Professional Bowlers Association

The Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) is the major sanctioning body for the sport of professional ten-pin bowling in the United States. Headquartered in Mechanicsville, Virginia,[1] the PBA membership consists of over 3,000 members worldwide.[3] Members include "pro shop" owners and workers, teaching professionals and bowlers who compete in the various events put on by the Association.

Professional Bowlers Association
PurposeProfessional association for ten-pin bowling; governing body is USBC
HeadquartersMechanicsville, Virginia[1]
Region served
3,000+ representing 30 countries[2]
PBA Commissioner
Tom Clark[3]
Parent organization
Bowlero Corporation[2]

As published on "The Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) is the world's preeminent organization dedicated to the sport of bowling and its professional competition, with thousands of members and millions of fans throughout the world. The PBA plays host to bowling's biggest tournaments, including the PBA Tour, PBA Regional Tour and PBA50 Tour. The PBA has launched ... The PBA League Bowler Certification program. This program provides league bowlers access to statistics, digital awards, rules and regulations, and new tournaments, including The PBA LBC National Championships. Other PBA membership programs include PBA Pinsiders, a membership program for the sport's most enthusiastic fans, and PBA Jr., a club for elite youth bowlers under the age of 17."[5]

The PBA also oversees competition between professional bowlers via the following tours:

  • PBA Tour – An annual calendar of events, currently running from January to September each year.
  • PBA Regional Tour – The majority of PBA members are Regional professionals. The Regional Tour allows PBA members and qualifying amateurs to compete in weekend events. The Tour consists of seven regions: Central, East, Midwest, Northwest, South, Southwest, and West.[6]
  • PBA50/60 Tours – Originally the PBA Senior Tour, it was split in 2013 and now based on age.[7] Set up like the PBA Tour, but allowing PBA members aged 50 years and older, and after the 2013 rebranding, a different tour for members 60 years and older, to compete in their own events. The PBA50/60 Tours also have Regional events. USBC sanctioned events on the PBA50 Tour are still branded as "Senior", and PBA60 Tour events are branded "Super Senior".
  • PBA-World Bowling Tour (WBT) – Events outside of North America that award a PBA Tour title if won by a PBA member.
  • PBA Women's Regional Tour
  • PBA Women's Series (inactive) – Selected PBA Tour events that ran from 2007 to 2010 included a concurrent, separate event for female professionals.
  • PBA Jr. – Launched in 2020 as a club for youth bowlers (age 17 and under) to enjoy PBA perks and compete in Regional events with the goal of qualifying for SMART scholarship earnings at the PBA Jr. National Championship.[8]

As of September 2019, the PBA is owned by Bowlero Corporation.[2]

PBA history edit

20th century edit

Prior to the PBA's inception, bowling was broadcast on television sporadically beginning in the early 1950s. NBC began with an early 1950s special telecast entitled Championship Bowling.[9] Later regular weekly bowling shows, including Jackpot Bowling began airing nationally.

At the same time, there was a desire to start a professional bowling division in the United States; an effort led by Eddie Elias, a sports agent based in Akron, Ohio. During the 1958 ABC (American Bowling Congress) tournament in Syracuse, New York, sixty men, including Don Carter, Frank Esposito, Buzz Fazio, Matt Lebhar, Carmen Salvino, Billy Welu, Glenn Allison, Steve Nagy, Harry Smith, Ray Bluth, Dick Hoover, Bill Bunetta, Robert "Bobby" Bellew, Vito Quercia, and Junie McMahon, attended a presentation by Elias. After listening to his proposal, thirty-three of the men donated $50 each, totaling $1,650 to start the organization, which was incorporated in 1958, and headquartered in Akron. The investors then became charter members of the PBA, basically giving them lifetime membership. Bill Bunetta was slated to be the first commissioner of the PBA by Eddie Elias but Bill was still a very active bowler and turned down the position to continue his bowling and teaching career[citation needed].

Competition began in 1959 with three tournaments. Italian-born Lou Campi of Dumont, New Jersey won the first event (the Empire State Open), and Dick Weber won the other two (Paramus Eastern Open and the Dayton Open)[10]

The PBA Tour slowly built an audience, expanding to seven tournaments in 1960, then 13 tournaments in 1961, before exploding with 30 tour stops in 1962. Weber would become the first "face" of the PBA in the early years, as he won 10 of the first 23 events held, including seven in 1961 alone.

While PBA bowlers regularly appeared on Jackpot Bowling, Elias led an effort to give the PBA a permanent home on television. It first did so with the interstitial Make That Spare on ABC Sports, which ran from 1960 to 1964. In 1961, ABC's Wide World Of Sports aired the PBA National Invitational, from Paramus, New Jersey.

This would prompt ABC Sports into having a separate series, which was called the Professional Bowlers Tour, which ABC aired from 1962 to 1997. Coupled with the continued support of its charter members, as well as sponsorships by the Ford Motor Company, Coca-Cola (which sponsored 11 tournaments in 1963 alone),[11] True Value Hardware and Firestone Tire, the PBA experienced growth in its tournament schedules and prize funds. Annual incomes for professional bowlers became, at the time, very competitive with other professional sports. A Sports Illustrated article from 1963 noted that top bowler Harry Smith stood to make as much money in 1963 as Major League Baseball's NL MVP Sandy Koufax and NFL Football MVP Y. A. Tittle combined.[12]

Schedules reached a plateau of 35 tournaments per year in the 1980s. The 1965 Firestone Tournament of Champions was the first to offer $100,000 in prize money (including a then-record $25,000 first prize); the 1982 event featured a $200,000 purse, and the 1987 U.S. Open, sponsored by Seagram distillery, offered a $500,000 prize fund as well as the first $100,000 first-place prize in PBA history.[13]

By the 1980s, True Value pledged $100,000 to any roller of a perfect game on national television (increased to a $200,000 sum during its own True Value Open). Prior to this, the PBA would award a televised 300 game with $10,000 and, in some seasons, a new Ford or Mercury automobile. In addition, in the early 1990s the Miller Brewing Company offered $1 million to any bowler who could win all three of its sponsored tournaments in a given season.

As television exposure increased for the PBA, it spun off a PBA Senior Tour in 1981, with Bill Beach winning the first seniors' championship that year. Having been renamed the PBA50 Tour in 2013, the senior bowling tour continues to the present day.

From 1984 to 1991, NBC Sports aired the PBA fall tour events.

In 1986, a group of professional bowlers who were dissatisfied with PBA management formed the Touring Pro Bowlers (TPB) group. After meeting resistance, the TPB took on the PBA in an antitrust suit. Though settled out of court, the lawsuit did serious financial damage to the PBA.[14]

By the late 1990s, television audiences for the PBA Tour had waned in the wake of cable television's explosion and the variety of sports viewing choices now offered, particularly college football on Saturday afternoons. The Professional Bowlers Tour ended its 36-year run on ABC with a final broadcast on June 21, 1997.[15] CBS and Fox Sports Net would carry PBA events until ESPN gained exclusive broadcast rights in 2001.

Elias continued to be involved in the PBA until his death in 1998.

21st century edit

The PBA was purchased in March 2000 by former Microsoft executives Chris Peters (chairman), Rob Glaser, and Mike Slade, and its corporate headquarters were moved to Seattle, Washington. Together with CEO Steve Miller, a former Nike executive, they are recognized for rescuing the PBA from the brink of extinction. In 2011, Geoff Reiss was appointed as the PBA's CEO and Tom Clark as PBA Commissioner. These two assumed the shared CEO/Commissioner post that was held by Fred Schreyer since he took over for Miller in 2005.[16]

The PBA was featured in the 2006 sports documentary, A League of Ordinary Gentlemen. The documentary, filmed during the 2002–2003 season, enjoyed a limited release in theaters before being released in a DVD format in March 2006. The PBA was also featured and acknowledged in the 2007 film 7-10 Split.

In 2003, the PWBA (Professional Women's Bowling Association) folded, and the PBA began allowing female members in 2004. Missy Bellinder (Parkin) became the first female PBA member, while Liz Johnson became the first to cash in a PBA Tour event and later (2005) the first to make a PBA Tour telecast. In conjunction with the USBC, the PBA would later inaugurate the PBA Women's Series in 2007. Following ESPN telecasts of the U.S. Women's Open, it brought back semi-regular women's bowling telecasts for the first time since the demise of the PWBA. The top two seeds out of a field of sixteen faced each other in one match, aired prior to the men's championship match. The Women's Series expanded from four events in 2007 to eight events in the 2008–09 and 2009–10 seasons, before being canceled.

A PBA "Xtra Frame" tournament broadcast setup

In 2009, financial difficulties and the general state of the U.S. economy caused the tour to reduce the number of tour stops and overall events, while also reducing the number of live TV finals broadcasts. The PBA combined its fall schedule of six standard PBA tournaments (plus qualifying for the PBA World Championship) into a single World Series of Bowling event, held that year in Allen Park, Michigan near Detroit. All fall TV finals except the PBA World Championship were taped and aired at a later date on ESPN, while all but one of the winter tour events continued to hold live TV finals. In 2010, the World Series of Bowling was moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, and consisted of five tournaments with taped TV finals and qualifying for the PBA World Championship. The overall schedule that season was reduced to just 12 title events, with portions of three winter season events being taped and aired after the fact. Kelly Kulick won the 2010 Tournament of Champions, where she was the first-ever female competitor in the field.[17] This also made her the first woman to win any Professional Bowlers Association Tour event that was also open to men.[18]

For the 2011–12 season, a total of 14 TV broadcasts were taped at the 2011 World Series of Bowling in Las Vegas to be aired on later dates. For the first time, the TV finals for the PBA World Championship did not air live. In fact, ESPN only aired the finals of the PBA's three remaining major tournaments (USBC Masters, U.S. Open and Tournament of Champions) in a live 2012 broadcast. All other ESPN broadcasts for Winter 2012 were taped events from the World Series, while four additional non-major title tournaments were available live via the PBA's "Xtra Frame" webcast service.[19]

Along with reduced stops, prize funds for some standard tournaments were reduced, starting in 2010, with as little as $15,000 going to the winner. The 2011 Tournament of Champions, however, did offer a PBA-record $1 million prize fund and an unprecedented $250,000 top prize.[20]

In January 2013, the PBA League, consisting of eight teams of five professional bowlers each, held its first event.[21]

On the eve of the PBA Tour's 60th season (2018), the PBA provided some statistics on the history of the Tour and its bowlers:

  • Over 10,000 bowlers have held PBA membership since the organization's founding in 1958.
  • As of September 1, 2017, 345 different bowlers have won a PBA Tour title.
  • Among the 345 winners, 124 (35.9%) won only one title in their career, while 51 bowlers (15.6%) have earned 10 or more titles.

On September 10, 2019, Bowlero Corporation, the world's largest operator of bowling centers, announced it had purchased the PBA. Bowlero's Chief Customer Officer, Colie Edison, was appointed CEO of the PBA. Bowlero announced that current PBA Commissioner Tom Clark will continue in that role.[2] In January 2022, Colie Edison stepped down as CEO to become Chief Growth Officer for the WNBA.[22]

Beginning with the 2019 PBA Tour season, television coverage moved from ESPN to Fox Sports, with 26 broadcasts being held on Fox Sports 1 and four broadcasts on terrestrial Fox stations.[23]

In 2023, The PBA Tour Finals returned to CBS Sports Network for the 2023 PBA Tour season.[24]

Most PBA Tour titles edit

The top winner on the PBA Tour is Walter Ray Williams, Jr. with 47 career titles. A list of the top PBA Tour titlists can be found in the separate PBA Tour story.

Most PBA50 Tour titles edit

The following are the top ten titles winners on the PBA50 Tour (formerly PBA Senior Tour). Walter Ray Williams Jr. is currently the leader with 16 PBA50 titles, making him the all-time leader on both the PBA and the PBA50 tours. (Source:[25])

Rank Name Titles
1 Walter Ray Williams Jr. 16
2 Pete Weber 14
John Handegard
4 Tom Baker 12
Gary Dickinson
Dale Eagle
7 Ron Mohr 11
Gene Stus
Parker Bohn III
10 Amleto Monacelli|rowspan=2 align=center|10

PBA League edit

The PBA League, which debuted in 2013, is an annual non-title tournament featuring ten teams of five touring PBA players (increased from eight teams in 2020). Teams vie for a cash prize ($100,000 for first place in 2023) and the Elias Cup trophy. It has been held at Bayside Bowl in Portland, Maine since 2015, except for the 2020 season when it was contested with no audience in Centreville, Virginia due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

An open draft was held to fill all teams for the inaugural 2013 event. Following that event, team managers have been allowed to protect up to three players from their current roster each season, with the remaining spots being filled via the draft.

Teams edit

Team Manager Elias Cup Titles Runners Up Former Names Founded
Guaranteed Rate Chicago Breeze Jason Couch 0 1 Philadelphia Hitmen (2013–2020), Guaranteed Rate Chicago Hitmen (2022) 2013
GoBowling Dallas Strikers Norm Duke 2 1 2013
Bowlero LA X Andrew Cain 0 3 2013
Las Vegas High Rollers Amleto Monacelli 0 1 2020
Motown Muscle Del Ballard Jr. 0 1 2013
NYC Kingpins Carolyn Dorin-Ballard 1 1 2013
Portland Lumberjacks Tim Mack 3 2 Pittsburgh Jack Rabbits (2013–2015) 2013
Pabst Blue Ribbon Milwaukee Pounders Marshall Holman 0 0 Brew City Ballers (2020) 2020
Silver Lake Atom Splitters Mark Baker 3 0 2013
Snickers Waco Wonders Johnny Petraglia 1 0 BROOKLYN STyLES (2013–2020) 2013

Elias Cup champions edit

By year edit

Year Winner Runner Up
2013 NYC Kingpins Motown Muscle
2014 Silver Lake Atom Splitters LA X
2015 Silver Lake Atom Splitters LA X
2016 Dallas Strikers NYC Kingpins
2017 Dallas Strikers Portland Lumberjacks
2018 Silver Lake Atom Splitters Philadelphia Hitmen
2019 Portland Lumberjacks LA X
2020 Portland Lumberjacks Las Vegas High Rollers
2021 Not Held
2022 Portland Lumberjacks Dallas Strikers
2023 Waco Wonders Portland Lumberjacks

Mark Roth League MVP award winners[26] edit

Year Winner Team
2013 Not awarded
2014 Chris Barnes Silver Lake Atom Splitters
2015 Dick Allen Silver Lake Atom Splitters
2016 Tommy Jones Dallas Strikers
2017 Norm Duke Dallas Strikers
2018 Chris Barnes Silver Lake Atom Splitters
2019 Wes Malott Portland Lumberjacks
2020 Wes Malott Portland Lumberjacks
2021 Not held
2022 Kyle Troup Portland Lumberjacks
2023 Ryan Ciminelli Waco Wonders

Hall of Fame edit

The PBA Hall of Fame was founded in 1975 with eight initial inductees: six for Performance (Ray Bluth, Don Carter, Carmen Salvino, Harry Smith, Dick Weber and Billy Welu) and two for Meritorious Service (Frank Esposito and Chuck Pezzano). Since its inception, it was located at the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame in St. Louis, Missouri. It is now part of the new USBC headquarters in Arlington, Texas.

Through 2021, there are 113 PBA Hall of Fame Members in three categories:[27]

  • Performance (55)
  • Meritorious Service (39)
  • Veterans/Senior (19)

Membership in the Hall of Fame was originally determined by annual elections. From 2000 to 2008, those in the Performance category had to have ten PBA titles (or two major championships) on their resume, as well as be retired from the tour for five years.

Another revision took effect in 2008. Bowlers can now qualify for the Hall of Fame based on five PBA titles on their resume, as long as two of those titles were major championships. Other active bowlers can now qualify for the Hall as well if they have 20 years of membership and are elected.[28]

Late in 2008, The PBA announced the launch of a new PBA Seniors Hall of Fame. John Handegard, at the time the all-time leader in PBA Senior titles (14) became the first inductee on January 24, 2009.[29]

References and footnotes edit

  1. ^ a b "About the PBA - Headquarters". Retrieved April 24, 2024.
  2. ^ a b c d "BOWLERO CORP ANNOUNCES PURCHASE OF THE PROFESSIONAL BOWLERS ASSOCIATION". September 10, 2018. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Schneider, Jerry (September 10, 2019). "Bowlero Corp Announces Purchase of the Professional Bowlers Association". Retrieved September 10, 2019.
  4. ^ "About the PBA - PBA Staff". September 10, 2019. Retrieved September 10, 2019.
  5. ^ "PBA AND FOX SPORTS ANNOUNCE TWO-YEAR MEDIA RIGHTS EXTENSION". August 17, 2023. Retrieved August 17, 2023.
  6. ^ Regional Tour information
  7. ^ Schneider, Jerry. "PBA Senior Tour to Become 'PBA50 Tour' in 2013." Article at on August 13, 2012. [1]
  8. ^ "JOIN PBA JR". Retrieved September 24, 2020.
  9. ^ Michael Reker (November 6, 2006). "All about bowling". Archived from the original on April 15, 2006. Retrieved January 12, 2014.
  10. ^ "1959 season Schedule". Retrieved January 12, 2014.
  11. ^ "1963 season Schedule". Retrieved January 12, 2014.
  12. ^ SIvault article from November 25 1963 at, retrieved June 26, 2013.
  13. ^[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ Bowlers Journal Timeline - 1986, retrieved from on September 17, 2013.
  15. ^ "IT'S THE END OF THE LANE FOR ABC'S BOWLING BROADCAST". Washington Post. June 21, 1997. Retrieved August 18, 2023.
  16. ^ Vint, Bill. "Fred Schreyer Retires as PBA CEO/Commissioner; Geoff Reiss is New CEO; Tom Clark Becomes Commissioner." Article at on October 27, 2011. [2]
  17. ^ "Kulick Wins PBA Women's World Championship, Sullins Takes Senior Title." Article at, October 25, 2009.
  18. ^ "ESPN The Magazine - Rick Reilly: How about a little recognition for bowling champ Kelly Kulick?". February 26, 2010. Retrieved April 16, 2015.
  19. ^ 2011-12 Schedule at
  20. ^ Richgels, Jeff. "PBA releases format for 2011 Tournament of Champions." Article in The Capital Times on August 13, 2010.[3]
  21. ^ "The League". Professional Bowlers Association. January 2013. Archived from the original on January 23, 2013.
  22. ^ Laufer, Jill (January 5, 2022). "STATEMENT FROM PBA ON RESIGNATION OF CEO COLIE EDISON". Retrieved January 12, 2022.
  23. ^ Steinberg, Brian (March 20, 2018). "Professional Bowling Rolls to Fox Sports". Variety. Retrieved March 22, 2018.
  24. ^ "2023 PBA Tour Finals Return to CBS Sports Network | PBA". Retrieved July 28, 2023.
  25. ^ Richgels, Jeff. "PBA50 Tour and PBA60 Tour titles as of June 4, 2023 — the complete historical list". Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  26. ^ Laufer, J (October 1, 2020). "Portland Lumberjacks Win 2020 PBA League Elias Cup". Retrieved October 2, 2020.
  27. ^ "Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Fame - Honorees". Retrieved July 18, 2019.
  28. ^ "New Rules for Hall of Fame | Professional Bowlers Association". Retrieved January 12, 2014.
  29. ^ "PBA to induct Norm Duke, Del Ballard Jr. and John Handegard into Hall of Fame." Article at, November 26, 2008.

External links edit