Rising Above the Lanes: Connor Bishop’s Quest for Bowling Excellence

By Matt Stevens
December 14, 2023

Meet Connor, Connor Bishop 👋

A promising talent in the world of Tenpin Bowling, Connor has found his rhythm around 15,000 kilometres away from home in the halls of Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Connor’s journey from Logan, Australia, to the heart of Georgia, is a tale of passion, ambition, and the relentless pursuit of a dream.

The Early Strikes

At just three years old, Connor followed his mother’s footsteps, finding solace and excitement in the echo of crashing pins. It wasn’t just the sport that captivated him; it was the community — a mixture of friends and family intertwined with the essence of bowling.

“The sound of pins crunching from throwing a good shot never gets old,” Connor laughs, reflecting on what has kept him in the sport for years. “It might sound cliché, but honestly, the people, my friends and family are also very invested in the sport, so it has just felt like the place to be, and I’ve never really wanted to do anything else other than bowl”.

The Long Roll to SCAD

Connor’s leap to SCAD wasn’t just a flight across the Pacific but a leap of faith. The prospect of bowling scholarships for males seemed a distant dream, shadowed by the more prominent collegiate sports. Yet, inspired by the journey of Bek Commane, a SCAD alumna and fellow Australian, Connor took a chance. A fortuitous ride to the airport and a conversation with Bek set the wheels in motion, leading him to the supportive hands of Katie Thornton, SCAD’s bowling coach.

“Moving to the US for college has been equally one of the most exciting and terrifying things I’ve ever done in my life”, explained Connor.

“It was the first time I’ve flown internationally on my own and my first time living without my family close by. It was also, at the same time, one of the biggest confidence-building moments of my life while being one of the most humbling.

“Without Bek’s help in getting me in contact with Katie, then I wouldn’t have even thought it was a real possibility. It all started when I gave Bek a ride to the airport after her flights got messed around, and I mentioned that I was really interested but didn’t know where to start. She took care of the rest!” added Connor.

Academics and Alleyways

In the classroom, Connor is studying for a Bachelor of Fine Arts and delves into the realms of Social Strategy and Management, a nod to his muse, Commane. With an extra year of college eligibility due to being unable to compete in his freshman season, Connor also aspires to complete a master’s degree.

Joining SCAD’s men’s bowling team, Connor speaks of an environment where discipline is paramount, and improvement is a constant pursuit. With coaches like Katie Thornton and Mike Conn, he’s fine-tuning his skills, celebrating milestones like a third-place finish at the big Northern Queensland event, the Lexus Cup and striving for excellence in collegiate tournaments.

“The level of work put into the sport at a collegiate level is something I have never seen anywhere else, and the level of dedication required has, in turn, motivated me to push harder than ever because I’m surrounded by a team willing to push themselves too and that wants the best result possible”.

Juggling Pins and Pages

The life of a student-athlete is a balancing act. For Connor, distance from home and academic challenges added layers to an already complex routine. Yet, he’s embraced these hurdles, turning them into opportunities for growth, all while being on a coveted athletic scholarship that, despite not covering all costs, greatly aids in his educational and athletic endeavours.

One of the biggest challenges came from not being able to compete in his freshman year due to eligibility issues.

“The American system converted my Australian grades to an American GPA and put me .5 of a GPA point outside eligibility,” explained Connor. “There was an opportunity to appeal, but we decided it was best to wait until next season so we don’t waste an entire year of college eligibility on 3 events when that can become an entire extra year, and I possibly decide to go on and do a masters degree”.

Looking Ahead

With his sophomore season on the horizon, Connor reflects on his freshman year with a wise perspective. He learned the art of patience, trusting in the unfolding story of his collegiate career.

Still, Connor experienced some highlights, including qualifying in 7th position from a field of 177 in the Intercollegiate Sections Singles qualifying. However, he missed the cut for a free trip to Vegas to compete against the top 24 in the country. Scores – https://scores.bowl.com/2023-ISC/DaytonMen.pdf?v=new

His aspirations for his sophomore season are clear — to rise through the ranks, to make it to the Intercollegiate Singles Championship in Vegas, and to contribute to a team victory in the ITC or NAIA national championships.

“I want to be the best bowler I can, then the next goal would be to go back to that event next year and make the cut to the second stage”, explained Connor. “I also want to be on the team and win either the ITC, which is the team’s version of sectionals, and an NAIA National Championship like Bek was able to do in 2019 with the women’s team would be fantastic”.

Lessons from the Lanes

A strong support system back home — his mother, his coach Bee (Bianca Flanagan), and mentors like Janine, Bruce, and Janelle — have been instrumental in Connor’s success. The Logan crew have constantly instilled in him a blend of resilience and humility, which he carries into every frame he bowls and has provided many highlights along the way.

“Obviously, the sectional result was amazing last year, but outside of SCAD, a core memory would be President’s Shield 2019”, said Connor. “That was the most fun I’ve ever had on a team trip and is where I made the most friendships and are ones that I am so grateful to have to this today”.

Connor’s story also has an element of indigenous heritage to it.

Connor’s indigenous background, while not at the forefront of his bowling life, has instilled in him a sense of identity and community. He carries the lessons of the Yarning circle — a practice of open and safe communication — into his daily life, advocating the importance of trust and candidness.

“I do get a few shocked reactions when people find out that I have indigenous heritage”, explained Connor.

“The goal in raising awareness and representing my indigenous heritage would be firstly to show anyone that they can do anything they want and achieve a dream that might seem out of this world and out of the realm of possibility.

“I’ve sadly noticed a common trend with my mates with indigenous backgrounds that they would just drop out of school left and right, so I think collegiate bowling or even just collegiate sports, in general, are a good way of encouraging people to finish school”, Connor added.

Beyond the Sport

Connor’s narrative is more than a tale of strikes and spares; it’s about breaking barriers and bridging gaps. His presence in the sport is a beacon for others from indigenous backgrounds, proving that dreams are attainable with persistence and support. And by self-admission that his indigenous heritage hasn’t sparked significant conversations within the sport, Connor is ready to raise awareness and represent his culture on the international stage.