Yesterday Tommy Jones discussed last season's struggles and why he will return to the Professional Bowlers Association spotlight in 2009-'10. Today, Jones goes farther back to the days when he spent Saturdays dreaming of the glory that his idols Marshall Holman and Mark Roth owned when he was growing up, explains how he developed his high-rev style, why the mantra "straight is great" continues to hold true in the era of the "rev rate," and much more.
How did you develop your exciting, high rev-rate style?TJ: I grew up watching Roth and Holman and it was just something I always wanted to do. So I would go bowl on Saturday mornings, then I would watch the show, and then I would be back at the bowling alley that afternoon.
Many bowlers are aware of the mantra "straight is great," and yet at the same time today's game is characterized by guys with 600 RPMs who are able to create more area than straighter players - do you think that the adage "straighter is greater" still holds up in 2009?TJ: It will. It may not as much the first swing bowling in match play because the lanes will break down they only have to make match play and they can manipulate the lanes a little bit. But when it comes back to the total pins tournaments and the long formats those guys will have to learn how to throw it straighter I mean last year you did see Belmo win a long-format tournament but you also saw him throwing a plastic ball on the short-pattern lane to throw it straight. Those guys are going to have to learn to throw it straighter. They're going to have to figure out a way to get their ball to tame down in the backend. I had to do it and my rev rates not nearly as high as those guys. I mean, watching what Belmo's ball did on some of the shorter patterns last year, I mean he is by far the best two-handed guy there is, he's got a lot more tricks but he's still got a lot of things to learn to be the best week in and week out on tour I do think he is going to make it without any problem but he is not going to come out and be a top ten guy right away.
What tricks do you use to straighten out your ball reaction?TJ: Well I learn how to use different tilts. Del explained to me a lot my first year on tour that you can't throw it the same way every week. I don't even know what normal is anymore we're always trying to roll it a different way and nobody is better at that than Norm and Barnes. They're the best at it.
What do you think was the hardest lesson you had to learn in your rookie season on tour?TJ: That I wasn't nearly as good as I thought I was. Those guys are really good and after my first few weeks being on tour I am looking around thinking man these guys are really good and I still do that it still happens these guys are the best in the world for a reason and you sit around and watch you get caught up in being a fan sometimes too.
What did it take for you to elevate your game to the point where you knew you could compete with them.TJ: For me the year before I won I bowled really good I tied for the most match plays that year and I knew week in and week out I had a chance to win I hadn't won yet but I had a chance to win every week I was in match play I was one good break away from making 5 or 6 or 7 shows that year and then the next year that happened and I broke through and ever since then I've been able to compete out there.
You bought a new house within the past couple of years and you have a child now, right?TJ: I do. I have a three-and-a-half year-old but she thinks she's 15.
When you're doing something for a living in which there are absolutely no guarantees, and you either win and pay the bills or you lose and you don't, is it stressful to commit to things like a mortgage when you know that outside of any incentives and an exempt minimum check each week during the season, there is no guarantee of income as a pro bowler?TJ: I have been very fortunate not to have to worry about that as much because I have been with ebonite a long time and we have a great relationship so I have not really had to endure that. I do think it would be very hard if I knew that whether or not I threw a strike would determine whether I could pay my mortgage. But at the same time I never bowled a tournament on tour when there was a trophy involved even a regional where the money is what mattered it's always about that trophy when you get to a show you're never thinking about the money. The only time I ever thought about the money was bowling those motel 6 things it was just $200,000 winner take all and it was the only time I have ever been scared to death to throw a ball. That was a very different experience I was on a high I had been bowling well the previous two years so my confidence as high, but that first shot when we got to the finals man it was hard, my heart was pounding and it was just different. It wasn't about a trophy it was all about the money at that point.
What are your expectations for this season?TJ: To get back on track. Even though I bowled terrible last year I still ended up 11th in the points. That was the first time I had been out of the top ten since my second year on tour. So obviously getting back into the top ten but I really want to be in the top 5 I feel like that's where I belong but there's a lot of guys out there who feel that way too so I am just going to do a lot of work and work with the ball reps from ebonite that will come out and help us with some layouts and stuff like that. I'll get some practice in and just try to right the ship.
Lastly, Tommy, what are your thoughts on being a member of Team USA?TJ: Team USA is a blast. It's something I have always wanted to do since I was 16. to bowl for your country is completely different than bowling for money, and there is nothing like standing up on that podium while the national anthem is playing for you, especially with the guys I got to do it with?guys like Walter Ray and Chris Barnes who I think is the greatest bowler I'll ever see. He may not have figured out how to win on TV yet but it's coming and when he does we're going to have our tiger. He is by far the best on tour. He can do everything he wants to with a bowling ball. He is a good friend of mine and I have gotten to know him over the past few years and I have the utmost respect for him and his game. He gets caught up in it sometimes because he can do too much, but if he can just bowl and not think too much, we'll never beat him.
*Courtesy of bowl.com