2022 PBA Tournament of Champions

Francois Lavoie Relies On Accuracy, Strategy To Power His Way To Top

Francois Lavoie Relies On Accuracy, Strategy To Power His Way To Top

Francois Lavoie talks about his ability to use accuracy and strategy to find success as he enters the 2022 PBA Tournament of Champions as defending champ.

Feb 15, 2022 by Jill Winters
Francois Lavoie Relies On Accuracy, Strategy To Power His Way To Top

Francois Lavoie’s game is as smooth as his demeanor. Every time he steps on a bowling lane he is laser focused on his execution while strategizing how he can use all of the skills in his toolset to beat his competition.

Lavoie is ready to put his strategy to the test while defending his title at the 2022 PBA Tournament of Champions as it returns to AMF Riviera Lanes in Fairlawn, Ohio, next week. He aims to ride his major championship success as the first of three qualifying rounds begins at 5:30 p.m. Eastern on Feb. 22 live on FloBowling.

He earned his way into last year’s PBA Tournament of Champions stepladder finals after winning a one-game roll-off against Tom Smallwood. He followed that up in impressive fashion as he climbed the ladder. As the No. 5 seed, the righty defeated Sean Rash, Jesper Svensson, Jason Belmonte and Anthony Simonsen, to win his third career major.

“The TV show was really special,” he said. “It is not every day you get the chance to beat four future Hall of Famers on the way to a major win.”   

The righty has always enjoyed competing in tournaments with longer formats. He likes to be over prepared and learns something from every block.

Heading into the 2021 TOC, he dedicated a lot of time to really having a purpose while practicing. He turned his focus to ways he could bowl better while battling the daunting task of competing against players with higher rev rates and everybody else on tour. And he was thrilled with how that hard work paid off.

“It was nice to be able to see I could do it when it didn’t feel like a shot-makers pattern or a pattern that would suit me personally,” he said. “I just have to be creative and find other ways to get it done.”

How it started

Lavoie’s bowling career began in Quebec City. At age 16, he made youth Team Canada and everything kept going up from there.

That was really kind of what started it all for me,” he recalled. “I went to the World Youth Championships in Finland in 2010. I got the bug for that environment and competing at a high level.”

He earned a bronze medal at his first World Youth Championships in 2010 and “that really kick started everything then we got in contact with Wichita State.”

Two years later, he was bowling for the Shockers, one of the top collegiate programs in the country. While at college, he learned about actual lane play, the importance of a strong mental game and the physical side to bowling.

He won the 2014 Intercollegiate Singles Championships and the 2015 Intercollegiate Team Championships. He also has a gold medal in trios at the 2013 World Bowling Championships and a gold medal in doubles at the 2015 Pan Am Games.

After graduating, it was time to make a big decision. Get a job and bowl on weekends or try to bowl full-time. For him, the decision was pretty easy, but he also gave himself some parameters.

“I decided to do this for two or three years, and if it’s not a sustainable way to do things, I will try to find something else,” he said. “But I was fortunate to have a good start to my career.”

The Canadian burst onto the scene in 2016, entering 17 events, while cashing in 11. He won the PBA Shark Championship then put his name in the record books after winning the 2016 U.S. Open. He was also awarded the title of 2016 Harry Golden Rookie of the Year and Southwest Region Rookie of the Year.

Accuracy over power

After just a couple of years on tour, Lavoie admits he hit a “low point” in 2019. That season he cashed in less than half of the tournaments he entered, which resulted in thoughts to do something different.

He tried to change his game and play the lanes like everyone else but concluded that wasn’t going to work. He needed to stay true to himself putting an emphasis on his accuracy and shot repeatability.

“It has been a lot about developing different strategies and the tools that I practice – different speeds, different releases – to get my ball to do different things,” the 28-year-old said. “Obviously, it has worked out the last couple of years and I am just hoping to stand up for the accuracy over power.”

The four-time member of adult Team Canada believes there is so much more to this game than creating power. Bowlers must be in tune with their game, have a solid game plan to help make moves when needed, while also knowing their equipment. He said he tends to give his Storm ball reps a hard time during tournaments because he wants to always be focused on these aspects.

His attention to strategy and ability to make the necessary adjustments when the lanes transition so quickly is important. His mental game allows him to be in the right state of mind so he can capitalize on his shot-making ability. He controls everything he can while on the approach, and once he lets go of his ball, he objectively watches what happens. These are all things he does that he feels sets him apart from other bowlers.

“You are really analyzing the patterns and thinking one to two steps ahead of what is going to happen,” the three-time major champion said. “I never want to be caught flat-footed and not prepared for something.

“It is really hard to beat the best bowlers in the world if you are trying to play your B-game, your C-game or your D-game,” he said. “It is all about finding ways to make what you do work. What I lack in power I try to make up for in my accuracy, in my strategies, and also, in my mental game.”

Defending his title at the TOC

He knows the challenge in front of him will once again be grueling. With only one oil pattern to think about – PBA Don Johnson 40 – it’s still going to be a marathon more than a sprint, which is typically a situation he thrives in.

After 12 games of qualifying, the top 24 will bowl 24 games of match play to determine the top five players who will compete in the stepladder finals to be broadcast live at 1 p.m. Feb. 27 on FOX (U.S.) and FloBowling (international). You can watch all qualifying and match play rounds on FloBowling.

Lavoie hasn’t had much success at AMF Riviera Lanes, but he is ready to test what he learned from his past experiences while utilizing the changes he has made to his game to see how that will match-up to the center this time around.

“We talk about how historic the place is, well that brings with it some challenges like the lane surface hooks a little bit more, so the high rev players tend to get left quicker,” he said about the lane topography. “It is all about strategy and managing how I want to play the lanes versus how the rest of the field with high rev rates play the lanes.”

With a sold-out crowd of bowling fans ready to fill up the center, Lavoie is excited to compete in front of them. And if things go really well, he is “looking forward to making a potential run at the show and defending the title.”

Don’t let his reserved demeanor fool you, this Canadian is a threat and he is motivated to keep adding on to his already impressive bowling accolades.

"I have enjoyed some good successes so far in my career, but I am always looking for more and I am hungry to go out there,” he said “There is definitely a lot of history in that center and it is really special as someone who used to watch the PBA on TV when I was a kid, and now I am living my dream and I’m following the footsteps of those people.”