It has become a Bowlers Journal International tradition that, each October, we spotlight the most influential and powerful people in the bowling industry. We formerly did this through the BJI Power Poll, but as of last year, it was left to me to determine the list of the most influential, with no voting or input from anyone — just the way I like it. So let’s do it again…
Frank DeSocio, BPAA’s Executive Director, is still No. 1, with Chad Murphy (USBC’s Executive Director), Tom Clark (PBA’s Commissioner), Nancy Schenk (BPAA’s President) and Tom Shannon (Bowlmor’s President) rounding out the top five.
After them, the next tier of the all-powerful would include Brent Perrier and Pat Ciniello, representing Brunswick and QubicaAMF, respectively. Storm’s Bill Chrisman, Kegel’s Chris Chartrand, and Ebonite’s Randy Schickert are three more individuals that would have to be included on anyone’s “must-talk-to” list.
For the rest of the list, I’m breaking an old Power Poll rule of naming only individuals — no groups or companies were ever counted. But, as I mentioned, it’s my baby now and I’ll do whatever I like. So to round out this year’s list, I am selecting a group of individuals who act as one in facilitating the power of competitive bowling at the grass-roots level.
The PBA Tour and the USBC’s championship tournaments are high-profile national events. But the hidden gem of competitive bowling is in the grass-roots delivery of more than 150 PBA Regional stops per year. Seven men are responsible for the entire country, and as you would expect, it is a grueling, often unappreciated job. I’d like to introduce you to the PBA’s “Super 7”…
John Weber started bowling on the PBA Tour in 1976. “I remember my first tournament in Fresno, Calif., bowling on my 18th birthday,” he says. “I cashed in that tournament, then the next five. But I developed a bad attitude when I was unable to reach the finals. So I turned to PBA operations and haven’t looked back.” Today, in addition to running the national PBA50 Tour, John manages the six regional managers of the QubicaAMF PBA Regional Tour.
Bobby Jakel has managed the Central Region since 2006. He won an “eagle” in the USBC Open Championships, and competed on tour for more than two years. Bobby operates tournaments in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, West Virginia, Indiana and Kentucky. He also is a rather large, in-shape former football player, so don’t get him mad.
Gary Mage, who has been involved with the PBA for 51 years, runs the West and Northwest regions. He won a national title and bowled on tour from 1968 through 1981. Gary runs tournaments in Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, California, Montana, Oregon, Nevada, Washington, Utah, Wyoming and Hawaii.
Pete McCordic bowled on tour for 18 years, winning two titles and shooting a 300 on national television. He took over the Southwest Region in 1987. His twin brother, Paul, is active on the PBA50 Tour. Pete operates in the states of Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
Russ Mills has been managing the East Region since 1977 and is the IT guru of the bunch. Also a former touring player, he operates in Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, D.C.
Rich Weber, along with his famous father, were co-managers of the Midwest Region from 1984 to 1998. After that, Rich had an eight-year stint with AMF Bowling Centers before returning to the PBA in 2006, when he accepted the full-time role as the Midwest Region manager. Rich has two regional titles and once bowled against his father in the finals. “He beat me like a drum,” Rich recalls. He is responsible for North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Illinois.
Sam Zurich has been responsible for the South Region since 2012, after eight years of assisting former director, Harry O’Neale. Zurich is a two-time PBA Tour and 40-time PBA Regional title winner. He is responsible for Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
When you speak of power and influence, these are the people who represent and influence bowling as a sport and a business — and it’s not always an easy task.