Western High junior Antonio Garrido was just eight years old when his mother, Darlene, died of liver disease.
“Losing her at such a young age, there are only so many memories I can go off of,” said Garrido, 16. “But I take the good that I do know about her, and I try to get information from my family about what she was like before I was even born.
“She was from Boston and an avid sports fan. I root for all the Boston teams to be closer to my mom. … I know she could whistle, and it was loud and distinct. I know if she were here now she would be my No. 1 supporter.”
Darlene would have a lot to be proud of in her son, who was named the Miami Herald’s Bowler of the Year for 2018. Garrido rolled a high game of 269 last year, with a 212 average, and he’s also an excellent student with a 3.95 GPA (4.9 weighted).
But perhaps the most compelling part of Garrido’s bowling career is how he essentially started the program at Western.
As a freshman at a school with no bowling program, the 5-10, 185-pound Garrido played football, lining up as the starting center on an undefeated junior varsity.
But, still harboring his bowling dream, Garrido went to the FHSAA website and got himself educated about to how to start the program. He then met with and emailed Western athletic director Jermaine Hollis so many times that his desire to start a bowling program became a running joke.
“I would see him in the halls,” Garrido recalls, “and he would say, ‘Yea, yea, yea, I’m working on it.’”
Hollis said he loved Garrido’s passion.
“He was very persistent,” Hollis said. “He had energy and enthusiasm, and he got the ball rolling.”
Once Garrido got the OK from Hollis, he went to his computer and printed out flyers, asking for his classmates to join him on this inaugural bowling team.
“I put the Western Wildcats logo and a picture of a bowling ball hitting pins,” Garrido said. “I listed some bullet points — joining the team looks good on college applications; it’s a non-contact sport; and you could make history by being on Western’s first bowling team.”
Garrido passed out flyers and posted the information on social media, and, to his surprise, 20 schoolmates came out for the team, including eight girls. Garrido also volunteered his own father, Thomas, to coach the team, even though he had no background in bowling at the time.
“My son knows a lot more about bowling than I do,” said Thomas Garrido, who teaches aviation maintenance at Broward College. “I’m the figurehead, the advisor.”
Since being volunteered by his son, Thomas Garrido has since gone through the training to get himself certified as a bowling coach.
Meanwhile, Antonio Garrido has helped three of his friends go through the same process to start bowling programs at Broward schools Nova, McArthur and South Plantation.
“I’m more about progressing the sport of bowling than trying to make myself better than anybody,” Garrido said. “There’s a family feeling in bowling that’s different from other sports, even with bowlers on other teams.”
Garrido, whose dream is to study mathematics at the University of Minnesota, has come a long way since his maternal aunt, Sheri Hampshire, got him started bowling when he was four.
At that point in time, he didn’t even put his fingers in the bowling ball, instead just shoving it down the lane.
Just a few years later, however, he was already winning bowling trophies, defeating older kids.
Five years ago, Garrido started working with Butch Brown, a 75-year-old coach and former professional bowler.
“He’s got exceptional talent,” Brown said of Garrido. “He loves the pressure. He loves to compete. He needs to learn to control not getting mad at himself when he doesn’t bowl up to his capability.
“But I think he will go far in this game.”
▪ District tournaments: Oct. 28-29 (various sites)
▪ State championships: Nov. 6-7 at Boardwalk Bowl in Orlando
DEFENDING STATE CHAMPS
▪ Boys: Oviedo
▪ Girls: Coral Springs Charter
Coral Springs Charter returns two first-team All-Broward bowlers who helped the 2018 Panthers win the first state bowling title ever for any Broward County school. Those two returners are eighth-grader Katarina Hagler, the reigning Broward County Bowler of the Year, and senior Larkin Kramer.