History took a line toward the strike pocket at the Montana Men’s State Bowling Championships tournament. Capped, resumed or nevertheless continued, the splashing of the Butte Martinich name again found the rolls. Two Great Falls bowling centers, Little’s Lanes and the Pin ‘N Cue, housed the 2006 tournament, where Mike Martinich knocked 1,918 pins in singles, doubles and team competitions to capture the scratch all-events championship.
The accomplishment marked the third generation of Martiniches winning a state bowling title. The lineage goes back 90 years — to 1916 — in the Martinich family history of involvement in the sport. The championships all came in the top competitive category, which is Division A.
Martinich’s grandfather, Matthew “Smoke” Martinich, snared team event and all-events crowns in 1945, and his 290 game in the 1932 tournament was the highest game shot at state the first 18 years the tourney existed. Smoke Martinich died at age 94 in 2002 and was recognized for his achievements in 1978 with his election to the Montana State Bowling Hall of Fame.
Frank Martinich, Smoke’s son and Mike’s dad, took it a step further by winning three state titles. He captured the doubles championship with the late Steve Ryan in 1961 and 1962, and was the state singles champion in 1972. One of the premier bowlers in the state in the 1960s and ’70s, Frank Martinich shared the house record game of 290 at Star Lanes for many years until Mark Hodges rolled his first 300 at Star Lanes in 1983.
Frank Martinich now co-manages Star Lanes and rolls in the Butte’s only men’s scratch (no handicap) league, the Straightaway, at Star Lanes. He still averages in the 190s while bowling against some of Butte’s best. He was inducted into the state bowling Hall of Fame in 1986.
The very likeable Mike Martinich, 46, has also had quite an impressive bowling career. He has bowled 300 and 299 games and has won five city titles, winning three team events and two doubles championships. One of the doubles crowns was won with his brother Ray, who now lives in Great Falls, and the other with another brother, Dave, who ranks among Butte’s top bowlers at the current time. Mike Martinich averaged 209 for the 2005-06 season and has a career high series of 756.
The entire Martinich family was honored as Montana’s bowling family of the year in 1998 by the state association. The award is given annually to a Montana family for longevity and accomplishments over a period of more than one generation as bowling participation.
Another batch of Martiniches, too, may continue the family tradition of winning state titles. Dave Jr., Joe and Brad Martinich are all in their 20s and have many years ahead of them in which to try to add a fourth-generation title to the family bowling collection.