike Morgan and Joe Tavernese and all those Lynn bowlers – they all bowled together and I look up to all these guys.”
Boudreau is also grateful to his parents, Bernie and Janice, who brought him to the bowling alleys as a three-year-old and have monitored his progress since.
Boudreau, who has a 3.5 grade point average at English and is considering Salem State College, expects to continue in bowling for a long time.
“As long as bowling’s around, I’ll be bowling,” said Boudreau.