10:17 AM

On a Roll: Tennessee Cadet Excels as Champion Bowler

Mission accomplished

5pillarsJust as pilots read gauges and golfers read greens, Gavin Murray reads lanes. 

Lanes are oiled before the start of competition. How bowlers read the patterns the oil paints makes a difference. The patterns provide a road map for where to throw the ball and what kind of ball to use.  

It’s a case of science meets sports. 

“You can’t really tell who’s the better bowler, because every oil pattern is different on the lanes,” Murray said. “Some of us match up better on some of them, and others match up better on other ones.” 

A championship bowler and a cadet chief master sergeant in the Tennessee Wing’s Greeneville Composite Squadron, Murray TNwingsees the patterns well, having rolled his way to an Under-15 U.S. national team championship. Speaking on a recent winter’s afternoon, he was fresh off a pair of wins at a tournament in Chicago. 

But perhaps more difficult than picking up a seven-10 split is navigating the Murray family schedule. Like his siblings, Murray, now 16, is a homeschooler. Three of the four Murray kids bowl and play basketball, and two compete in gymnastics.  

TNgreenevAnd then there’s the travel to bowling tournaments around the nation. 

Add to that, the cadet’s mother, Amanda, is the assistant bowling coach at Milligan University in Elizabethton. 

“It’s nonstop,” Amanda Murray said. “People ask me all the time, ‘When do you sleep?’  

“I tell them, ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead.’” 

Championship form

In keeping with one of Civil Air Patrol’s Five Pillars of Excellence — family — Murray and his family exemplify values, culture, and commitment.  

He’s a third-generation competitive bowler, one who almost grew up at the local bowling lanes. His dad was a member of the U.S. junior national team at 21. 

“What I like best about it is I’m able to bowl with all my friends,” the cadet said. “I’ve met a lot of great kids around the country.  

“So whenever we get to travel around the country to different tournaments, it’s a blast to be able to see them and have a fun time bowling.” 

Murray invests two hours a day in practicing. Even with the hard work, the foundation of his bowling success is forged from friendship and the joy of competition. 

His family’s advice? 

“’Go out there and enjoy yourself. Don’t worry about the outcome,’” he said. 

But the outcome matters when he engages in good-natured competition against his siblings and his dad. 

“We’ve always been trying to compete against each other, to see who’s better,” he said. 

The results though have been fun as well. The Greeneville team captured a national junior team title last fall. 

“What separated us from the other competitors was that we are all great friends,” Murray said. “Our team chemistry was very good, and we all had a great time bowling together.” 

First flight

But even with the fellowship, the youth from Greeneville push each other to excellence.  

Call it iron sharpening iron. 

“That’s one of my favorite parts of it, that they encourage each other and push each other along the way,” Amanda Murray said. 

gmurrayqHer son’s victories have meant scholarship money. The program is overseen by the U.S. Bowling Congress, the Olympic governing body for the sport. Murray has won some $25,000 in scholarships so far. 

Just as oil patterns affect his bowling, the sport has impacted his Civil Air Patrol career, which began when he joined the Greeneville squadron in August 2022. Just as he reads lanes to make calculations, pilots do the same in the cockpit. 

“The competitiveness in bowling definitely helped a lot in my career in CAP,” said Murray, an aspiring commercial pilot. “I’ve always wanted to catch the other cadets in CAP who started before me. 

“I’ve always wanted to catch up to them and become an officer.” 

“We’ve gone anywhere we can find to get him extra training for Civil Air Patrol because it’s such a great program,” Amanda Murray said. “We also feel the training he’s getting through CAP is affecting his bowling career as well, giving him new leadership abilities, different ways to see things, and different ways to handle different situations. We’re seeing improvement on both sides.” 

CAP has also impacted his life generally, his mom says: “He’s more confident in everything he does since his involvement in Civil Air Patrol.” 

And while the aviation aspect is important, she said, CAP offers something more. 

“More so for me it was the leadership abilities,” she said. “If down the road, something happens and he loses his ability to fly, he’ll always have those leadership skills in his back pocket.  

Title trophies

“That’s why we chose Civil Air Patrol, for the leadership aspect of things.” 

Grounding it all is a keen sense of family — from his bowling and basketball teams to his CAP squadron, to church, and to his family. 

“My family is my most important thing and all the teams I’ve been on in all the different sports,” Murray said. 

He has also competed in baseball and cross country — “you can’t go on in sports and you can’t go on in life without a supportive family.” 

And in his family, Amanda Murray said, he has been her “right-hand man.” 

“Outside of my husband, he is my helper, the one I rely on more than the rest them, simply because he is so skilled at everything,” she said. “Basically, everything he touches is gold to him.” 

Not only does Murray win at bowling. He excels as a baker, his mother said, cooking up “really phenomenal” gluten-free brownies. 

“The brownies he makes, people cry over them, they’re so good,” Amanda Murray said. “I would probably weigh 300 pounds if I ate everything he make.” 

Asked to evaluate her son’s talent through her collegiate coaching lens, Amanda Murray sees a strong work ethic, sheer raw talent, strong coaches, and a gift few possess. Even at 10 or 11, Murray was winning every competition he entered, regularly beating bowlers twice his age. 

“Honestly, he has more raw talent in his pinky finger than most of these people have had that have worked their lives to have,” his mother said.  

“Seeing and reading a lane pattern is make or break for you. A lot of people have to really, really work at it to read ball motion, to see ball motion, to understand how the ball is playing on a lane and he just gets it. …  

“And he does it without much thought. Few people can see what he can see.” 

What his mom sees in Murray is character and a drive to excel. 

“He’s just determined that anything he wants to be good at, he works at it and makes sure he is,” she said. “Our family is very determined to be excellent at everything we do. … It’s at the core of everything we do.  

“Gavin embodies that.” 
Paul South
Contributing Writer

In advance of this year’s Summer Olympic Games, Civil Air Patrol is focusing on its elite athletes who exemplify CAP’s Five Pillars of Strength and Resilience. Each of the cadets featured in this series compete at the top level of their sports. Today the focus is on Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Gavin Murray — a member of the victorious Under-15 team at the 2023 USA Bowling National Championships.