California Bowling Writers

August 9, 2007

USBC's Proposed Training Center May Be A Small Gamble But It Will Do Giant Things For Bowling's Image As A Genuine and Challenging Sport
by Dick Evans

Since its inception, the United States Bowling Congress has been making some bold and sometimes controversial decisions.

Most of its endeavors appear to be centered on reviving women's pro bowling, curtailing scoring and promoting bowling as a sport.

All three items are winners and the USBC should be congratulated for tackling tough challenges.

Now comes a proposal to build an ultra modern eight-lane training center on the grounds of the USBC headquarters in Greendale, Wis.

When I first read the short release I just thought it was another progressive step to hammering home the point that bowling is a sport and the USBC is going to concentrate on that criteria.

Then a week later I received a thought-provoking editorial from Juette Holseth, publisher of the Metro Bowler in Minnesota.

She made some good points about it being a costly endeavor that could be an unwise investment. She estimated that the eight-lane center could cost from $2.1 to $3 million to build. Then she estimated how much it would take to run and her figures made me stop and wonder.

Now my writing buddy Chuck Pezzano will tell you that I am no genius when it comes to math, but with the little I know I think the project could be completed for about a million dollars because the USBC already owns the land and most of the state-of-the-are equipment in the training center probably will be donated by bowling companies for the exposure.

That exposure could be big world wide since I envision many countries sending their national teams to train in the USBC facility. I also envision a lot of college and even high school teams driving into Milwaukee.

And there are probably 50,000 American bowlers right now who buying into the belief that bowling is a tough sport to truly master and would pay $200 a day to improve their averages.

That is proved yearly by coaching clinics all over the country that thrive while offering a lot less than the USBC training facility would have to offer.

I wondered how John Davis, the founder of Kegel and its training center in Lake Wales, Fla., would feel about the USBC competition so I sent him questions via an Email and he answered this way:

“I cannot imaging that the USBC building a training center would hurt Kegel. I see it as assistance to the sport of bowling. The sleeper is awake. Will this venture support itself is not the proper question. Is this necessary for the sport to grow? The answer to this question is YES.”

Every where you look these days in sports you find people and organization setting up camps or building businesses around helping athletes to improve in their particular sport.

Bowling is probably two decades behind the times if it wants to be recognize as a sport.

For example, did you know that they set up camps just to help super football players coming out of college to improve their techniques before showing what they can do in front of pro scouts.

The extra training is costly, but not to train can be even more costly in deciding where you are drafted , which determines how much money you will earn early in your career.

Unfortunately, there is not a whole lot of money to be made in bowling today but there is more than you probably realize and a lot more is out there is bowling truly becomes recognize as a sport and not a recreation.

For example:

International amateur champions in Asia often are treated like royalty.

Europe has a lucrative 12 month bowling tour that is growing in scope and prize funds.

Mega-buck tournaments in America have made rich men out of amateur bowlers who consider bowling as a sport.

The Professional Bowlers Association pays out enough money that its membership continues to grow and regional tournaments thrive.

Even our junior bowlers are making money in the form of college scholarship funds and the yearly figure is staggering.

If you kept close tabs on the junior tournaments that drew talented high school and college players you realize that America’s youth are burning with a desire to improve in a sport that is tougher than its perception

I am not an expert on lane conditioning, but I have interviewed some young bowlers who are enchanted with the five different PBA lane patterns and the USBC’s tougher than ever Sport Leagues.

They no longer want just high scores, they want and demand honest scores and take pride in the fact they are rolling them in a tough sport.

But lets be honest, no one knows what the future holds for bowling.

History tells us you can do one of two things – you can play a pat hand or you can dare to be different and try new things.

I thought the USBC’s female tournament in a Las Vegas shopping mall last summer was a good idea.

I thought the USBC’s reviving of the U.S. Women’s Open was a great idea.

I thought the USBC allowing the PBA to use its U.S. Open scores for a series of female events was a super concept.

I thought the USBC decision to do more testing of balls, pins, lanes, oil was a great idea.

I thought the USBC mandate to stress bowling as a sport was long overdue.

After trying to look at the new training center from both a positive and negative standpoint I have decided it is a good idea.

Of course it could turn into a White Elephant. But you have to try new things if you want to grow.

I remember 20 years ago when I would beg Joe Antenora, then commissioner of the PBA, to do something about inventing new devices for the PBA to use replace the old traditional telescores.

I warned him that the paying public did not want to be able to see only 30 percent of the playing field and that was happening with the new computer scorers.

It was like going to a football game, sitting on the 50 yard line and being able to see what was happening between the 30 yard line.

I said this because each year the Firestone Tournament of Champions would sell out, matter of fact the fire marshalls would stop spectators from entering once so many people had entered.

Most of them were spectators who attended every year. Many would sit on the top of the bleachers and bring their binoculars so they could scan the house and see when some bowler was on a hot strike string. Then they would concentrate on him until he missed or rolled a 300.

In other words, they knew what was going on at all times at Riviera Lanes.

When computer scoring came in, even with their binoculars they could only see what was happening score wise three pair to the right and three pair to the left. The only way they knew something big was happening somewhere else in Riviera Lanes was when fans screamed about a 11th or 12th strike.

But Joe did not want to rock a smooth sailing ship at the time and he did not want to upset the manufacturers or host proprietors so he did nothing.

Slowly, the interest in PBA events across the country started to fade along with the ability to see the bowlers’ strikes and scores on the computer machines.

It even happened at the Showboat Lanes in Las Vegas, which allowed spectators in free.

I don’t believe in playing a pat hand any more than I believe in writing stories that will appease everybody.

I think you have to be ready to adjust to the changing times and dare to be different if the situation demands it.

Not all will work, but not to do anything is guaranteed not to work all the time.

SUBHEAD - USBC and PBA Provide Ignored Female Bowlers A Rare Doubleheader During Women's U.S. Open in Reno Aug. 13-18

It will be interesting to note during the U.S. Open Aug. 13-18 at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno if there have been a changing of the guard from the standpoint of top women bowlers.

When the PWBA disappeared from the horizon in the summer of 2003 Michelle Feldman, Leanne Barrette, Carolyn Dorin-Ballard, Kendra Gaines, Wendy Macpherson, Kim Terrell, Kim Adler, Liz Johnson, Marianne DiRupo, Kelly Kulick and the always tough Tish Johnson were among those in the cat-bird seat.

But things have changed starting with age for all of them plus jobs, marriage, children , motivation and money.

In other words, some have faded from the spotlight but a few like Ballard, MacPherson, Johnson and Kulick have been making a name for themselves by taking on PBA rivals. Macpherson made headlines for herself in a USBC Open tournament and Barrette has remained a factor in USBC Women’s Open tournaments.

A Californian, Missy Bellinder, also has won a PBA regional tournament plus a title on the European tour while going up against male rivals. Cathy Dorin-Lizzi has shown flashes of brilliance on the PBA tour and Ann Marie Duggan is a Hall of Fame bowler. Dede Davidson is always dangerous and remember in previous years the National Bowling Stadium has been friendly to lefthanders in ABC Masters tournaments.

Brenda Mack can’t ever be overlooked if husband Tim Mack is behind her cheering and maybe coaching between sessions.

Cary Honeychurch came over from Australia to win the USBC television tournament from Las Vegas last summer. Fellow Aussie Carol Gianotti-Block also is awesome.

Lynda Barnes has produced outstanding results as both and amateur and has to be considered a threat.

Tennelle Grijalva is another amateur with a hot hand and a solid pro resume even as a pro.

Diandra Asbaty has enjoyed a fantastic 2007 run with wins in the Pan-Am Games, World Ranking Masters a second place in the USBC Queens, which she led until the championship TV game.

There are other outstanding amateurs out there who hungry for some attention and with PBA aspirations like Stefanie Nation, Shannon Pluhowsky and Tammy Boomershire to name only a few.

And how about Robin Romeo, a senior bowler who still has the game and desire from her youth when she was the most stead performer on the PWBA tour.

I happen to believe that there are more than a few hot college players who will hot hands. How they react to the pressure will be the telling decision. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few ‘unknowns’ don’t finish in the top 16.

I hope that the top 16 finishers in the U.S. Open are prepared to pay the $750 to be eligible for the PBA experience that may never come their way again.

I wish that at least 200 bowlers would show up for this once-in-a-life bowling doubleheader but the final number is more likely will total about 125. I hope I am wrong on the low side.

No matter what you do next week, turn on your computer and go to to keep up with the action and find out the names of at least 16 bowlers (there could be a few more if they don’t pay the PBA entry) on nine televised shows in the upcoming weeks starting Sept. 16.