CHICAGO – Harry O’Neale Jr. of Ravenel, S.C.; Denny Schreiner of Akron, Ohio, and Pete Couture of Cocoa, Fla., have been elected to the Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Fame, PBA CEO and Commissioner, Tom Clark, announced Monday.
Induction ceremonies will be held on Monday, Feb. 1, at Oklahoma’s Grand Casino Resort & Hotel as part of the FireLake PBA Tournament of Champions.
O’Neale built the PBA South Region tournament program into the organization’s most successful proving ground for aspiring young players over a span of 31 years before his retirement in 2011. A one-time PBA Tour competitor in his own right, O’Neale assumed a regional program with fewer than 200 members and built it into a membership as high as 971 members, frequently traveling thousands of miles while conducting more than 40 weekend tournaments a year.
“I’m really proud of (getting elected),” O’Neale said. “I joined the PBA in 1963, and it’s always been a dream to one day get elected to the hall of fame.
“When I went to work for the PBA, I tried to make people feel welcome and I think that’s why the regional program took off. I think the guys felt at home and so they kept coming back. Watching the region grow so much, and all of the people we met through the southern states made it all worthwhile,” O’Neale continued.
“It was nice to see some of the guys who grew up through the regional program go on to become some of the best in the world. I still keep up with them to see how they’re doing. Even though I’m retired,” he said, “the PBA is still one of my first loves. “
Schreiner, who served as the ESPN television voice of the PBA between 1986 and 1995, also was a skilled bowler who joined the PBA media staff in Akron short after his graduation from the University of Akron as the PBA Tour Broadcast Director. As PBA’s play-by-play announcer on ESPN, he quickly became popular for his ability to apply his knowledge as a bowler to the telecasts, working in harmony with PBA Hall of Famer, Mike Durbin, as his color analyst. Schreiner’s career in broadcasting was cut short when he was diagnosed with Stardardt macular degeneration, an incurable genetic eye disease that began robbing him of his central vision.
“I’ll tell you what, that was a pretty neat phone call (from PBA Commissioner Tom Clark),” Schreiner said. “It’s my first hall of fame and that’s really special, especially because (the late PBA Hall of Famer) Chuck Pezzano nominated me. Chuck’s not with us anymore, but he knew more about the sport and the people in it than anyone, so that was really special.
“Just to be nominated was fun,” he added. “The first thing I think about was when I went to work for the PBA in 1978, it was really, truly a family business. They were great, great people, and that’s what I’ve always appreciated. And to go out and work for the Tour was easily the best experience in my life, as a person and as a broadcaster.
“We worked our tails off, but I had more fun – and laughed more – than I have doing anything else in my life,” Schreiner said. “Bowling and the PBA gave me a chance to get to the network level, and I did the best I could with the opportunity. I was truly blessed, and to join Chris Schenkel as the second broadcaster elected is an amazing honor. Chris was truly a legend. To have known him, and worked with him, was something I’ll never forget.”
Couture, 70, was elected in the PBA50 Performance category based on his exceptional record for a minimum of 10 years as a “senior” competitor. On the heels of a 24-year career as a PBA Tour competitor, when he won five standard PBA titles, Couture began his PBA50 career in 1995 when he earned PBA50 Rookie of the Year honors. He won the first of nine PBA50 Tour titles in Reno in 1996, and captured a pair of USBC Senior Masters titles in 1998 (when he was selected as PBA50 Player of the Year) and 2002. The Connecticut native has earned $959,900 during his PBA career.
“I’m kind of overwhelmed,” Couture said. “I’m not sure what to think. It’s a dream come true. I think everyone who bowls for a living has a dream of getting into the hall of fame, and to have it actually happen is unbelievable. It’s an honor just to be on the ballot.”
Couture said his 1998 PBA50 Tour season was the most memorable of his career.
“I went from being a so-called star to being a superstar in that one year,” he said of his four-title season. “Everything came together. When I made match play, I was able to get to the show, and when I got to the show I was pretty successful. Everything went the right way for me that year.
“There’s no higher honor,” Couture added. “I’m humbled.”
None of the three eligible candidates in the PBA Performance category – Bryan Goebel of Shawnee, Kan.; Steve Hoskins of Tampa, Fla., and Mike Scroggins of Amarillo, Texas – received the required minimum of 70 percent of votes cast needed for election. PBA and PBA50 Performance candidates are elected by a panel of PBA Hall of Famers and veteran bowling writers and industry leaders.
The 2016 PBA Hall of Fame ceremonies will begin at 6 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 1, at Oklahoma’s Grand Casino Resort & Hotel following the official practice session for the FireLake PBA Tournament of Champions at nearby Firelake Bowling Center in Shawnee, Okla. Tickets for the hall of fame dinner will be available under the “tickets” link on pba.com.
The FireLake PBA Tournament of Champions program will get underway Saturday, Jan. 30-Sunday, Jan. 31 with a TOC Regional event which will qualify 24 PBA Regional, PWBA-PBA Women’s Regional and/or PBA50 Regional title winners to join the field of PBA Tour champions in the Tournament of Champions field. TOC qualifying and match play rounds will be contested Tuesday, Feb. 2-Friday, Feb. 5, with the top five players advancing to the live ESPN stepladder finals on Sunday, Feb. 7 at 1 p.m. ET. The finals will be conducted on a special installation inside the FireLake Arena, adjacent to FireLake Bowling Center.
All preliminary rounds of the TOC program, including the PBA Hall of Fame ceremonies, will be covered live, exclusively on PBA’s online bowling channel, Xtra Frame. For subscription information, visit pba.com and click on the Xtra Frame link.