Bowling has been a favorite pastime of many since time immemorial. People of all ages, races, skill levels, and genders flock to bowling alleys 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. Similar to other sports, 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 blew everyone out of the water when league bowling at the latest amateur tournament.
Looking for more competition? Perhaps you should try your hand at professional bowling tournaments, like PBA events, 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 Professional Bowlers Association (PBA).
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 good cash prizes. Boasting around 4,500 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 old 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 can you do that?
Do you satisfy the requirements and have the credentials required? Are there any bowling tips to becoming a pro bowler?
How to Join the PBA Tour
Joining the PBA or participating in a professional tournament is anything but a cakewalk — in fact, it’s more difficult than most people realize. 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 at a PBA regional tournament. You can join such professional small tournaments as a non-member.
Held frequently, regional tournaments are regarded as the lesser version or the tour qualifying rounds of a regular tournament. However, on the bright side, amateurs get to rub shoulders with pro bowlers at PBA regional events.
Landing a podium finish at a regional tournament can increase your chances of qualifying for the PBA.
However, let us make something clear: Placing in the regional tournaments 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 TQR 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 having bowled good games that earn you an average score of 190.
Since you aren’t a member, you don’t get to cash at 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 at one 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 a regular 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 every USBC-sanctioned league uses 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 (or an even better score) 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 will have to pay $15 per month (entry fee) or a lump sum of $144 per year. As a standard member you enjoy a host of benefits, including passes to partake in three regional and one PBA tour tournaments per calendar year.
You will also have access to the official PBA newsletter and the members-only website of the PBA. Widely used by most PBA members, many feel 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 professional tournaments. With this membership, you are permitted to market your pro shop on the official website of the PBA and on your shirt at PBA events.
The international membership is specifically for international professional bowlers who wish to bowl with the greats in PBA tours.
A World Tenpin Bowling Association (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 the bowler 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, it may be wise to have a financial safety net in place before devoting yourself to becoming a pro bowler. Many who are on their journey to pro bowling support themselves by doing various odd jobs.
Also, don’t forget that the entry fees you’ll need to pay for tournaments can amount to a sizable sum.