Top 18 Bowling Stories of 2018

by Gianmarc Manzione 0


Looking back on a year of bombshell news, big hearts and mournful losses.

1. PBA Severs Ties with ESPN for FOX: PBA CEO and Commissioner Tom Clark’s bold decision to end a decades-long partnership with ESPN for FOX culminates in a TV deal that in many substantive ways is better for the players and for the bowling industry at large. The deal pumps more prize money into events, ensures more combined airtime across FOX and FS1 than the PBA enjoyed on ESPN or ABC, carries with it the potential to expand bowling’s audience, and is followed up with the announcement of a $1 million bonus available to a player who shoots 300 in the title match of any of four select events on the 2019 schedule — the Tournament of Champions, the Players Championship, the Go Bowling! Indianapolis Open, and the PBA World Championship. No story in 2018 generated the kind of excitement this one does as the industry learns of the fresh start awaiting one of its most storied entities.
Missed BJI Editor Gianmarc Manzione's podcast with PBA Commissioner and CEO Tom Clark in the immediate wake of this bombshell news? Check it out here:

Also: Rob Stone visited The Bowlers Journal Podcast to discuss his return to bowling play-by-play. Missed that one? Check it out here:

2. USBC Open Championships Undergoes Rules Changes: A March 23 release from USBC announcing numerous changes to Open Championships rules ignites much discussion among elite bowlers as well as a nearly two-hour-long conference call with bowling media hosted by USBC executives. Key changes include calculating bowlers’ entering averages for the tournament based on the last 27 games they bowled in the event, tweaking average parameters per division, and restricting the number of elite players under age 60 allowed to bowl together in the Doubles or Team events. While decorated competitors such as two-time eagle winner Erik Vermilyea are concerned that, “You’re saying someone who made Junior Team USA when he was 14 now is considered a pro until he’s 60 years old,” two-time titlist Bo Goergen says, “Maybe the Mike Shadys and Marc McDowells of the world should not be considered in the same bucket as Jason Belmonte,” but adds, “At the end of the day, they’re still pretty accomplished, aren’t they? They won some eagles.”
Missed our podcast with USBC Executive Director Chad Murphy on this and other hot topics? Check it out here:

Former Webber International player Giorgio Clinaz expressed in an episode of The Bowlers Journal Podcast his fear that circumstances would force him to return to poverty-ravaged Venezuela, his native country, after his disqualification from college competition required Webber to vacate a national title.

3. Webber International Vacates National Title: Shockwaves roil the collegiate bowling world when a Feb. 15 release reveals that Webber International, one of the most accomplished programs in the country, will vacate the 2017 men’s Intercollegiate Team Championship title because team member Giorgio Clinaz was found to have been ineligible per USBC rule 207, which stipulates that no bowler who ever has been a member of any professional bowling organization can participate in USBC collegiate competition unless the bowler has applied for and been granted a waiver by USBC. Clinaz had bowled three World Series of Bowling events as well as one Summer Swing and a handful of PBA regional tournaments prior to joining the Webber International men’s squad starting with the 2015-16 season. Both he and coach Del Warren, whom the USBC has suspended indefinitely, are contrite and do not in any way take issue with the decision.
Miss our podcast with Giorgio Clinaz? Check it out here:

4. USBC Ball Study Yields New Specs: As Lyle Zikes reports in the June BJI, USBC announces on April 24 that “it was eliminating balance holes in exchange for much more lenient static weight standards,” which required the plugging of “any extra hole not used for gripping purposes” to ensure that “all those balls [will be] legal thanks to allowing a three-ounce imbalance tolerance — instead of one ounce — when measuring each side of the ball from the center of the grip as well as the fingers-to-thumb sides.” Other proposed rule changes, such as using only a dry towel (no shimmies) during play, limiting the oil absorption rates in bowling balls, prohibiting use of cleaners during play, and lowering differential take effect by Aug. 1, 2020. As for those static weight standards, “balls weighing more than 10 pounds will be allowed to have up to three ounces of static side, thumb or finger weight and up to three ounces of top or bottom weight, provided the ball does not have a balance hole” starting Aug. 1, 2018, according to a June 16 release from USBC revising the timeline for implementation.

5. USBC’s USOC Probation Ends: The standoff between attorney Ed Williams and the USBC that led to USBC’s probation and stoked fears that USBC might be stripped of its status as bowling’s National Governing Body in the U.S. ends in decidedly less dramatic fashion on April 18, when the USOC Board of Directors approves the lifting of that probation following review of revised language in USBC bylaws pertaining to due process for member athletes who have grievances with other USBC members or with the organization itself. Williams, a former Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York who specializes in matters of sports law pertaining to the Ted Stevens Act, says he is “pleased … that USBC will provide due process to all athletes and coaches, and also provide for a grievance procedure for its members to grieve against USBC.”
If you missed our report on the history behind USBC's back-and-forth with attorney Ed Williams on this issue, which was based in large part on reading the full transcript of the two-day-long hearing as well as exchanges with Williams and with USBC executives, read it here:

The deaths of hall of famers Pete Couture (pictured) and Johnny Guenther within three days rocked the pro bowling community in late June.

6. Two Legends Lost in Three Days: The death of Johnny Guenther on June 27, followed by the death of Pete Couture on June 30, rock the pro bowling world with grief as many of its biggest stars mourn the loss of great bowlers whom they counted among their greatest friends. Of 11-time PBA Tour champion Guenther, who died at age 82 and was best known for bowling the second televised 300 game in PBA history en route to winning his fourth PBA Tour title in the 1969 San Jose Open, PBA and USBC Hall of Famer Johnny Petraglia says, “He was one of the nicest people I ever met. I remember how excited we all were when he shot that 300 and got the $10,000 bonus.” Of 1998 PBA50 Player of the Year Couture, who died at age 73 and was elected to the PBA Hall of Fame in 2016 after having been a USBC Hall of Famer since 2004, PWBA legend Kim Adler says, “He provided the base and the root system for my growth. Without him in those early years I would not have been able to draw from that experience to then build upon it later.”

7. Bowling Shows its Big Heart: Within a month of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that took 17 lives on Valentine’s Day, former PBA Tour bowler Brady Carbocci, along with wife Stacy and daughters Hannah and Kaitlin, raise $15,583 for the families of those victimized by the tragedy. Hannah, a Stoneman Douglas student, had survived the shooting hiding under her teacher’s desk in the very classroom in which Helena Ramsay and Nicholas Dworet, both 17, were gunned down. Several months later, PBA star Wes Malott holds a fundraiser at his Malott’s All-Stars youth scholarship tournament on behalf of families impacted by the Santa Fe High School shooting that took 10 lives in May. On June 26, three-time Open Championships titlist Adam Barta and “The Bowlers Show” host David Waswo team up to raise $10,000 for the families of Ella Fraelich, a 7-year-old girl who was born with Crouzon Syndrome, a genetic disorder causing malformation of the skull, and Jensen Devereaux, a 2-year-old boy undergoing chemotherapy for pleuropulmonary blastoma, a rare lung cancer. The families evenly split the funds.

Hometown Hero: After bowler Hannah Carbocci survived the nightmare of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Feb. 14, she and her family quickly raised more than $15,000 on behalf of victims’ families through bowling ball raffles.

Anthony Simonsen collects his check after becoming the first player to win a PBA Tour title throwing a backup ball.

8. Simonsen’s ‘Backup’ Plan Makes Waves: When Anthony Simonsen has trouble getting a consistent line to the pocket during the Gene Carter’s Pro Shop Classic at Mid-County Bowling and Entertainment Center in Middletown, Del., in August and thinks, “Maybe I should change the pocket,” he means it quite literally. He switches to using the backup ball he had begun practicing in earnest weeks earlier and becomes the first bowler ever to win a PBA Tour title throwing a backup ball. “I’ve been telling people it would come into play at some point. I just didn’t expect it to be so soon,” he says after winning $10,000 and his fourth PBA Tour title.

Jakob Butturff has led the last two U.S. Opens by a combined 1169 pins and come up short of the title each time.

9. The Agony and Ecstasy of Being Jakob Butturff: Let’s begin with the ecstasy: When lefty phenom Jakob Butturff wins his 19th regional title at age 24 on Sept. 29, the PBA’s Bill Vint reports that “no PBA member has come close to Jakob Butturff’s record in regional competition in his first three years as a member.” Vint adds that “the closest … would be newly-elected PBA Hall of Famer Patrick Allen, who won 10 of his 30 career PBA Regional titles between 2000 and 2002, his first three years of membership.” Then there is the agony of being Jakob Butturff: After leading the U.S. Open by 552 pins in 2018 and by 617 pins in 2017, Butturff still is looking for his first U.S. Open title after losing the 2018 title match to Dom Barrett by a stick, 207-206. He had lost to Rhino Page, 256-222, in the 2017 U.S. Open title match.

Danielle McEwan's WBT Thailand win came with one of the biggest top prizes of the year in pro bowling. Liz Johnson (not pictured) won an even bigger prize a week later in South Korea.

10. McEwan, Johnson Bag Huge Top Prizes: At a time in pro bowling when sizable, five-figure top prizes are hard to come by, PWBA Tour standout and Team USA veteran Danielle McEwan bags the nearly $32,000 top prize when she scores a 1 million Thai baht payday for winning the PBA International-WBT Thailand at Blu-O Rhythm and Bowl Paragon on September 28. The following week, PWBA legend Liz Johnson sees McEwan’s feat and raises it to roughly $44,000 when she bags 50 million Korean Republic Won for winning the 20th SamHo Korea Cup at Red Hill Lounge Bowling Stadium in Yongin, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea.

11. IRS Scrutinizing Proprietors’ Cup Founder: Proprietors’ Cup founder Billy Eysoldt discloses in a Sept. 6 Facebook post that he owes $61,009.43 to the Internal Revenue Service. He takes down the post minutes later. Subsequent information obtained by BJI reveals that around the time Eysoldt actively was soliciting monetary donations on Facebook and saying the proceeds would go toward the 2020 Proprietors Cup, debt collectors, one of whom had garnished his wages as recently as June, were pressuring him to pay back several thousand dollars in debt. When BJI reached out to Eysoldt to ask him why he still needs donations if indeed he has “lined up a live Proprietors Cup finals on national TV paying one of bowling’s top prizes,” as he had claimed on Facebook, why he took down his Sept. 6 Facebook post disclosing his $61,009.43 debt to the IRS within minutes of having posted it, whether he is concerned about the perception he creates when he solicits monetary donations after having disclosed that he is under IRS audit, and whether he has been paying taxes on his tournaments through the years, Eysdolt replies, “I have been advised to say I have no comment at this time.”
For our full report on questions surrounding Proprietors' Cup founder Billy Eysoldt's fundraising claims, go here:

2014 BJI Person of the Year Chris Hardwick survived a #MeToo scare in 2018 that prompted some to wonder if his case necessitated a moment of pause and reflection within the #MeToo movement.

12. Chris Hardwick’s #MeToo Scare: Chris Hardwick, the son of 18-time PBA Tour champion Billy who has bowled two CP3 PBA Celebrity Invitational shows, tearfully resumes his hosting duties for AMC’s post-show TV series “Talking Dead” on Aug. 12 after seeing his career flash before his eyes in June following an ex-girlfriend’s allegations of sexual misconduct. After he suffers a thorough thrashing on social networks and is either suspended or dismissed outright from a number of television and festival panel hosting gigs, AMC restores Hardwick to his “Talking Dead” hosting duties when an internal investigation convinces the network that, "Given the information available to us after a very careful review … we believe returning Chris to work is the appropriate step.” The comedian’s vindication having set in with whiplash-inducing speed, some wonder whether his case calls for a moment of pause and reflection within the #MeToo movement.
Miss our report on Chris Hardwick's #MeToo scare, which included the perspectives of one expert on the subject who writes for Vanity Fair and The New York Times and published a book about consent on college campuses, as well as the perspective of a Denver-based defense attorney of 45 years? Go here:

2018 USBC Senior Masters champ Chris Warren also won an astonishing 53rd career PBA Regional title in 2018 to become the winningest regional player of all time.

13. Chris Warren’s Regional Bragging Rights: As Lyle Zikes notes in the December edition of BJI’s Regional Roundup, “Chris Warren became the PBA’s most prolific overall PBA regional champion after winning the PBA50 Waxahachie Open at Hilltop Lanes, south of Dallas, in late October. The victory gave Warren 53 regional titles, with 47 coming in standard events and six in PBA50 tournaments. That surpasses Dale Traber’s accumulation of regional titles (39 standard, 13 senior) by one.” Zikes adds that, “Warren shows no inclination of slowing down. In Texas, he took a 103-pin lead into the position-round game, which provided enough cushion to absorb a 247-224 loss to Steven Shaffer and still come out 50 pins ahead. Warren’s win came after back-to-back runner-up finishes the preceding two weekends.”

14. A Milestone for the IBMHOF: The International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame in Arlington, Texas, achieves a remarkable milestone as it surpasses 10,000 visitors for the year, more than any previous year since the institution’s move from St. Louis to Arlington in 2008 and subsequent Grand Reopening in 2010. “Our goal this year was 5,000, and we essentially got that with Junior Gold participants and their parents going through” when the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex hosted Junior Gold in July, explained Tracy Ebarb, the museum’s Business Development Director. In addition to the Junior Gold visitors, thousands more came through thanks to “a small and very committed staff doing many jobs,” Ebarb explains.

15. Shirley Garms Dies: Shirley Garms, a USBC Hall of Famer who had mentored many women in her capacity as tournament director for the Ladies’ Pro Bowling Tour following a decorated competitive career of her own, dies at age 94 on Jan. 24. Numerous stars chime in on the impact Garms had on their careers. “I joined [the ladies’ tour] in 1960. I was 16 years old and scared to death. And Shirley Garms just wrapped her arms around me and always did … there were people who had a problem with me being out there at my age, but Shirley never was one of them,” says hall of famer Judy Soutar.

16. CP3 Invitational Helps Houston Heal: The 2018 CP3 Celebrity Invitational, held at Bowlero The Woodlands in the Houston suburb of Conroe, Texas, gives Houstonians something to cheer about amid the tragedy they had survived during and after Hurricane Harvey. The storm was described by the University of Wisconsin’s Space Science and Engineering Center as a 1,000-year flood event, the Texas Tribune reported on Oct. 13 that it had killed 88 Texans, and Ball State University’s Center for Business and Economic Research suggested it may prove to be “America’s first $200 billion hurricane.”

PWBA legend Tish Johnson, who operates several pro shops in Colorado, recounted stories of men who refused to let her drill their equipment simply because she is a woman.

17. Women PSOs/Coaches Expose Gender Bias: A story that originally runs in the October BJI and later is expanded for an online edition at reveals jarring stories of gender bias endured by some of the industry’s longest-serving women pro-shop operators. Bev Ullrich, an International Bowling Pro Shop and Instructors Association charter member who has run shops for 32 years, and PWBA legend Tish Johnson, who runs several shops in Colorado, both recall times when men refused to allow them to drill their equipment because they were women.
Miss our full report on bowling's diversity problem, which included the perspectives of legends such as Tish Johnson, Carolyn Dorin-Ballard and many other high-profile women within the bowling industry? Go here:

18. Anniversary Highlights Bowling’s Role in Civil Rights: The Washington Post, Smithsonian Magazine and the Charlotte Observer are among media outlets to pick up the story of bowling’s tragic role in the civil rights movement when the 50th anniversary of the Orangeburg Massacre falls on Feb. 8. Three African American men were killed and 27 other people injured when a demonstration over racial segregation turned violent on the South Carolina State University campus in Orangeburg, S.C. Three days earlier, a group of 40 students had entered the nearby All Star Triangle Bowl, the owner of which, Harry K. Floyd, refused to desegregate. Those students left peacefully when Floyd had asked them to. The next night, more students arrived at the center, but police officers were waiting for them. When someone broke a window, police began beating the protesters with billy clubs, sending eight to the hospital. Two nights later, about 200 students gathered on the campus to protest Floyd’s policy and what had happened at his center, and that’s when a clash with the National Guard ensued.
For some historically informed, moving and chilling background on this tragic event, go here:


 This story appears in the January issue of Bowlers Journal International. To subscribe now for much more of the industry's best coverage of bowling news and incisive instructional tips and analysis, go here:

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