I received an email from the Professional Bowlers Association Commissioners a few days ago. They wanted to inform me about the upcoming Tournament of Champions that will take place at Red Rock Lanes in Las Vegas. This year's tournament was going to be different, and they had plenty of proof to back up their claim. Let me fill you in on the event.
For starters the TOC will be the richest tournament in the history of pro bowling. The total purse will be a whopping $1 million and the winner's share of $250,000 is nothing short of impressive. Second place will pay $100,000. Oh to be the loser in that title match.
The event will mark the PBA's return to ABC (its home for 36 years from 1961-1997) and the live telecast of the stepladder finals will air at 2:30 p.m. Jan. 22. That's right, Saturday. Just like the old days.
I remember watching those telecasts on ABC growing up. How many of you remember Don Carter, Dick Weber, Ray Bluth and Billy Welu? Too far back? Well, how about Marshall Holman, Brian Voss, Earl Anthony, and Mike Aulby? Do you recall the commentators? The legendary Chris Schenkel hosted the telecasts and Nelson Burton Jr. was the lead analyst. I still recall Chris Schenkel saying that beer just tasted better in a bottle as he plugged a sponsor.
Chris Schenkel now is gone, but Burton is coming back as part of the broadcast team for this season's TOC. Former Miss USA Kimberly Pressler will be the sideline reporter. I don't know exactly what a bowling sideline looks like or if a former beauty queen is even needed for the extravaganza, but I'm not going to complain about it. Another activity features the popular band Bowling for Soup as it will perform its new single "Saturday Night" during the telecast from a stage on the lanes.
If you are thinking that all of this is not necessary to get you to tune in, you are sharing my thoughts. It's the bowling that I want to see. The tournament field, for the first time, is open to any PBA champion in history from not only National Tour events but Regional, Senior and Women's Series events, including the current exempt field. For those that think women don't belong in the field, you must have a short memory.
Last year's TOC champion was Kelly Kulick. who became the first woman to win a PBA Tour event. She will be back to defend her title. In addition, at least 20 of the 50 greatest players in the history of the PBA will be entered. OK, now you have my attention.
To get to the televised final four, a bowler must go through a grueling slate of 60 games. That nearly is two-thirds of a season for me. These people will do that in one short week. All we have to do is sit back in our favorite recliner with a beverage (to honor Chris Schenkel, we should have a bottle of something) and watch the action. You will get to see each frame as the tensions of bowling for a quarter-million dollar purse will surely mount.
The email concluded with a plea for help from bowling fans. The commissioners want us to demand coverage of the event from our local media. They suggest we ask for daily standings, thank and patronize the sponsors, tell a friend about the event and root hard for our favorite players. The goal is to make this the greatest tournament in the history of bowling.
The commissioners want the Tournament of Champions to join the A-list calendar of major individual sporting events along with the Kentucky Derby, the Indy 500, Wimbledon, the Tour de France, the Daytona 500 and the Masters. That may be asking a lot, but then again there are an awful lot of bowlers in the world.
I have done my part. You now are officially informed of the event. Mark your calendars and get ready for the show. Trust me when I say that I will be tuned in.
Congratulations to Tony Selhorst, as he fired a perfect game this week as part of a 767 series to lead the Sportsman League. Jim Mason shot 667, Ron Yentzer 665, Greg Tiell 664, Paul Gosche 660, Harry Smith 639, Rich Yates Jr. 637, Jack Kramer 621, Dick Gabel 613 and Ken Buttruf, Jr. 606. In Alley Cats League play, Robin Dickman had 603, Jan Houk 518, Cindy Sendelbach 499, Pat Cook 491, Carol Fry 485, Jani Hartzell 466, Carla Siebenaller 465, Diane Hoover 461, Sandy Hufford 460 and Sue Stine 460.
Steve Barnes topped the Rocket League with 665, while Dave Depinet shot 651, Jack Kramer 614, Tim Sturgill 612, Ed Conrad 604 and Virginia Vanover 433. In the Ladies Classic League Cindy Conger shot 491, Kathy Young 491, Sandy Hufford 483, Deb Cleveland 463, Jamie Thom 453 and Jessica Smith 451.
Action at the K of C Lanes found Bennett Paulus shooting 536, Doug Snyder 535 and Joe Zirger 534 in the Senior League. Paul Gosche shot 591, Jim Ruess 585, Bob Reinhart 553, Rick Hanna 519, Dick Gabel 493 and John Ferstler 488 in the 55 Plus League.
Tom Tiell shot 685 to top the charts in the Sunday Night Rock N Roll League. Bob Steele had 646, Dirk Nimocks 635, Chris Rhodes 617, Tony Riedlinger 615, Gary Golden 612, Skip Steele 604 and Brett Babcock 601. For the ladies, Beth Jones shot 590 and Janice Young 498. In the Imperial-Majorette League Steve Steinmetz, Jr. shot 617, Steve Steinmetz, Sr. 604 and Rusty Kuhn 566. For the women, Phyllis Riely had 538, Deb Nominee 529 and Dodi Gaietto 501.
Al Stephenson is The A-T's bowling columnist.
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