Darren and Michael Tang make excellent bowling teammates – the brothers helped lead San Jose St. to the intercollegiate semifinals last season and have the Spartans back in the field of 16 this year.
They make even better competitors, which is what comes most naturally to them, anyway. Each brother wants to be the best (in the family), and their team’s success is a welcome derivative.
“We’re competitive in everything, ever since we’re littler, whether it’s getting the bigger portion of dinner,” Michael Tang said. “It’s everything, basically.”
The brothers competed for the highest average in the country this season before Michael, a sophomore, beat second-place Darren, a senior, by about three pins.
Michael will play in the semifinals of the intercollegiate singles championship Saturday morning at Northrock Lanes, while SJSU begins its quest for the team championship on Thursday at Northrock.
The Spartans lost in the semifinals last year to eventual champion Lindenwood, while Darren reached the second round of the individual tournament.
Darren admits that the younger Michael is a more talented bowler. While Darren was shattering a 200 average during his youth, Michael was earning the label of prodigy with his quick grasp of bowling’s intricacies.
Michael rolled a perfect 300 at age 10, reportedly holding the national record for the youngest to do so in competition before it was bested, he said, about nine months later. Darren was plenty gifted, but perhaps not prodigious.
“As we started, my brother was definitely the more talented one,” Darren said. “I had to work a lot harder to get more out of what I wanted, as opposed to where he would just get things on the fly. He’s like a sponge, I would say. He’s a very quick learner, he absorbs information very quickly and he’s able to translate that into his physical game very fast.
“I’d like to think I’m pretty quick at things, too – moreso than the average person. But I have to work a lot harder at it to be more successful.”
Darren was intent on not letting his brother reach his level, and from there the competition between the brothers grew. Darren has been a more accomplished player, winning more tournaments on their local circuit and generally outplaying Michael at SJSU.
That changed this year. Since Darren isn’t on the other side of the singles bracket, the competition won’t commence this weekend.
Instead, Darren will be behind Michael in the customary coaching position, offering pointers on his brother’s game on which Michael may not have the same intuition.
“There’s some things you can’t necessarily feel or obviously see when you’re throwing the ball, so it definitely helps to have a second pair of eyes,” Darren said.
“Having the person that has practiced with you and bowled with you, competed against you your entire life would, in my opinion, know your game the best. If we’re in that situation, we’d like to have each other help the other.”
Darren said sometimes the sibling rivalry takes precedent over team success and the Spartans are negatively affected. That’s when they tone down the angst and refocus on a bigger picture.
There’s no denying, though, that the brothers bring out the best in each other – and, potentially, the team if the Spartans can win the national championship this weekend.
“We always kind of fed off each other’s victories,” Michael said. “We always strive to be better than one another. We both know that that makes us better players and better people.”
Intercollegiate team championships
At Northrock Lanes
Thursday’s match play
Qualifying Baker matches, 8:45 a.m.
Match play round 1, 4:30 p.m.
Round 2, 6:30
Round 3, 8:15 a.m.
Round 4, 10
Round 5, 1:45 p.m.
Round 6, 3:30
Round 7, 5:45
Round 8, 7:30
Men’s singles semifinals and finals, 9 a.m.
Women’s team finals, 11
Women’s singles semifinals and finals, 3:30 p.m.
Men’s team finals, 5:30