Billy Oatman becomes first-ever African-American Exempt Bowler


    PBA News

    Will replace injured Ritchie Allen on 2006-07 Denny's PBA Tour

    Fred_Schreyer_5719.jpg DPBATourLogo118.jpg Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) Commissioner and CEO Fred Schreyer (right) announced today Billy Oatman will replace injured Ritchie Allen as one of 58 exempt bowlers on the 2006-07 Denny's PBA Tour. Oatman becomes the first-ever African-American to earn a full-season Tour exemption.

    Oatman finished 11th in the 2006 Denny's PBA Tour Trials in June, one spot shy of an exemption as the top 10 finishers in the 140-bowler field earned season-long exemptions. Oatman, who became a PBA member just days prior to the qualifying event, finished 34 pins behind 10th-place Del Ballard Jr.

    The Chicago native will replace Allen, who suffered a stress fracture in the ring finger of his bowling hand. Allen will defer his exemption, which he earned by winning the 2006 Motel 6 Phoenix Classic, until 2007-08. The 28-year-old, who was exempt for the first time in 2005-06, won his second career title and finished 31st in the 2005-06 PBA World Point Rankings.

    "I am ecstatic. I'm sorry for Ritchie, but at the same time I am happy for myself and for Del because it worked out for all three of us to stay exempt and not step on each others' toes," Oatman said. "I'm just glad I got the chance. This is something I have always dreamed about. I feel like an NBA player who just got drafted."

    The 40-year-old Oatman, who has yet to bowl in a Denny's PBA Tour event as a PBA member, will look to become the Tour's second African-American title winner. George Branham III won five titles in his career including the prestigious Firestone Tournament of Champions in 1993. Several other African-Americans have competed on Tour, including Willie Willis who won a National Resident Pro Championship, which did not count as a Tour title.

    The Denny's PBA Tour switched to an all-exempt format starting with the 2004-05 season. Earlier this summer, Kelly Kulick became the first woman to earn a full-season exemption when she finished sixth in the Denny's PBA Tour Trials.

    Oatman's first event will be the season-opening 2006 USBC Masters Oct. 22-29 at AMF Bowlero Lanes in Wauwatosa, Wis. The live ESPN televised finals will take place at the Wisconsin Exposition Center Sunday, Oct. 29 at 1 p.m. ET.