By the time he stepped up to bowl his final frame, François Lavoie already knew he'd won.
The 28-year-old professional bowler, originally from Quebec City, was the winner of the inaugural Guaranteed Rate PBA Super Slam in Annandale, Va. last weekend, earning him $100,000 US.
But it was his penultimate ninth frame that sealed his victory, Lavoie said.
"The last frame was kind of a formality," explained Lavoie, who beat his opponent 247-202.
"It was definitely some tough competition, and it feels great to have come out on top," he said.
Still, Lavoie said he breathed a sigh of relief and threw his hands in the air when the game was officially won.
"We're chasing that winning feeling, but winning itself only happens in a split second," he said.
The Super Slam was organized by the Professional Bowlers Association, the largest league of its kind in North America, and it brought together winners from the sport's five other major championships.
Lavoie earned his spot when he won the Tournament of Champions in February and said he's been feeling solid in his game for the last little while.
"I was coming in with a lot of confidence," he said. Lavoir said that he may not be as powerful as other athletes but he makes up for it by excelling at precision and accuracy
Lavoie has been bowling since he was a toddler.
He told Breakaway his father, a bowler himself, would take him to the bowling alley and open up a lane for him while he competed in different leagues.
Lavoie grew up competing in yearly provincial tournaments. The first one he remembers required him to travel to Val-d'Or, in the Abitibi, as a child.
But he said he never imagined he'd go pro until he took part in the World Youth Championship in Finland in 2010.
"That was my first high level competition experience," he said of his bronze medal win. "That really sparked everything for me."
"From that point on, I really dedicated myself to pursuing this career."
In 2011, Lavoie moved to Wichita, Kan., to study business administration at Wichita State University, which has one of the most successful bowling programs in the U.S.
Lavoie says he didn't think staying in Canada, where bowling is not as popular, could lead him to his goals.
"I always had this dream of being a professional bowler," he said.
Lavoie — who's bowled a perfect 300 a few dozen times over the course of his career — said he feels like there's been a "real upswing" in the sport's popularity in recent years, but that it's been slowed down by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He explained changes in ownership of both the PBA and the tournament broadcaster have also meant more money for winning athletes.
"I think it's a good time for bowling," he said.
This weekend, Lavoie will compete in the playoffs, which he said he hopes will be the cherry on top of a great season.
"Short term, that would be the greatest thing I could think of," he said.
In the long term, Lavoie said he hopes to bowl professionally for as long as he can.
"It's been a good ride so far, and hopefully I can keep doing it for a long time to come," he said.