She may stand just 4-foot-seven and weigh 62.5 pounds, but Bella Love Castillo is one mighty bowler.
Castillo, who will be going into fifth grade at Compass Academy Charter School, has qualified for the Junior Gold National Tournament July 15 through July 19 in Detroit.
The 10-year-old can be found most days at Diamond Lanes in Odessa where they offer two games free during the summer. Her parents are Brian and Barbi Castillo.
Her mother Barbi said Bella has been bowling since age 4, but started the sport competitively a year ago and already has been in some big tournaments.
“What I enjoy about bowling is making new friends, the pins cracking when you make a good shot and learning the oil patterns and just knowing that it’s a challenge every time you bowl,” Bella said.
She added that it gives her a boost to be participating in the Junior Gold National Tournament.
“I think it’s an honor because you have to qualify for it. And just knowing that I qualified for it makes me feel excited,” Bella said.
She said she has gotten nervous a few times, especially at the end of a match when she has one more game to win.
Her highest score so far is 222. Before that, it was 213 and Barbi said that stood for a long time.
Becoming a professional bowler is something Bella said she wants to do. And she doesn’t have a favorite pro bowler; she likes them all.
“They’re all so nice to me,” Bella said.
Barbi said a few colleges are already watching Instagram page and her bowling.
“Hopefully one day she’ll get to do college bowling and move on to the pro division, the PWBA,” Barbi said.
Bella uses a 13-pound bowling ball.
“It helps because she uses two hands,” Barbi said. “She’s got that style. She’s been bowling since she was 4 and she would bowl right down the middle. Last summer, she told Brian, ‘Daddy, I really want to start hooking the ball like you and mama.’”
“She had three little friends that she would bowl with. … They would hook the ball, so we decided to get her her own balls and hooking balls and we would really help her try to figure out different boards,” Barbi said.
The markings on the lanes have board numbers, so each dot has a number.
“When we tell her, ‘Bella, try to hit your board 20,’ she knows where that is. Or, ‘you need to bring the ball two boards in,’” Barbi added.
When she first started bowling, Bella used a little metal ramp that could be pushed up to the lane.
Then she went to bumpers, no bumpers and the straight down the middle.
“When you’re really little, you use a six or seven pound ball and when you’re little you don’t get enough pin action … Once she got bigger, we upped the weight in the balls to give her a little bit more pin action …,” Barbi said.
The maximum bowling ball weight is 16 pounds.
Since she began getting serious about her craft, Barbi aid Bella has made friends with several pro bowlers including Anthony Simonsen, who asked the Scotty Pope Jr., who runs the pro shop at Diamond Lanes, to work with her.
Bella was 9 at the time. Barbi said Simonsen travels the world and said she was the bowler at that age that he had ever seen.
Bella also has met Chris Paul, the Houston Rockets point guard who is an avid bowler and puts on a charity bowling tournament.
Her parents said a girl using two hands to bowl is unusual.
“She’s always loved bowling,” Barbi said, “but once she started competitively bowling in the two-handed style you could just tell her passion came alive. We’ve gone to a few of the PBA events. The tour came through Texas. They were so kind. They let us have tickets to some of the TV showings, so we got to go and be part of the tour, like the championship tour that came through. We went to Lubbock and Jonesboro, Ark., and we went to Dallas.”
They got in contact with an official with the PBA and got to go to the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame in Arlington and got to attend the hall of fame induction, Barbi said.
They were contacted by the Bowlers Journal International, which wanted to do a story on Bella because you don’t see many two-handed girl bowlers, Brian Castillo said.
“When she started bowling, everyone would gradually gravitate to her lane and we would have parents come up. They were like, that’s really cool that she two-hand bowls,” Barbi said. “We didn’t think it was big deal. We see two-handed bowling, but there’s not hardly any girls that do it. There’s a lot of boys and men that do it, but there’s hardly any girls that two-hand bowl. They said she’s kind of a rarity.”
The first time Bella saw two-handed bowling was on videos posted on YouTube by “Dude Perfect.”
“They would do a lot of trick shots … and she just thought they were so cool,” Barbi said.
The bowling community has an item called a smart account where Bella can save for college.
“Anytime she wins money, it goes into the smart account and goes toward her college. So she’s 10 years old and already making college funds. Once your funds go into your account, you have up to eight or nine years to use those funds for college,” Barbi said.
The amount in the account is calculated on a point system.
“… She’s already got approximately … $1,400 in there for bowling for about 10 months, so if she keeps it up she’ll pay for her college,” Barbi said.
Her parents noted that she uses bowling balls from Storm Products. Brian said the balls are infused with scent.
“The owner he took his wife into the their factory where they make the balls and she got sick because of the smell. She told her husband, ‘If you don’t change that smell, I’m never coming back to the factory,’ so he infused smell,” Brian said.