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  • Jim Gavigan

Quality, Innovation, and Legacy Matter

So, I got an interesting text today from a fellow by the name of Chad Robertson. Again this week, something caused me to reflect on some things of my past and understand how it applies to now. The lessons I learned below, I still carry with me now.

Chad and I became friends when I was in my mid 20's and he was in his teens in the mid 1990's. I worked at the bowling center in Bartlett, TN and ran the pro shop there.

I had graduated from engineering school at the University of Memphis, but hadn't landed my first engineering job yet. I loved bowling and loved helping people bowl better and got interested in drilling balls which led to my running of the shop.

I knew this wasn't going to be my forever job, but I wanted to be the best in town at it. I went to seminars, talked to all of the guys in town who drilled balls and picked their brains about what worked for them, etc. I experimented relentlessly with different techniques and tried them on myself and others. The other guys in town were gracious enough to show me many things that they found successful. One man in particular, Tom Whitt at Bill Hardwick's, showed me a technique to make the thumb hole oval using the Gil-Mac drill press (same one I used).

I tried this technique on an old ball I had in the shop for me, but wasn't completely satisfied. So, I went from a 1/16" adjustment to a 1/8" adjustment on the next try and liked how the hole was more oval. I knew I could do less working with the bevel knife, file, and sander, and yet fit someone's thumb closer. This would eliminate hours of manual work over time, and make my work more accurate.

I became known in town for this technique and soon had some of the best bowlers from all over the city coming to me. Many, many people told me that I had drilled the most comfortable ball for them and our business grew, despite me being the "new kid in town."

Now, I find out that there are STILL people, after almost 25 years, using equipment that I drilled for them. Chad also told me that he always instantly recognizes my work, because I was the only one using this ovalling technique in that time.

Now, Chad uses this same technique, along with many others, and is widely regarded as the best at his craft in Memphis. I would bet that I had some influence in that. I must say, that although I rarely bowl anymore, I had Chad punch me out a ball 6 or 7 years ago, and it is more comfortable than any ball I ever drilled myself. He is truly amazing.


1. Quality always matters

2. Innovation and constant improvement is key

3. Leave a legacy, even if what you are doing isn't necessarily your life's work or life's calling

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