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Bowling strike after strike, weekend after weekend, you might start thinking to yourself, “I’m pretty good at this. Maybe I should go pro.” And, while it’s tough to become a professional in any sport, you might have what it takes to pursue a bowling career. Here’s how to get started.
Check That You Qualify
Different countries and regions have their own professional bowling leagues — for instance, there is an Asian Bowling Federation, as well as the European Bowling Tour of the European Tenpin Bowling Federation. In the United States, professional bowlers and those who aspire to join their ranks answer to the Professional Bowlers Association, also known as the PBA.
To become a member of the PBA, you must ensure you meet one of the following requirements:
- A 200-point average or higher in your most recent season of league play, with at least 36 games played in that season
- A 190-point average or higher in a United States Bowling Congress (USBC)-sanctioned sport bowling league
- Cashing in a regional PBA tournament as a non-member
Although the first two requirements read quite clearly, the third option might need a bit of explaining. The PBA holds its professional tour events around the country, but it also organizes regional tournaments on a much smaller scale. You can sign up for one of the PBA’s non-professional events and, if you place near the top of the leaderboard, then you can parlay your success into PBA membership.
Of course, membership is just the beginning of your journey — even if you qualify, there’s still a ways to go to becoming a professional bowler.
Sign up for the Qualifiers
Once you’ve earned your spot in the PBA, you’re ready to sign up for your first Tour Qualifying Round (TQR). At any PBA tournament, the exempt — read: top — bowlers can choose whether or not to participate. They sign up for spots at will, and any remaining spots go to the winners of the TQR.
So, to make it to the big tournament, you first have to win the qualifying round. This means you’ll be bowling quite a bit, and it can be tiring to reach the finals, let alone win or play well in them. That’s why the goal of many pro bowlers is to earn an exemption. Here’s how you can make it happen:
- Top all non-exempt members – those who bowl in TQRs – on the World Point Ranking list
- Win a standard PBA tour title
- Earn a spot on the World Point Ranking list, although only 42 qualify this way
- Place 7th or higher in the previous year’s PBA Regional Players Invitational
- Pick up an exemption that you deferred or paused due to medical needs or hardship
- Earn the Golden Parachute, an exemption awarded to a single non-exempt player by the PBA’s leadership team
- Win a major championship, such as the U.S. Open or the Tournament of Champions. This one comes with a multi-year exemption, so aim high!
Some of these avenues are more far-fetched than others — there’s only one Golden Parachute per year, after all. In most cases, you have the best shot to earn an exemption by entering as many TQRs as possible to either have enough points to qualify or win the tournament.
Take Care of Your Equipment
As a professional bowler, you’ll want bespoke equipment and gear — no more renting shoes and borrowing balls from the alley. Before you invest in anything, though, check out the PBA’s list of requirements. When it comes to shoes, for example, bowlers can only don footwear from Dexter, 3G, Storm, Hammer or Brunswick at PBA League competitions.
Bowling balls will also be under scrutiny — so be sure you have one that’s approved. Older models manufactured before 1982 are also legal to use, so long as the ball’s manufacturer still has approval in the appropriate category.
Once you invest in the shoes, ball, gloves and other equipment you need, it’s up to you to take expert care of your supplies. This especially applies to your ball, the tool with which you’ll knock down pins and, hopefully, earn enough points to go pro.
Perhaps the most vital step in the maintenance process is routinely resurfacing your ball. This restores the pores of the ball, which create the hook and grip you need to hit the pins just right. A good rule of thumb is to resurface your ball after every 60 games you play. In between resurfacing, you should re-polish every 10 games and wash your ball with degreasing liquid soap every 30 games. With that, your ball will always be at its best, making you even more likely to win.
Become a PBA Exempt Bowler
Once you’ve followed all of the above steps and earned your exempted spot in the PBA, the journey has just begun. You’ll have to battle each year to retain your status unless, of course, you win a major tournament that comes with a multi-year exemption.
Clearly, it’s not simple to become a professional bowler, but the good news is that it’s possible. All that’s left to do is get started!