Thank goodness for bowling visionaries

    08/04/06

    Column

    By Dick Evans

    2005WRMDickEvans.jpg Thanks to Wolfgang Lohschmid's dedication, the Columbia 300 Vienna Open survives growing pains and obstacles to become a European fixture with 170 international bowlers already signed up for the Oct. 17-22 tournament.

    It's amazing in this day and age of financial instability that there are still individuals who are willing to risk their money and time to make a bowling event successful.

    Most of the time they do it out of love for bowling and bowlers.

    John McCoy, founder of NABI, is an American example. He held his first NABI National Tournament at the Showboat bowling center back in Las Vegas and lost $80,000.

    Undaunted, McCoy — a Kansas City businessman who made most of his money in plastics — persisted and NABI survived.

    Wolfgang Lohschmid is a European example.

    He makes a living selling Austrian wine and bottles of wine from other wine producing countries, including the United States, to bars and restaurants.

    But like McCoy, Wolfgang loves bowling and bowlers.

    So in 2003 he inaugurated the Vienna Open in Austria and made it part of the European Bowling Tour that has grown so popular.

    The 2006 Columbia 300 Open will be held Oct. 17-22 in the modern PLUS Bowling, a 32-lane center located on the second floor of a business building.

    As of July 1, the Vienna Open had drawn 101 bowlers from 21 nations. Thirty days later the entry total was up 22 countries and 170 bowlers -- including Americans Missy Bellinder, Jennifer and Andrew Cain, Ray Love, Phillip Schwartz, Tony Smith and Edward Tkacz who want to take back to the United States a great deal of the guaranteed prize fund of 55,000 Euros. That's about $61,000 in U.S. money.

    Last year the tournament drew only two Americans so its appeal on the other side of the pond has picked up drastically with about 75 days before the Columbia 300 Vienna Open begins.

    Tournaments on the European Tour should appeal to America's top female bowlers because they get eight pins per game, or to put it simply they are 48 pins ahead of their male rivals before the first ball is rolled in the six-game series.

    Another attraction at the Columbia 300 Vienna Open is John Jowdy, the world recognized super coach who has worked for Columbia 300 almost as long as Moses lived during Biblical times. Wolfgang brought Jowdy over to do coaching clinics last year and it proved beneficial to the bowlers, coaches, Jowdy and Wolfgang.

    So Jowdy has been invited back to add to the attractive tournament package.

    But in the beginning, it was a different story for Wolfgang Lohschmid and his Vienna Open dream.

    "I started the Vienna Open in 2003 with the help of Herbert Bickel and Sascha Mladek — two friends of mine who wanted to help me make the Vienna Open a success because they believed in my idea."

    Like McCoy, Wolfgang expected to lose money the first year.

    "Our Austrian Federation was not interested in the tournament at the time. I guess they saw it as a private venture and maybe they were waiting to see me fail.

    "Without any financial help, I took about $12,000 Euros out of my own pocket to support it the first year. The next year I lost only about $7,000 Euros.

    "The losses were something that I calculated on from the beginning but not that high. I knew from my wine business that it takes two to three years to build up something new.

    "After three years I wanted to break even and the fourth year I expected a little profit."

    When word spread that Wolfgang spent "30 hours" a day working at the tournament site and was willing to invest his own money in order to run a first-class tournament, the Vienna Open started to gain popularity.

    Last year Columbia 300 came aboard as a sponsor, entries picked up, re-entries jumped and so did prize money.

    "Because of perfect advertising from Herbert Bickel and Columbia I had so many entries last year that I made some Euros profit." So what happens? Well, according to Wolfgang, "This was the moment the Federation started to get interested in my tournament.

    "I heard the first rumors last spring the Federation will take over the Vienna Open because it has become an important event for Austria and can no longer stay in the hands of a private person (at this time I had no official function with the association any more).

    "But they never talked to me personally so I asked for a meeting."

    "I told them at the meeting that I wanted to present the 2006 Vienna Open and asked how they thought they could support me.

    "Their answer was short and clear — I was to do all the work before and during the tournament and all they do would be handle the finances. They told me if there was some profit I would get twenty percent.

    "But at the same time they raised the price of one game of bowling up to two Euros, which would erase any possibility of profit."

    So Wolfgang left the meeting with no agreement because the offer "was not acceptable to me."

    Not to worry, Wolfgang Lohschmid has spent too much of his time bowling, coaching and making friends in the industry not to go down without a fight.

    "I found a private sponsor (one of my best friends outside of bowling) who offered to pay for all the games at the Vienna Open so that nobody could extort anything from me with the inflated game price.

    And then something that "brought tears to my eyes" happened — another country's federation leader offered financial help if needed -- "the same support my own federation does not want to give me.

    "This shows once more that an old (Austrian) saying is true: the prophet does not count in his/her own country. This is a fate that many Austrian inventors, artists, businessmen, etc., share."

    One has to wonder why a man who can live comfortable on his income from buying and exporting wines in Austria and worldwide would want to risk financial security on a bowling tournament of all things.

    But if you could see Wolfgang in action at the Vienna Open you would realize he likes the bowling action — even if it means getting only three hours a sleep for seven days.

    "I just use every possible moment to make the Vienna Open a success." Wolfgang also uses every possible media resource -- Herbert Bickel's webpage "bowlingdigital.com" and Wolfgang's own tournament webpage -- www.Viennaopen.com

    It's great to have a vision, but you also must have faith in yourself and your product. Wolfgang Lohschmid and other bowling promoters realize it takes hard work, hard knocks and hard times just to survive.

    Thank goodness for bowling visionaries like McCoy, Wolfgang, Brad Edelman and Steve Sanders to name only a few.

    Email address: [email protected]