Anticipation is building around the Bowlero Elite Series and its announced $270,000 top prize, and now further information about the event released Monday by Bowlero has helped fill in some of the details about who exactly will have the chance to bowl for more than a quarter-of-a-million dollars.
Bowlero’s invitation-only Elite Series, which is open only to those who bowl leagues at centers owned by Bowlero Corp. and to “card-carrying full members of the PBA or the PWBA,” will feature a TV show taped at Bowlero Romeoville in suburban Chicago on April 2 for broadcast on national TV later that month. Bowlero is yet to make public any details about the date, time or network for the show, but its website devoted to the event does make clear that the participants will include eight established pro bowlers and eight amateurs.
Aside from its historic top prize, the show also will award a runner-up prize of $80,000, and a total prize fund exceeding $500,000. Bowlero confirmed on the event’s website Monday that competing for a shot at the show’s $270,000 top prize will be four-time PBA Player of the Year Jason Belmonte, 2012 PBA Player of the Year Sean Rash, reigning PBA Player of the Year Andrew Anderson, three-time PBA Tour champion Kyle Troup, and 2015 PBA World Championship winner Gary Faulkner Jr.
Additionally, three PWBA Tour standouts also will be competing; they include four-time PWBA champion Danielle McEwan, 2017 PWBA Rookie of the Year Daria Pajak and reigning PWBA Player of the Year Shannon O’Keefe.
All received invitations from Bowlero to participate.
The remaining eight bowlers will comprise amateurs chosen to compete based on two factors: skill and personality. Amateurs were provided the opportunity to showcase their skill and personality for a chance to be selected by submitting a 60- to 90-second video along with an application. The submission deadline passed on Feb. 15; Bowlero began accepting applications on Jan. 11. Each of the eight amateurs selected will be paid a $5,000 “participation fee.”
Bowlero told BJI that they still are combing through the hundreds of applications they have received from interested amateurs.
“Part of BES is to elevate pro bowlers and to really put them in the spotlight, make them into the celebrities that they are, and give them an opportunity to earn some real money,” said Bowlero Chief Customer Officer Colie Edison. “And on the flip side, provide an opportunity for these amateur bowlers who can probably beat a lot of these pro bowlers but just don’t have the opportunity because these guys that are bowling pro, and women, they’re staying in motels, they’re traveling by car, it’s not a glamorous life.”
Bowlero does not intend for the Elite Series to compete directly with established pro bowling organizations such as the PBA or PWBA, Edison said.
Asked if the air date/time of the April show might conflict with any of the four PBA Playoffs shows set to air on FS1 that month, Edison said, “I work really closely with [PBA CEO and Commissioner] Tom Clark and I’m making sure that does not happen.”
Edison added that she sees the BES as an entity that “lives together with [organizations such as the PBA]. It’s a way to elevate bowling. Even with the PGA; they have a ton of these different offshoots. The same thing with tennis. There’s a bunch of different tournament routes, and I think for so long there’s only been this one direction, and this is going to offer them something else with a unique spin on it."
The $270,000 top prize Bowlero is offering the winner of the April show would be the largest single prize check any bowler on either the PBA Tour or the PWBA Tour has bowled for. It eclipses the $250,000 awarded Mika Koivuniemi for his victory in the 2011 PBA Tournament of Champions.
“We know that nobody’s ever bowled for this kind of money, but this is the kind of money these bowlers should be bowling for,” Edison said. “It’s never felt like they’ve gotten the recognition they deserve."
Participants themselves will be responsible for costs associated with travel, hotels, meals, etc., and they will be required to participate in “mandatory events” the BES rules page describes as potentially including a “pro-am, celebrity party, etc.”
Men and women will compete in the same pool rather than being separated into gender-based divisions, and a championship match for the $270,000 top prize indeed could be contested between a man and a woman.
“There’s no chance that this ends up only being pro versus pro or amateur versus amateur,” Edison added.
That is ensured by the format, which divides pros and amateurs into separate brackets. The winners in each bracket, one pro and one amateur, then face off in the championship match with $270,000 going to the winner.
The rules page stipulates that a “Tournament Committee” will determine seedings for each bracket. Losers in the first round of competition in each bracket win $2,000 apiece while winners advance. The consolation prize for losers of the second round will be $4,000 each.
The rules page presently does not specify the amount losers of the third bracket round will receive, but winners of that round advance to the championship match. All matches will be scratch, single-game elimination contests, including the championship match, and any ties will be resolved by a single-ball rolloff that will continue until the tie ultimately is broken.
“What I love about this is that bowling is one of the only sports where an amateur can really be a professional,” said Edison. “When it comes down to that one game — it’s not luck; it’s all about talent — but still, anything can happen when it comes down to just one game.
Lanes will be “cleaned and conditioned prior to the start of rounds 1 and 3,” the BES rules stipulate. “Lanes will not be cleaned or conditioned prior to the start of round 3 or the championship round.”
A mandatory practice session will be held “on a day and time prior to the start of round 1” on the same oil pattern to be used when competition officially gets underway, and “a pair of practice lanes will be available during the televised portion of the tournament for the bowlers competing in round 3 and the championship match.”
Participants “will be required to wear Bowlero-branded jerseys provided by Bowlero Corp.” Pros and amateurs on staff with a ball company will need Bowlero’s permission to wear any other company’s logo on their jerseys. While ball reps will be permitted, BES rules stipulate that their interaction with bowlers “is subject to the reasonable discretion of Bowlero Corp.”
A 20-second shot clock will be instituted for all televised rounds, and bowlers in rounds 1 and two will be permitted two “uncontested reracks” and one uncontested rerack in round 3 and the championship round. Any addition rerack requests will be “subject to the sole discretion of tournament officials.”
The full rules page can be found here: https://www.bowlerocorp.com/elite-series/rules
“To get bowling into the Olympics, these are the things that are going to elevate the sport,” Edison said. “Like the USBC says, ‘a future for the sport.’ I think that relies on us making bowling relevant. So we’re going to do that a couple different ways. We’re going to do that at the center level, and then I think this Elite Series is going to be huge.”