Bowl Opinion - June 2017
By Jim Goodwin
Don't Forget The GBT
Gosh – it is hard to believe that CJ and I have been doing Stars & Strikes for more than a quarter century. That means I have written more than 300 Bowl O Pinion editorials. Actually, it was sim- ply called “Viewpoints” for many years until our dear friend Walt Steinsiek suggested the new name, and it stuck.
Here we go again:
A decade ago, bowling witnessed the conclusion of a new senior bowling tour called the Generations Pro Bowling Tour. It was owned by promoter Steve Sanders and it ran in 17 cities from September
2006 through April 2007. CJ and I were proud to be part the tour staff that included our friends Frank Ellenburg, Rick Hudson, Larry Lichstein, Dave and Rose Buschman, Lee Rautenberg, and many others.
For senior bowlers, age 50 or better, those years were the best they have ever had since the PBA started a senior tour. It was the first and only time that they had two tours to bowl on, and some who bowled in both had a record year in earn- ings. And even though it lasted only one season, the GBT was good for bowling.
Sanders talked about launching the GBT for two or three years before he actually got it off the drawing board. In hindsight, that delay may have been the biggest factor in its demise. At the time, Sanders’ Pinacle Events was rolling in high cotton. His Mini Eliminator Tournament was going great, and he had run some very successful one off senior events like the Senior U.S. Open and two Brunswick Senior World Opens in Las Vegas.
Because of those events, Sanders and his staff had a very good relationship with many senior bowlers, and they were begging for more. The Professional Bowlers Association Senior Tour was suffering a little from lack of sponsorships and television, and the new owners and their representatives that took ownership of the PBA in 2001 had decided to dedicate almost all of their resources to the regular tour.
It is fair to say that many of the senior bowlers were not happy with the PBA, and they had a legitimate case in stating that they “made” the PBA what it was. It got so bad with some players that they decided to stay home rather than compete for smaller prize funds in fewer events. The most notable was the great Mark Roth.
When the GBT finally launched, on September 29, 2006 at Bay Lanes in Bay City Michigan, Roth wasted no time in getting back to what he did best – winning professional tournaments. And for the GBT, a better script could not have been written than for the legendary Roth to win its inaugural event. He defeated
‘super senior Dale Eagle for that title in a nail biter 237-234. Roth won $13,500, and Eagle took home $8800. We even got a visit from the unflappable Jim Dressel, who traveled to cover the event for Bowlers Journal that first week.
In my view, the GBT format was one of its strengths. Two divisions were cre- ated; the one for players 50-59 was called the Senior Division. Players age 60 or better played in the Classic Division. At the end of each event, players rolled in a division stair step finals; and each paid the winner a guaranteed $8800, which was more than a normal PBA check at the time.
The division champs then rolled one game for the overall title and an additional
$5000. It gave the fans two finals to watch, it gave the players the satisfaction of winning their division even if they did not win the overall; and it turned out that the older gentlemen were very competitive with their younger comrades. At the end of the tour, they had captured eight of the 17 titles.
Other notable champions besides Roth were David Ozio, who enjoyed an incredible run during the tour, Dave Davis, who came out of retirement to bowl on the new tour, winning in Columbus, Ohio, and Dave Soutar, who missed the first half of the tour because of a knee injury. It was a thrill to see the two old PBA tour room- mates win again. Judy was there too, rep- resenting Brunswick along with Johnny Petraglia.
Patraglia had a nice tour as well, winning his division twice and presiding over a special event and pro-am for the BVL held at his home center, Carolier Lanes in N. Brunswick, NJ.
Roth gave the tour a great start, but Ozio and Eagle ended up becoming the stars of the GBT. Ozio won his division 10 times in 17 weeks, but only managed to grab three overall titles. Eagle finished on top of the Classic field eight times and also won three times. Vinnie Atria, who had been a megabuck star, proved he could compete as a pro, winning two titles.
Ozio bowled in 16 of the 17 events, averaging 231.5 for 486 games. His performance was so good that some of the players got together at one point to question the lane conditions; but it turned out that the guy with near perfect form was just bowling great.
Roth told the group “I ain’t afraid of Ozio – let’s just bowl.”He also had a few other choice words we can’t print. Eagle bowled in 15 of the 17 tournaments, averaging 223.1 for 429 games. He would probably tell us today it was
his best year ever as a senior bowler.
And the money was excellent. Ozio won
$86,300. I think he went on to win an- other $50k on the PBA senior tour that year. Dale Eagle took home $73, 050, and Atria cashed for $43,500 in only eight events. Roth won $32,000 and returned to the PBA Senior Tour in 2007 for the first time in several years.
Guys who were amateurs before turning pro to bowl in the GBT were Atria, Brian Brazeau, Kerry Painter, and Dennis Psaropoulos. All won titles and en- joyed great success and fellowship on the tour.
Ferraro also won a title; not Dave, but
‘the other brother’ Steve. He looked after the family bowling center all of those years when Dave was winning on the PBA tour, and after he won the event in Long Island NY he said, “Finally it’s my turn.” One of the guys that impressed me the most was Teata Semiz. Aside from being a very classy and likable gentleman, Teata was a serious contender, averaging 213.8 while rolling in 10 GBT events. He won his division twice, and earned $14,525 . .
. and he was 72 years old at the time.
I would be remiss not mentioning Kerry Fulford. He traveled the GBT with his whole family, and cashed in almost every event. His wife Vickie home schooled their three sons Robert, Matthew, and David in their RV along the road. Matthew earned a few bucks jumping around inside our GBT inflatable bowling pin during pro-ams. “We called him “GEEBEE.”
Finally, I would like to urge Tom Clark and the PBA brain trust to include GBT titles in the bios and records of PBA player accomplishments. Although the two organizations were rivals at the time, that is water over the bridge, and no one should argue that the GBT was a quality, legitimate professional tour with a top notch staff, long challenging format, an on-site ball drilling and equipment transport truck, and it even had one major event with a local TV show with Nelson ‘Bo’ Burton behind the mic.
That GBT major was the Toledo, Ohio event four weeks into the new tour. What I remember most aside from Burton doing the regionally televised TV show with a local sports guy, was the quality of the bowling. In a five player step ladder fi- nals, there was not one open frame in the eight games bowled. Ozio ended up winning the $25,000 top prize over Atria that day; and later, we did a Phantom Radio Show together with Lenny Nicholson.
And Tom - almost all GBT champs are also members and loyal supporters of the PBA. And it is not unprecedented. U.S. Opens and Masters that are owned by the BPAA and USBC, are listed in the records. I think Japan Cups are also now included?
It was a wonderful time for us and for bowling, and the GBT was a great tour that should never be forgotten.Article was posted with permission from Stars & Strikes, America's Bowling Newsmagazine. www.starsandstrikesbowling.com