Gold still on Hoffman's mind heading into Men's World Championships

    08/18/08

    United States

    Lone amateur helped lead U.S. to first team gold medal since 1971 at 2006 event

    2007MWCBillHoffman300.jpg Two years after helping lead the United States to its first men's team gold medal at the World Championships since 1971, Bill Hoffman of Columbus, Ohio, remembers it as if it was yesterday.

    Rolling a 300 in the second-to-last game does wonders for long-term memories.

    "That's the biggest highlight of my career," said Hoffman, a nine-year veteran of Team USA. "It really helped put the program where it needed to be - on top of the world. It's something our new team members can take pride in."

    Those "new" team members happen to be some of the best professional bowlers in the world, and Hoffman - the lone amateur - joins them in search of a repeat performance at the upcoming World Tenpin Bowling Association Men's World Championships, scheduled for Aug. 22-30 in Bangkok, Thailand.

    This event marks the much anticipated first appearance of professionals at the World Championships. Joining Hoffman in Thailand on the six-player Team USA squad are Denny's Professional Bowlers Association Tour stars Walter Ray Williams Jr. of Ocala, Fla., Chris Barnes of Double Oak, Texas, Patrick Allen of Wesley Chapel, Fla., Tommy Jones of Simpsonville, S.C., and Rhino Page of Topeka, Kan.

    Professionals are now eligible to compete with Team USA in international competition, thanks to a change in WTBA legislation last August.

    The team gold medal in 2006 was sweet vindication for Hoffman, who was a part of the U.S. squads that finished with the team silver medals in the two previous World Championships (1999 and 2003). Despite finally winning the long-awaited gold medal, Hoffman is taking the same approach heading to Thailand.

    "The event still seems like a life-and-death experience," said Hoffman, who also became the first American man to win the QubicaAMF World Cup since 1995 last November. "You only get one opportunity every few years for this. I don't feel any sense of relief now that we won the team gold. I have the sense of need and want.

    "We're proud of the accomplishments our team had in 2006, but ultimately we know it's a new World Championships. The field knows we are there to defend our title. They also know we have a new team that's extremely strong."

    Only Page, the reigning Professional Bowlers Association Rookie of the Year, was with Hoffman and Team USA at the 2006 World Championships - winning three other medals (silver in singles and all-events, bronze in Masters) in addition to the team gold.

    This time, their surrounding cast will have a combined 76 PBA Tour titles with each having won the PBA Player of the Year Award at least once.

    "Singularly, these are the best players I've ever bowled with," Hoffman said. "Now the question is, 'Can we function as a team?' That's really going to be a test for us and I look forward to seeing us succeed at that test."

    The Men's World Championships, which will be held at SF Strike Bowl Ngamwonwan, will feature more than 300 athletes from 56 countries competing in six disciplines - doubles, trios, team, singles, all-events and Masters.