Sebelen, who joins Venezuelan native and PBA Hall of Famer Amleto Monacelli as only the second international player to win the PBA50 Rookie of the Year award, finished eighth in the PBA50 National Championship, 10th in the Suncoast PBA Senior U.S. Open and ninth in the PBA50 Cup to conclude the season while leading the points list among PBA50 rookies.
“My impression right away was the quality of the bowlers,” the 50-year-old Sebelen said of his first experience in PBA competition. “To be able to bowl with the players that I watched on TV was very exciting for me.
“It was a totally new experience for me with the formats and match play because I had never done that before,” Sebelen continued. “It was definitely one of the highlights of my career.”
Sebelen said his most rewarding experience during the season was his eighth-place finish in the PBA50 National Championship.
“I remember people saying, ‘Who was that guy?’ because that was my first tournament,'” Sebelen said. “The other players were congratulating me and that made me very comfortable and excited to bowl on the PBA50 Tour.”
While a newcomer to PBA competition, Sebelen is a member of the Dominican Republic’s most decorated bowling family, and a long-time competitor in international bowling circles.
His father, also a Rolando, was introduced to the game by relatives while living in Puerto Rico. He took to the game quickly and would eventually win the doubles title at the 1971 FIQ World Championship – held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin – with partner Carlos Diaz. It was the first medal in international bowling competition for the Dominican Republic.
The Sebelen family – which actually includes seven “Rolandos” – the “senior” Rolando, three sons and three grandsons – developed a passion for bowling and would make periodic 30-minute plane trips to Puerto Rico to practice because of the lack of adequate bowling facilities in the Dominican Republic.
As the Sebelen family became more involved in the sport, eventually the elder Sebelen built a 22-lane bowling center in Santo Domingo in 1996. Their center hosted the 1997 FIQ American Zone Championships (now Pan American Bowling Confederation Championships), and will host the 2018 PABCON Women’s Championships in late September.
Following in his father’s footsteps, the younger Rolando, a member of the Dominican Republic national bowling team for more than 30 years, also has had success in international competition. He is a multi-medalist in international competition, most notably winning a doubles bronze medal in the 2007 Pan Am Games and a team gold medal in the 1989 FIQ American Zone Championships.