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Bowling: Huntley’s Jerry Marrs eyes return to pro tour

Huntley’s Jerry Marrs (right) recently wPost-Tribune Sport Shot Classic Indiana. | submitted photo

Huntley’s Jerry Marrs (right) recently won the Post-Tribune Sport Shot Classic in Indiana. | submitted photo

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Updated: March 1, 2013 7:13AM

When Huntley bowler Jerry Marrs accepted a trophy Jan. 6 in Dyer, Ind., for winning the Post-Tribune Sport Shot Classic, it completed his comeback.

Now he would like to take it a step beyond.

“I’d like to get back out on the tour and bowl with the pros,” he said.

Just 4½ months ago his goal was survival.

On Aug. 25, after returning home with friends from watching a White Sox game, Marrs felt nauseated, suffered chest pains and vomited. He lay down and shortly afterward suffered arm numbness and chest pain bad enough that his girl friend, Jolene Mertz, made a 9-1-1 call. At age 34, Marrs had suffered a heart attack. He needed surgery and placement of three stints to survive.

“It was a 100 percent blockage of my main artery,” he said. “I had just thought it was indigestion at first. The cardiologist said I was lucky to be alive.”

Marrs, who works at Elgin’s Print Pack, has been a bowler since he was very young, going to the old Masi’s Lanes in West Dundee, where his grandmother, Estelle Main, had been manager. So the month-long recovery from the ordeal left him anxious to get back doing what he loved. His doctor gave him the go-ahead to replace a friend in a league. He rolled an 827 series but when it ended he’d been through an ordeal.

“I had no strength left ... nothing,” he said. “I almost didn’t have the strength to go home.”

Gradually Marrs worked his way back into shape and was able to resume league bowling at Hoffman Estates’ Poplar Creek Bowl, where he sports a 233 average, and at Downers Grove’s Suburbanite, where he has a 240 average.

But Marrs is no mere league bowler. He once attempted to make it professionally, and joined the PBA Tour on a regional basis at age 19. He pursued it for seven years before becoming an assistant manager at Algonquin’s Brunswick Zone.

“It was a struggle,” he said of the tour. “The first four years was a big learning curve. I didn’t do so well at first.

“The last three years I came out of my shell and listened to friends who helped me on the tour learn to read lane oil patterns and to play the angles.”

Marrs put his knowledge to good use at the tournament in Dyer’s Stardust III, a house where he’d won two previous king of the hill tournaments. He rolled a 265 to win the final round in the king of the hill format by 48 pins over Brian Gunn.

“This was big for me because it was good to conquer bowling on a long oil pattern, which is something I hadn’t done that well,” he said. “With the 47-foot oil pattern they had there isn’t as much hook as people would think. It’s difficult, seven or eight feet longer than most league houses.”

Now Marrs is planning a trip to New Jersey in February for the United States Bowling Congress Masters and to Las Vegas in November for the World Series of Bowling. Beyond, that, he’s not certain.

“I had kind of given up the thought of bowling with pros when my daughter (Caitlyn) was 6 after she said she wanted me home,” he said. “(At Dyer) was the first time she went to a tournament with me and now she is saying she wants me to bowl more.”

Marrs said he also draws encouragement from Mertz, who is now his fiancee, and from his good friend Kevin Coleman of Tinley Park.

“He’s phenomenal,” Coleman said of Marrs. “I really truly believe that he’d be out there already making a living out of bowling if the PBA was like it used to be. Now it’s a sporadic thing, where they bowl and are off a month, then a couple weeks on, and then off. It used to be a week-to-week thing.”

Coleman sees a difference in his friend after his ordeal that may have made him a better bowler. “It looks like he has more determination,” he said. “It’s almost like he knows he has a second chance and he’s taking full advantage.”

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