ALLEN PARK, Mich. – It’s been an amazing week at Thunderbowl Lanes in Allen Park as the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) is conducting its entire fall tour right here!
Five different tournaments, all tape delayed for different national TV broadcasts, are taking place, which puts Metro Detroit in the national sports spotlight for the next two months!
I’ve been chatting with the players all week long, and they truly love coming here to compete. They know our rich bowling history, and love how Tom Strobl and his crew at Thunderbowl treat the players. I chatted with one of this week’s women PBA stars, Rocio Restrepo from Colombia, and she specifically told me how excited she was to compete here (her second time competing in our area this year). In fact, these pro bowlers know more about our area than “just” the bowling.
PBA star Bill O’Neill and I were chatting yesterday, and he said that he and some other players coming from close enough cities to make the trip by car have brought their golf clubs and are going to stay a couple of extra days and play some of our fine courses Monday and Tuesday.
Three of the tournaments have completed qualifying: the PBA Wolf Open, PBA Bear Open, and PBA Badger Open. And to show you how truly international our sport has become, the three top qualifiers from each tournament are from three different countries. Canadian native Francois Lavoie (now living in Wichita, Kansas) qualified first in the Wolf Open, Swede Jesper Svensson qualified first in the Bear Open, and Texan Wes “Strike a Lot” Malott qualified first last night in the Badger Open.
Wes "Strike a lot" Malott
The fourth tournament, the Detroit Open, is taking place today, with the top eighteen bowlers from the combined first six games they played on each of the past three days now bowling six more games on each of the different oil pattern today. The top five will advance to this weekend’s finals. Oh, and today’s top qualifier gets to choose which oil pattern he wants applied to the lanes for the finals.
Before telling you about how you can see all five champions crowned this weekend, I’d be remiss not to share one other observation this week. I have never seen in any other sport the great comradery these professional athletes have with each other. During all of the qualifying I’ve seen this week, I’ve seen players genuinely congratulating each other on great shots, players coming back to the stands (yes, where the fans sit) and sitting down to chat with each other or friends, and even coming and watching their co-competitors in final qualifying when they themselves didn’t qualify. These men and women care about each other, and are easily the most grounded of all professional athletes. In fact, in between qualifying games this morning, PBA star E.J. Tackett and I chatted about his parents, who I met when he competed here a couple of years ago. There is no other sporting event I’ve ever attended in which I had a conversation during the event with one of the players.
So, after a practice day on Friday, we get to see five different championship tournament finals this weekend. The PBA Wolf Open, PBA Bear Open, and PBA Badger Open will be competed on Saturday, and the Detroit Open champion decided on Sunday. After the Detroit Open, a fifth tournament will commence, with the winners of the four tournaments, plus the player with the highest points total in the four events (but without a title), all competing in the King of the Swing showdown.
There are still seats available for the televised finals this weekend. Admission is $20 for one tournament final, or $30 for a full-day pass. It’ll be a great finish to a great week in the international sports spotlight!