Sure, you think you know Steve Mackie.
This 72-year-old Aussie gentleman is the proprietor at Tenpins & More on Deborah Road here in the City of Vision.
A prostate-cancer survivor, he often greets his acquaintances with a cheerful, “Good day, mate.”
Longtime residents know his bowling center has been here quite awhile: “(It) opened as Ranchero Bowl July 31, 1983; was re-named Ideal Lanes and Fun Lanes under different owners — six between 1983 and when we purchased it in December of 1999,” he reported to the Observer.
Once upon a time in Australia…
Mackie is also a superb promoter — and once a successful hustler — of his favorite sport, bowling, which he knew as “tenpins” while growing up in Australia, and does what he can to draw local and national (he contributes to The Bowling News weekly newspaper) attention to what’s happening at his center, especially when it gets close to the 17th New Mexico Open — coming up later this month and culminating in the championship on Aug. 22.
Mackie’s got a lot of entertaining stories from his youth in Sydney, not far from the Pacific Ocean, as the son of an alcoholic father and, fortunately, the younger brother of a boy who discovered bowling — er, tenpins — before him.
“My brother was disappearing at night,” Mackie recalled of his brother, 12 years older, in about 1962. “(And) I’d seen a couple bowling themes on TV … in 1960. And I think I heard there was a bowling alley about 30 miles from me, the first in Australia.
“I was 12; he was 24. I said to Mum, ‘What’s Dave doing at night? Has he got a girlfriend or something?’
“No, he’s bowling up at St. Leonards. It was right by the main highway,” he said, knowing he passed that site while riding the school bus.
“He took me along. The place was absolutely jam-packed,” he said. “We waited five hours — 8 o’clock at night, we got to the place. I got on the lane at 1 a.m. Lane 2. I shot 59 my first game, 76 my second game.
“It took me six months to break a hundred,” he said. “At school, I was a swimmer, I was a diver. I played cricket; I was a batsman in cricket. I played Rugby Union football. I was a fairly quick runner when I was young — I used to think the devil was chasing me; I’d win a lot of 50-yard dashes. (And) I lived on the beach from the time I was 6 to 24.
“I got good pretty quick,” Mackie said of his tenpins prowess. “I thought, bowling is a game of accuracy, and I’m fairly accurate. I’m a bit of a perfectionist that way,” he said. “I get fairly good quickly; when I (started at) 12, 12 1/2, by the time I was 15 I got interviewed in a bowling paper down there. I said, ‘By the time I’m 18, I want to be the Australian champion,’ and the manager of this bowling center, St. Leonards, said, ‘If anyone can come and bowl this 15-year-old kid at our place and beat him, and get into a tournament final, the winner will get 50 pounds.’ That was a week’s wages at the time.
“I bowled 21 matches or something; I lost two of them, bowling against adults (in a six-month stretch). They ended up not running the tournament because no one, hardly anyone, beat me.” (He wound up running the 32-lane St. Leonards center.)
And so began what has become more than a half-century in the sport.
Mackie’s first perfect game came when he was only 15.
Then, “I won the Australian Masters at 18 and I won the National All-Stars at 18, so in the space of six months, I won two national titles at 18, and I was declared the Bowler of the Year. I won that four times,” he said, still having copies of the press clippings. “It was kind of an honor to be named that.”
As we read so many times, the stars started to align for young Mackie, who completed high school but got no further. No great loss.
“At the same time, (American pro bowler) Dick Weber came out to Australia as an AMF star player. He’d gone to Vietnam and bowled at bases there for the troops, and then they brought him down to Australia for a Dick Weber tournament.
“I’d won that Australian Masters tournament in October ‘67 (as the youngest to accomplish that and the first to do so from the losers’ bracket). I bowled against Dick Weber in July of ‘67 and I beat him, 181-174. He had the highest average in the tournament, but in match play, you get two points for a win … I got 14 points (in the 8-player event) and he got 12. So he said, ‘Kid, if you ever come to America, come stay with me.’”
“The tournament that I won in October got me trip around the world. I was away for six weeks, and bowled in the World Cup in Paris, (at a) center I supervised 32 years later. It was in my region,” Mackie recalled. “After Paris, I go back to London, New York and St. Louis, where Dick Weber lived; I stayed in his basement.
“He drilled me a ball in the afternoon. I practiced with it,” he continued, and then, with a new American Bowling Congress membership, began as a sub.
“We were bowling him; I bowled 277, and he had 205. He said, ‘You want to bowl me $5 for the set?’ I said, ‘I’m 72 pins ahead; do I have to spot you any pins?’ He said, ‘No, I’ll run you down.’ He did. So that was a good experience.”
Verifying Mackie’s memory, as recounted by another clipping from the time: “The big tournaments fell to the red-headed terror of the lanes in quick succession: the National All Star, the Philippine Airlines Invitational, the South Pacific Classic, the Australian Open, the Melbourne Cup, the Sydney Tenpin Cup (originated by Mackie) and the Ardath Cup (his last major win, which came in 1977).”
Later, in an undated clipping of a story ranking Australia’s 10 best male and female bowlers, Mackie ranked at the top, noted that “his will to win was his greatest asset, and every pin always counted.”
It seems, according to other clippings, Mackie wanted to win by as many pins as possible — basically obliterating his opponents — and he often did.
He became arguably their most-innovative bowling center manager in the industry and also spent time in a national promotions post (1980-98) with AMF, credited for generating media coverage for the sport — as evidenced by how he promotes Tenpins & More — and establishing the Australian Bowling Writers Association.
It’s hard to sit still for someone so busy: “I’ve traveled 4 million air miles since 1963,” Mackie said.
In January 1991, Mackie came to America to stay, by then teaming with Weber, who passed away in February 2005, on TV telecasts. (By the way, according to Sports Illustrated, “Bowling was once the most popular televised sport in America,” with a television deal on ABC that lasted from 1962 to ‘97.)
Found his wife because she was a lefty
Mackie’s wife, Dana Miller-Mackie — enshrined in seven (!) halls of fame, including the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame — didn’t care much for her future husband at first.
But, then again, Mackie’s interest in the Sandia High School graduate and UNM alum was literally only because she was a southpaw.
Back in 1986, Mackie was charged with organizing a Yankees vs. Aussies women’s bowling tournament down under, to be called the International Challenge Cup, bankrolled by $50,000 from Coca-Cola.
After visiting a women’s pro tournament in Rockford, Ill., that October to scout female talent for the event, he realized he had a potential roster of all right-handed bowlers and wanted at least one lefty — “Either Aleta Sill or that Dana Miller,” he said, hearing Miller had skipped the Rockford event.
“I’d never seen her before. I’d seen her name in the bowling magazine,” he recalled, “but I didn’t know her from a hole in the wall. She’d won a couple tournaments … First time I met Dana was when she got off the plane. So that was a highlight.”
As it turned out, he became romantically interested in her, but it wasn’t mutual because she was spiritual and he — at the time, anyway — wasn’t.
“Dana didn’t care for me too much,” he recalled.
Long story short: He became “born again” and the two became engaged and then wed at the tail end of 1988.
“She sent me a book and I read it. It was called ‘Maximized Manhood.’ It was 178 pages … and there’s prayer at the end of the book. (The author) convinced me I needed salvation.”
Ultimately convinced, he found salvation and a wife.
Many times during the Observer’s recent visit with Mackie in his office, he’d remark, “This is a good story,” and it usually was. But many of those will have to wait till he pens his autobiography.
Lastly, never bet Mackie that he can’t convert a 5-7 split.
More on Mackie:
• At the age of 14, he once bowled three hundred games in one week, all while practicing. “I was really a dedicated practicer,” he says now.
• “I drilled 5,000 bowling balls at a 52-lane center in Sydney.”
• “I never drove a car till I was 26; you didn’t need a car in Sydney.”
• He was nicknamed “Mr. Bowling” — after previously touted as “Redman,” after AMF presented him with its 1982 Distinguished Performance Award.
• He rolled the last 300 in 1998 at long-gone Fiesta Lanes, on the northeast corner of Menaul and San Pedro NE, in Albuquerque.
• He bowls in two leagues now, both three-man leagues, on Mondays and Wednesdays, down from at least eight games weekly before the pandemic. “I’ve got arthritis creeping up on me,” he says.
• He’s bowled 37 perfect games — on three continents, although just a dozen are sanctioned.
• In 1987, Mackie was inducted into the Australian Bowling Congress Hall of Fame.
• Tenpins & More has the heaviest AMF pins in the state, at 3 pounds, 8-9 ounces. They replace his 3-pound, 6-ounce pins he’d bought in 2006, which were falling apart.
• Despite his myriad success on the lanes, he’s never won more than $2,000 in any event. The winner of this month’s New Mexico Open will pocket $10,500.
In other recent news from the lanes:
• Tenpins & More has been awarded the 2021 Women’s City tournament. The 71st edition will be held the weekend of Sept. 11-12.
• Meanwhile, teams and individual bowlers are signing up for the new fall league season at centers around the state. At Tenpins & More, there are 20 leagues to choose from.