Haley Kvarnberg has only been regularly competing in bowling since last November, but this weekend she will be one of eight amateurs in the Bowlero Elite Series tournament, which also includes several top pro bowlers.
WEST PALM BEACH — Haley Kvarnberg describes herself as "kind of a nerd.“
It’s evident in the classroom. At 18, the Suncoast High alum is already a senior at the University of Florida and scouting psychology-related graduate programs.
But it also shows at the bowling alley, where Kvarnberg brings the same academic zeal.
“It’s a lot of physics. Physics, ball-reaction, chemistry — I like that,” the West Palm Beach resident said of her passion for bowling. “And then, it’s a lot of math, angles, stuff like that.”
So far, she’s only competed in state and regional tournaments. But on Sunday and Monday, Kvarnberg will bowl in her first national competition: the Bowlero Elite Series pro-am tournament in North Brunswick, N.J.
The youngest bowler in the field, Kvarnberg will compete against seven other amateurs and eight pros for a $100,000 top prize. She was chosen after submitting a video application.
Her competition includes some big names in the bowling community, notably Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Famer Norm Duke and Stefanie Johnson, a three-time Professional Women’s Bowling Association champion.
Despite that stiff field, Kvarnberg said she’s undeterred. She wants to win.
Her competitive nature is one of the biggest assets in her game, Kvarnberg said. And it’s apparent during games.
“During competition, they say I have a stone-cold face,” she said.
That grit is present even in practice, said Mike Nyitray, Kvarnberg’s coach since early 2018.
Nyitray, an award-winning coach who’s worked with bowlers for more than 30 years, said Kvarnberg’s “work ethic is second to none.”
“She has shown the discipline to work not just for a series of shots but in some cases multiple games worth of drills to reinforce whatever technique that she’s trying to refine,” Nyitray said.
Although she was captain of the Suncoast High girls bowling team, Kvarnberg said bowling used to be a casual pursuit.
“I wasn’t serious about it,” Kvarnberg said.
But it’s since taken a more serious turn. And it’s happened fast, Nyitray said, because of how hard Kvarnberg works.
She began regularly competing last November and estimated her average score now tops 200. She practices five or six times a week and has even enlisted help from a mental performance coach.
“He’s worked with people all over the United States ... and he said, ’You are the most academic bowler that I’ve ever known,’ and I thought that was funny,” Kvarnberg said.
Nyitray sees the same witty talent in Kvarnberg, saying she has “focused that academic perspective in her bowling.”
He’s unfamiliar with the Bowlero tournament’s format and Kvarnberg’s competitors, but Nyitray said he can safely make one prediction.
“Nobody is going to outwork their preparation over Haley,” he said. “That’s the one thing I can say unequivocally.”