Bermuda bowling mourn the loss of Commonwealth Games medal-winner Antoine Jones
Bermuda bowling is mourning the loss of one of its greatest ambassadors.
Antoine Jones, who served the sport in various capacities, died on December 26 at age 59 after a long battle with cancer.
His career began at age 14 bowling in the junior ranks at Warwick Lanes.
He gradually progressed to the senior ranks and at age 23, made his debut for Bermuda at the Lee Evans Tournament of the Americas in Miami, Florida, where he helped the island finish fourth in the doubles competition.
His first taste of international success came as a member of Bermuda’s team that won the 1986 National Bowling Association (NBA) Team Championships in New Jersey.
The highlight of Jones’s career also occurred while representing Bermuda at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where he and compatriot Conrad Lister, won the silver medal in the doubles competition.
“Even though we were bowling doubles, he was a cut above the rest,” Lister told The Royal Gazette. “Even though I was bowling decent in order for us to win the medal, it was his leadership that pulled us through.
“Not only was he a good player, but he was also the one that would always pull the team together or pass on his knowledge with those he bowled with. No matter the task, it was never too difficult for him.”
Lister also described his late colleague as a “humble giant”.
“Antoine had the biggest of hearts but if you came up short he would also let you know,” he added. “He wasn’t afraid to express himself.
“He also had a Godly way about himself in the sense that he gave of himself more than anything else.”
Jones also represented Bermuda at the International Bowling Federation American Zone Championships and World Championships, as well as the World Team Challenge Cup.
“The island and bowling family lost a great man and I lost a buddy for more than two and a half decades,” Tim Mack, the United States bowler and former Bermuda coach, said. “Thoughts and prayers to Bobbie (wife) and family.”
Jones also achieved considerable success competing domestically throughout a distinguished career spanning decades.
He won the 1996 Southern Regional Professional Bowlers Tour competition and placed first in the men’s singles scratch event in the Annual Rendezvous Tournament in 2002.
Bowling two perfect games, one of which was unsanctioned, was also among the career highlights for Jones, who had a high series of 793 and a high average of 218.
Lister said one of the keys to his late colleague’s success was his ability to “read the lanes”.
“In competitive bowling they oil the lanes a certain way and you have to be able to understand the lane pattern, and he was one of those guys who can read the lanes in a heartbeat,” Lister added. “He was a grandmaster.”
Jones also made a huge contribution mentoring others and coaching various national men’s and women’s teams.
“Everyone involved in bowling had some type of coaching, encouragement or support from Antoine,” said fellow bowler Steven Riley. “He was like a mentor, a brother and always the person who would give you the shirt off his back.
“He was just involved in bowling in so many capacities; whether coaching or working at the bowling alley, which was his full time job.
“Working with the national teams; everyone member, men, women, junior, senior always had advice from Antoine on how to improve their bowling skills. He was just a natural leader.”
David Maycock is among the many Jones helped groom.
“Antoine Jones has always been there for us guys,” he said. “He’s always been a mentor to me and helped me with my game from a junior.
”All through our years coming up we used to be at the bowling alley and he would be there coaching us.“
Among the highlights of Jones’s coaching tenure was coaching the island’s team of Rickai Binns, Damien Matthews and Maycock to the silver medal in the trios competition at the 2018 Central American and Caribbean Games in Cali, Colombia.
“Antoine was happy to see us get the medal,” Maycock added. “He always told the world how good the Bermuda national bowling team was but just needed to get the exposure. Antoine always wanted the best for the national team, even bowling period.”
Jones also worked as a mechanic on the AMF machines at Warwick Lanes and at the time of his death was the facility’s general manager.
“He was a first class mechanic,” Lister said. “He was very good in that capacity.”
Jones was forced to retire from bowling two years ago because of illness but continued assisting others despite his condition.
“He still helped people with their bowling as he strongly believed that you should put back into the sport which has given you so much pleasure,” said Jones’s wife, Bobbie.
Jones’s death has had a major impact on local bowling.
“He was the ‘Mr Bowling’ of Bermuda and his loss is tremendous,” Riley said. “It’s a gigantic loss to all of the bowling community in Bermuda.”
Maycock added: “It’s unfortunate he has passed away.
“It’s just a sad day and it’s not going to be the same without him down the bowling alley.”