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Bowl Opinion-June 2016- Opening Day

Bowl Opinion

by Jim Goodwin

0pening Day

CJ and I happened to be in Las Vegas in late April when the PWBA kicked off its sophomore season at Texas Station Hotel, Casino and Bowling Center.
We strolled into the center about an hour before the Friday Night practice session was scheduled to start and found many of the players getting ready for the first official segment of the 2016 Tour. With a half hour to go, most of the 89 players participating in the event were already on their assigned pairs, stretching their muscles, checking and adjusting their equipment, talking with ball reps, and exchanging small talk with fellow competitors. They were eager to get started. It felt like opening day at a major league baseball game. A sense of urgency was in the air to get that first ball down the lane and get on with the business of being a professional woman bowler. We did not recognize most of the players, nor did we expect to. To be honest, we knew more of the spectators than the players.

We had planned to attend last year's Wichita Open but had to cancel with a family emergency, so these were new faces. Because we were a part of the former PWBA we knew virtually every player in every tournament up until it stopped in 2003. But as I have written before, this is not your mama's PWBA. One stark difference is the knowledge of equipment and lane oil patterns today is tenfold compared to what it was when the LPBT/PWBA operated from
1981-2003. It has to be to find any kind of success.

The good news is that it appeared that almost every player we watched on this new tour had that knowledge, or had access to a ball company rep who could give them solid advice. It is also fair to mention that even with today's supersonic bowling balls, talent and the ability to repeat quality shots is still required. Figuring out the right ball and where to play the lane is now huge; but executing the shots and knowing when to make adjustments comes in a close second. In the old days of the 20th century, there were a dozen top players who stood head and shoulders above the rest, and they won tons of titles. On this tour, at least three- fourths of the field looks like they are capable of winning, and probably half of them truly are. Only a handful of players look like they are out there only trying to get experience.

One very impressive group on this year's tour are the players from Singapore. These young women are obviously well coached, well financed by their country, and will be a force on the tour. It is not far- fetched to say that Singapore may be a little ahead of Team USA when it comes to promoting and backing their top players.

There were rumors flying around the center that the Singapore team members were getting enormous salaries to bowl on the American Tour, but we could not find any- one to confirm what we were hearing. Storm's Jimmy Callahan, who has a lot of direct contact with the Singapore players told us that his understanding was that the players did get their expenses covered and they get a small compensation as athletes. He said they also get occasional performance bonuses, but nothing in the range of what was being talked about, which was in the hundreds of thousands.

We also had a chance to visit briefly with PWBA Tournament Director Damon Sarrocco about changes in the tour for 2016 based on what was learned in their inaugural season in 2015. Damon told us that his role and Jason Thomas have been adjusted. Sarrocco now has the title of Director of Operations that Thomas had last year, and he handles all of the day to day operations to give Thomas more time to concentrate on television and social media.
Another improvement we immediately noticed when entering the bowling center was about a dozen large graphic banners with sponsor logos and information. Every spectator entering the event walks through a corridor of these banners and gets the impression that something special is happening.

They leave no doubt that a professional event is in progress. Sarrocco was rightfully proud of the progress the PWBA has made in a very short time under the sponsorship of USBC and BPAA. He also noted that it is quickly becoming a much more international tour with dozens of players making regular appearances from across the globe. Obtaining television coverage for all of the events this year on the CBS Sports Network is also a major accomplishment.
With television, however, comes scheduling limitations, meaning that many of the regular events will not see an in-house stepladder finals with a champion crowned in front of the home town fans. Instead, they will stage what they are calling "Group Finals," and the individual champions will be crowned after tapings at the four major events, which will be televised live. It is not ideal for a sports event, but the trade off to get television coverage makes it well worth it.

The first major was the USBC Queens (see results on page 7). The taped shows following the Queens telecast will air on CBS Sports the following three Tuesdays. This procedure will repeat in all four segments of the 2016 PWBA Tour. The really good news for the players is that there are four major events this year and substantially more prize money; a very positive step to- ward making it possible for the best players to make a decent living as a professional bowler.
Our time at the first PWBA event was short, but we did get a chance to visit with a tour "rookie" by the name of Kim Adler. Kim made her debut on the tour only two days after being inducted into the USBC Hall of Fame for Superior Performance.

Kim, who won 16 titles on the former pro tour, was making her first appearance on the new tour in Vegas, but has no plans for becoming a full time bowler again. She now has a new career as a nurse practitioner which she says is very rewarding. Kim, husband Tommy Adler, and their beautiful daughter Emma now make their home in Taos, New Mexico.

Article was posted with permission from Stars & Strikes, America's Bowling Newsmagazine.