Technology takes the week off

by Bob Johnson 0

With all the options that today’s high-tech bowling balls offer pro bowlers, choosing the right equipment to complement the player’s ability often is the key to success.

But as the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour returns to Cheektowaga, N.Y., for the 3rd annual Mark Roth Plastic Ball Championship at AMF Thruway Lanes this week, any advantage that can be gained by choosing the right equipment will be thrown out the window because all of the competitors will be required to use the same type of bowling ball.

The Plastic Ball Championship, which requires players to use identical “throwback” polyester ball technology, is named in honor of the PBA Hall of Famer who dominated the so-called plastic ball era, winning a PBA-record eight titles in 1978 followed by a seven-title season in 1979. Roth’s total of 34 PBA Tour titles ranks fourth on the all-time list of PBA champions behind Walter Ray Williams Jr. (47), Earl Anthony (43) and Pete Weber (35), and tied with Norm Duke.

Duke, incidentally, has decided to sit out this week’s event. (The full roster of entrants can be viewed here.)

The inaugural Plastic Ball Championship, held in Wheat Ridge, Colo., in 2009, was won by Jeff Carter. Last season’s event, the first held in Roth’s honor, took place in West Babylon, N.Y., and was won by Brian Ziesig.

The concept behind the plastic ball tournament is to put a premium on knowledge of changing lane conditions, subtle adjustments in hand positions and delivery techniques, and other skills — rather than relying on advanced bowling ball technology.

“It’s definitely a totally different mindset because you can’t rely on technology,” said Carter, who won the 2009 event by defeating PBA Hall of Famer Pete Weber in the championship match, 235-213, for his first and only tour title. “The emphasis moves from a reliance on technology to mechanics and being able to repeat the shots the way you want to. The adjustments you make are more subtle and have to come from your physical game.

“I started bowling in the plastic ball era and have experienced the evolution of technology, and I’m one of those who have been a proponent of new technology in the sport,” Carter continued. “So winning that tournament was kind of a surprise for me because I really didn’t think I was going to do that well. I actually thought about taking the week off.”

Ziesig, a sales representative for a bowling equipment distributor who bowls only occasional tour stops, feels that such a tournament levels the playing field for players (like himself) who don’t compete regularly on tour.

“If you want to be successful on tour, you really have to know your equipment and what it can do for you under the different conditions you’ll experience week in and week out,” Ziesig said. “With two or three weeks of practice using a plastic ball similar to what we’ll be using in the Plastic Ball Championship, I can be as ready as the guys who bowl every week on tour.

“If they’re going to beat me, it’s because they bowled better than me, not because they have better equipment or better knowledge of all the equipment choices that are available.”

The Mark Roth Plastic Ball Championship also is giving the PBA an opportunity to support the sport’s official charities. A series of plastic balls have been produced as a special fund-raising event for Bowlers to Veterans Link (BVL), Bowl for the Cure (benefiting Komen for the Cure’s battle against breast cancer), the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame, the new YES Fund youth bowling initiative, and other charities supported by The Bowling Foundation.

All of the balls are available to the public through or by visiting The official tournament ball, which also is available, features logos of all of the participating charities.

Coverage of the tournament will be available to subscribers on’s exclusive Xtra Frame video streaming service. For one-month or full-year subscription enrollment, visit and click on the Xtra Frame logo.


AMF Thruway Lanes, Cheektowaga, N.Y., March 2-6

(All Times Eastern)

Wednesday, March 2

10 a.m. — PBA Tour Qualifying Round (7 games; minimum 10 players advance to Round of 64)

4:30 p.m. — Official practice session

7 p.m. - Pro-Am

Thursday, March 3

10 a.m. — Round of 64, Round 1 (7 games)

5 p.m. — Round of 64, Round 2 (7 games)

Top 32 advance

Friday, March 4

11 a.m. — Round of 32 (9 games round-robin match play)

Top 16 advance

6 p.m. — Round of 16 (9 games round-robin match play)

Top 4 advance to ESPN finals

Saturday, March 5

Pro-Am PBA Fan Day

Pro-Am squads at 12 noon, 3:30 and 7 p.m.

Sunday, March 6

1 p.m. — Live ESPN stepladder finals

Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson has received more national writing awards than any other bowling writer — close to 70 over the course of his 40-year career. He began at age 16 as a staff writer and then assistant editor for the weekly Pacific Bowler newspaper in his native California, and within three years was writing feature stories for Bowlers Journal. He has written for the magazine ever since, except for a five-year span when he was hired as the founding editor of another magazine. He moved to Chicago in 2000 and spent 13 years in the Windy City, including five as Bowlers Journal’s Editor. In 1975, Johnson received the Robert E. Kennedy Award as California’s top undergraduate high school journalist. Five years earlier, on the lanes, he had shared the Bantam Division Doubles championship in the Orange County Junior Bowling Association Championships. Today, he continues to work full-time for Bowlers Journal as its Senior Editor, to write his popular “Strikes Me” column, and to edit Luby Publishing Inc.’s weekly business-to-business Cyber Report.

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