Bowling is often viewed as a recreational sport for most people out there. It is something that can be played casually, although there is always some level of competitiveness once things get started.
In the United States, there are a few major bowling tournaments that always seems bring out the best of the best. Not only do the best players participate, but there is some real money on the line. Here’s a closer look at some of the top bowling tournaments in the United States every single year. Known as the four majors, each one brings something unique to the table for fans.
The United States Bowling Congress Masters has been around, in some capacity, since 1951. This is a championship 10 pin bowling event that is mostly known for its trademark qualifying and the set up of double elimination matchplay.
At the beginning of the tournament, there can be as many as 360 entrants. All the bowlers will then compete in 15 games of qualifying, and only the top 63 qualifiers will advance. The final spot is always reserved for the previous year’s champion in the bracket. Once the matches or head-to-head, they consist of three games, and the highest total pinfall wins.
Held in the spring, the 2018 event took place in Syracuse, New York. Andrew Anderson took home the top prize of $30,000. The 2019 USBC Masters will take place in Las Vegas from March 26th to April 1st.
Despite being a major, the USBC Masters gets overlooked by some. It is still a great event, but the three below are just a little bit higher as far as visibility is concerned.
PBA Tournament of Champions
As the name implies, the PBA Tournament of Champions is the one tournament each year in which people are going to see the very best in the game today. Every year, a number of talented players all battle about to see who is the best of the best at the time.
Unlike the other majors, the PBA Tournament of Champions is currently an invitational event. It originally focused on the 32 most recent title winners on the PBA tour. Once they wanted to expand the tournament, they added past winners of the Tournament of Champions as well.
With competition being so high, it is pretty clear to see that things can certainly get competitive. There are a lot of nerves each year at this event, and some of the all-time greats have made a huge splash.
Those who have paid attention to bowling for quite a while probably have heard of Don Johnson’s 299 game way back in 1970. Many consider it to be one of the most iconic moments in bowling history, as the Hall of Famer bowled 11 straight strikes before leaving a 10-pin spinning on his 12th shot. He still won the title over Dick Ritger, but he missed out on adding another $10,000 and a Mercury Cougar because of that one shot. Him lying on the ground face down is something that has been replayed a lot of times.
Another more recent memory from the tournament came in 2010, when Kelly Kulick became the first woman to leave victorious at a PBA tour event. To be able to win the event at the Tournament of Champions made the moment one of the few times bowling received national sports attention. Shortly after, she received congratulations from the likes of Billie Jean King and Barack Obama.
Currently, Matt O’Grady is the reigning champion, taking home $50,000 by defeating Jesper Svensson. He will be looking to become the first repeat champion since Jason Belmonte in Fairlawn, Ohio.
PBA World Championship
For years, this event was referred to as the PBA National Championship. The name was finally changed in 2002 to reflect the growing field of bowlers from all parts of the world. It is still routinely held in the United States, and it is another major PBA event. The format used at the PBA World Championships is slightly different from the rest of the tour, which is what can make things interesting in the end.
Qualifying scores for the World Championship must come from other standalone tournaments at the PBA World Series of Bowling. This means that this event is only open to a PBA member who also enters the World Series of Bowling. Most of the top bowlers in the world do this, so it is really not that big of a deal.
Earl Anthony is known as one of the best bowlers of all-time, and he is a true legend specifically at this tournament. He has won the tournament a record six times, including a pair of three-peats from 1973-1975, and again from 1981-1983). Due to his massive success, the trophy is named after him.
The World Series of Bowling will be returning to Detroit in 2019. Many people are excited to see it return to its roots for the 10th anniversary of the World Series of Bowling format.
Above all else, the unique format of the PBA World Championship is perhaps the best way to understand where the sport is today. This was mostly a sport that was only popular in the United States at a professional level. Now, players from all over the world are coming in and competing for a true world championship.
The U.S. Open is perhaps the most challenging tournament out of all the PBA tour majors. There are a few reasons why this is the case. For starters, it has the longest format by far. It takes about 56 games from the beginning of qualifying to the very end in order to win the championship. Not only that, but the oil pattern used for the U.S. Open is different than a lot of other oil patterns on other stops during the PBA tour. All these factors lead to some exciting finishes in the end.
Perhaps no finish was more memorable than in 2012, when Pete Weber, then 49-years old, made a surprising run for a record-setting 5th U.S. Open title. Few people were giving him a chance of winning at the beginning of the tournament, but he was able to pull off a one point victory in the final over Mike Fagan. His celebration after made headlines, and he solidified himself as the modern face of bowling.
Ask anyone about the most memorable quote in bowling history, and they are almost always going to answer with “Who do you think you are? I am!” Weber was clearly fired up to achieve history in 2012, and he was particularly fired up by a fan who clapped earlier in the tournament after he missed a pin. It seemed to be the motivation that was needed for him to reach back for a little extra.
While the U.S. Open is open to everyone, they have recently decided to personally invite top money leaders from various other events during the year. They still have to go through a lot of games, but the move was made to ensure that there were a lot of talented players in the field each and every year.
The tournament bounces around quite a bit, as it was held in Wichita, Kansas in 2018 and will be in Mooresville, North Carolina in 2019. It is usually one of the last events of the calendar year.
The majors are always going to be the best way to catch the best talent in the world. This is where the most money is going to be handed out, and the professionals love to have the recognition of winning a major event. With that said, there are other event scattered throughout the United States that can be just as exciting as well.
One of the best things about bowling in general is that everyone starts with a chance to possibly bowl a 300. No matter how many times it has been done, this is always going to be a special moment for people to see in person. For example, back in 1987, the television world randomly had the opportunity to see Pete McCordic bowl a perfect game that netted him $100,000. It was the first perfect game on television in over 13 years, proving just how random it can be.
There are also other events local people will try to enter because it has an open format. Bowling is incredibly difficult to play at a high-level, but a person can qualify and play against the best for money if things fall away. Very few sport skills amateurs a true chance like bowling.
The best way to find out about other events either officially on tour, or just local rize money events, is to search around online. The PBA Tour schedule for 2019 is already set, with stops in nearly every area of the United States. Local event might be a bit harder to find, but for the most part they are going to be advertise at the local bowling alleys without question.
Wayne Webb is a three year state champion bowling team member. Wayne first started bowling with his father at age 5, and has been a huge fan of the sport ever since. In his professional career, Wayne currently serves as a full-time teacher at Portland High School. Wayne writes for several online publications including Lane1Bowling.com and Bowling Magazine.