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Mitchell bowler earns spot at Junior Gold Championships, could make team USA

Marty Gaulke’s hopes of qualifying for the Junior Gold Championships appeared to be waning as he entered his final tournament of the season in the Eastern South Dakota League.

Gaulke was down by a three-pin average to Colton Graves, of Pierre. But Gaulke hunkered down, put together three games and claimed the Eastern South Dakota League singles competition title, punching a ticket to the championships.

“I knew I could do it, but it wasn’t going to be easy,” said Gaulke, 17, of Mitchell. “I had to get the high average out of six towns to qualify.”

Gaulke, who has been bowling for seven years, averaged a score of 217 through the ESD travel league.

With the win, Gaulke earned the right to go to USA Junior Gold Championships, where he will compete in the U20 boys division against around 2,000 other bowlers.

The tournament is July 12-18 in New York. The bowlers will be spread out between three bowling alleys — with two in Cheektowaga, N.Y., and one in Williamsville, N.Y.

With a win at the tournament, Gaulke would earn a slot on the USA bowling team for his age group.

At 17, he could be one of the youngest bowlers in his age bracket, but that does not worry Gaulke, who bowls in an unsanctioned league with adults and recorded a perfect game last year in Pierre. In preparation for his trip across the country, Gaulke said he practices every chance he gets.

“Making team USA would probably be the biggest accomplishment I could ever get in my bowling career,” the Mitchell High School junior said. “I really want to compete professionally. I still have a lot to learn, but I feel like it is something I could do when I get older.”