Bowling has been a favorite pastime of many since time immemorial. People of all ages, races, skill levels and genders flock to bowling arenas every chance they get, and bowling manufacturers release products to cater to every bowler’s needs, whether they are bowling balls for two-handed bowlers or bowling sets for kids.
The inclusion of supplementary amenities such as snack bars, entertainment floors, and attractive LED lighting has made bowling even more enjoyable in recent times. Plus, the health benefits that come with bowling are a great lure to those who want to stay fit and healthy while doing something fun.
If you’ve been lucky enough to spend countless hours in the bowling alley, chances are you’ve become quite the bowler. None of your friends come close to matching your bowling averages and you seem to blow everyone out of the water in the bowling league.
Looking for more competition? Perhaps, you should try your hand at professional bowling tournaments and start your journey to becoming a professional bowler.
How to Become a Professional Bowler
Anyone worth his salt as a professional bowler knows about the PBA (Professional Bowlers Association).
Despite being the professional body of ten-pin bowling in the United States, every bowler in the world dreams of being a member of the PBA or partaking in a PBA tournament because of the lucrative prize money. Boasting around 4500 professional bowlers for members, the PBA is the largest bowling association in the world.
The PBA primarily organizes four tours: PBA Tour, PBA Regional Tour, PBA 50 Tour (formerly PBA Senior Tour), and PBA Women’s Series. As you may have guessed already, only professional bowlers 50 years or over can qualify for the PBA 50.
Now, a sure-shot way of becoming a professional bowler is by joining a PBA tour.
So, how do you do that then?
Do you satisfy the requirements and have the credentials required to do so? Are there any bowling tips to becoming a pro?
How to Join the PBA Tour
Becoming a member of the PBA or participating in a PBA tour is anything but a cakewalk. However, it isn’t an impossible task if you have talent and money to boot.
Meet one of the three following requirements and you are good to go.
1. Cash in to a PBA regional tournament as a non-member
You don’t need to be a PBA member to cash in to a PBA regional tournament. You can join such tournament as a non-member.
Held frequently, regional tournaments are regarded as the lesser version or the qualifying rounds of a regular tournament. However, on the bright side, amateurs get to rub shoulders with professional bowlers in a regional game.
Landing a podium finish on regional tournaments can increase your chances of qualifying for the PBA.
However, let me elucidate to quickly diminish false hopes. Placing in the regional games doesn’t guarantee you a spot in the PBA tour; it simply increases your chances!
In most cases, you will have to see through several Tour Qualifying Rounds (TQR) and improve your rankings before you get the chance to play against top professional bowlers and reach the upper echelons of the bowling world.
Mind you, only the winners of the tour qualifying rounds get to compete in the real PBA tournament. However, there are ways to earn an exemption from the TQR, such as getting placed in the previous season’s World Point Ranking list or earning a 190 average score.
Since you aren’t a member, you don’t get to cash in to a regional tour more than two times in a calendar year. Keep in mind that you aren’t barred from participating as long as you relinquish the prize money.
A non-member can also cash in to 1 PBA regular tour. The U.S. Open and USBC Masters are off the table though.
2. Bowl an average of 190 regularly with at least 36 games under your belt
Only a good bowler can be a PBA member.
To join the PBA, you need to bowl an average of 190 consistently with at least 36 games under your belt in a PBA experience league or a league that is certified by the USBC (United States Bowling Congress). Bear in mind that USBC-sanctioned leagues use PBA oil patterns.
3. Have an average of 200 in the most recent league season
Another way you can join the PBA is by scoring an average of 200 in your most recent league season. Your credentials will only count if you’ve bowled 36 league games or more.
Let’s discuss some of the PBA memberships you can choose from.
To become a standard member of the PBA, you’d have to pay $15 per month (entry fee) or a lump sum of $144 per year. As a standard member, you can enjoy a host of benefits including passes to partake in 3 regional and 1 PBA tour per calendar year.
You’d also have access to the official PBA newsletter and the members-only website of the PBA. Widely used by most PBA members, I think the standard membership provides the best value for money.
Only aspiring bowlers aged between 18 and 24 can apply for the PBA24 membership. Priced at only $49 with no initiation fee, the membership particularly aims to help young bowlers transition from amateur bowling to the cut-throat competitiveness of professional bowling.
A PBA24 member has access to all the facilities and perks provided to a standard member. Additionally, a PBA24 member also receives a $50 discount coupon on a regional tour event.
Acquiring a full PBA membership will set you back $28 monthly or $300 annually for the membership fee.
A full member gets to enjoy all the benefits a standard member enjoys, plus passes to participate in unlimited tournaments. With this membership, you are permitted to market your pro shop on the official website of the PBA and on your shirt.
The international membership is specifically for international professional bowlers who wish to bowl with the greats in PBA tours.
A WTBA member with an enviable record can easily apply for this membership for $99 annually. However, if the WTBA member wins a PBA Tour title, he will have to renounce his international membership and apply for a full membership instead.
An international membership gives you passes to bowl in 3 PBA regional tours and 1 PBA tour event per calendar year.
Bowling is a sport enjoyed by millions all over the world. Since it is widely accessible, you can expect plenty of competition everywhere.
Making a living out of it is challenging, to say the least. Not everyone can be Walter Ray Williams, Jr. or Chris Barnes and rack up top dollars—only the crème de la crème can hope to make money and sustain a decent lifestyle through the sport.
That said, I would advise you to have a “financial” safety net in place before devoting yourself to becoming a professional bowler. Also, don’t forget that the entry fees you’ll need to pay can amount to a sizable sum.