Competitive bowlers are serious bowlers; Recreational bowlers bowl for fun By John Jowdy



    BWAAJohnJowdy.jpgThere are several ways to play the sport of bowling. Each has its own niche in the game. The great thing about bowling is it can be played at any level; as a recreational activity or as a competitive sport.

    For the recreational bowler, the game provides endless social and competitive opportunities. There is the camaraderie of being part of a team, plus a chance to engage in open play and enjoy some relaxing times with family members or friends.

    In league play, recreational bowlers seek the opportunity to attain personal goals, such as the first 600 series, then perhaps the first 700 series, and of course, the first 300 game. Recreational bowlers enjoy league and open play.

    Competitive bowlers are classified as the elite type and engage in classic leagues, in upper classifications of city, state, and national tournaments, plus megabucks and side tournaments at the annual USBC National Tournaments.

    These are the bowlers who usually set their sights on competing in the Professional Bowlers Association tour. As a matter of fact, during the past 10 or 12 years, a great percentage of the PBA membership is made of "graduates" of either megabucks events or other elite tournaments.


    League Bowling

    League bowling has been the backbone of the sport since the American Bowling Congress formed in 1895. People from teams perform for a specific period of time.

    Leagues set some form of competitive schedule in which champions are crowned at the end of the season, usually at a bowling banquet. Most professional bowlers began their careers by engaging in league play. Children, from three years up, are taught the game in Learn To Bowl classes, then advance into junior and eventually adult leagues that feature team play.

    Team play can consist of two, three, four or five bowlers. There are mixed leagues, senior leagues, all men, all women, or any combination thereof.

    Most important, there are leagues for bowlers of various abilities, thanks to a handicap system. Leagues can be scheduled during the morning, afternoon, evening, weekdays, or weekends.

    One of the great features of league bowling are the various divisions of competition. Top-caliber bowlers usually compete in non-handicap leagues, generally referred to as classic leagues.

    Nevertheless, the proven handicap system provides less-talented players the opportunity to bowl on the same team with the better performers.


    Decline in Team Bowling

    Five-man team bowling has gradually declined in the United States during the past 40 years. This is principally due to the PBA's tremendous impact on individual competition during the 60's,

    Team bowling reigned supreme before the organization of the PBA in the early 60's. Teams from Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, and the New York-New Jersey areas fielded teams with star-studded lineups. Many of them became ABC Hall of Famers.

    Beer companies like Budweiser, Falstaff, Strohs, Hamm's, Pfeiffer's, Meister Brau, and Monarch were staunch supporters. These teams competed in the Bowling Proprietors Association of America All-Star Championships.

    However, with the emergence of the PBA, team bowling lost its appeal. Superstars like Don Carter, Dick Weber, Ray Bluth, Bill Lillard, Billy Welu, Harry Smith, Dick Hoover, and Glen Allison all opted for the glory of individual performances in the professional game.


    Average and Handicap Leagues

    There may be a mistaken belief that to be a league bowler you must average 180 or better. Not so. The median average for men is around 165. For women, it is about 140.

    Bowling's handicap system makes it possible for bowlers of varying degrees to compete on an equitable basis. A 100 percent handicap is the most equitable system. The lower the handicap percentage, the more advantage the higher teams and individuals have.

    For example, a 90 percent handicap usually results in closer results than an 80 percent handicap. Each bowler's handicap is determined by subtracting his or hers average from par (normally 200) and multiplying by the percentage established.


    Open Play

    Open play consists of unorganized or organized bowling games. Unorganized open play can mean friends rolling a couple of games on the spur of the moment. Children can go with their parents or couples can go bowling on a date.

    Open play is not restricted to recreational bowlers. Serious bowlers may simply want to practice either alone, with a coach, or one or two others who can offer analysis and critique. However, you must only heed the advice of competent bowlers or coaches who know the game.

    Unfortunately, bowling, like many other individual spots, is replete with wanna-be coaches whose comments are well intended but unfounded. Although practice is the key to improving your game to another level, it is beneficial only when applied properly.

    Organized open play includes activities such as birthday parties, company outings, or "glow in the dark" bowling.


    Elite Bowling

    Elite bowling can be broken down into two categories; professional and amateur. A professional in sports is a person who either earns a living performing in the sport or earns as much money in the game as he earns in his chosen profession.

    Men or women in the PBA are card-carrying professionals and have declared their status. On the other hand, numerous bowlers in the United States and around the world prefer to maintain amateur status, but in reality, they bowl for a living.

    I refer to these type bowlers as "closet professionals" They compete in all amateur tournaments and are eligible to compete in the U.S. Open, the USBC Masters, all megabucks tournaments, all FIQ tournaments and a slew of high-paying tournaments that are closed to card-carrying PBA members.

    These amateurs are ever-present at High-Roller and Eliminator tournaments and enter all brackets and sweepers. Normally, they don't win the grand prize but they usually take the bulk of the money in brackets and sweepers.

    Fortunately, one major change has transpired regarding "amateur status". Under new rules, professional bowlers have been permitted to represent their country in international competition by becoming members of Team USA.

    This was a fitting gesture, particularly in view of the fact that for umpteen years, Team USA has had to face competition from foreign teams loaded with "so-called" amateurs; amateurs who earned their livelihood from bowling, yet were permitted to bowl in sanctioned international events.

    Needless to say, in 2008, Team USA, buoyed by players like Patrick Allen, Chris Barnes, Parker Bohn, Tommy Jones, Sean Rash and Walter Ray Williams, dominated play in their first venture into international team competition.

    As has in the past, the United States stars further demonstrated America's supremacy in the bowling game, not only on American soil but all around the world.