The former Major League All-Star pitcher, in his rookie year as a PBA50 competitor, bowled A Squad in the nine-game qualifying round of last week’s tournament at South Plains Lanes in Lubbock, Texas. When a tournament field is too large to accommodate all players on the same squad, the field is split into A and B Squads, one following the other, and scores for all players are combined when both squads are finished.
In cases like that, it’s common practice to predict that half of the players from each squad will make the cut to advance to the next round. In Lubbock, that meant roughly 29 players from each squad were expected to advance. So when Burkett finished his nine games Saturday and sat in 40th place, he assumed there was no way he was going to be among the top 59 advancing to Sunday’s cashers’ round.
“I learned a lesson,” Burkett said. “I never figured the squad split would be like that, so I drove home.”
Home was roughly 320 miles and five hours away in Southlake, Texas. As he approached home, Burkett was monitoring Xtra Frame and found out he had, in fact, qualified for the cashers’ round in 58th place. After getting three hours of sleep, he turned around and drove five hours back to Lubbock.
If he had withdrawn from the tournament and stayed home, he would have earned $500 for finishing 59th. Instead, he bowled his six-game cashers’ round and wound up finishing 51st, earning $505 – a net gain of $5.
The money had absolutely nothing to do with his decision to return to Lubbock.
“If you look at my baseball career, I took the mound every fifth day,” the 50-year-old Burkett said. “When I sign up for a tournament, I obligate myself to bowl the whole event. I don’t think it’s professional to quit. Out of respect to the PBA, the other players, the tournament host, you finish the event. I wouldn’t want to look people in the face if I quit. I have too much respect for the sport.
“And I also believe in myself,” he added. “After the first two games, I moved up 24 places to 34th. But the lanes changed so fast after the second game, I couldn’t make the adjustment. The transition completely confused me.
“Nah, I wasn’t tired,” he said. “I usually only sleep six hours a night anyway, so three hours’ sleep wasn’t a problem. Plus I don’t like to make excuses.
“But I will admit I wasn’t looking forward to another five-hour drive back home,” he said with a laugh.