As an novice, are you able to participate in a professional bowling event?
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If you are a serious bowler who has had some success in league games and local tournaments, it is natural that you have even bigger dreams.
While it is much harder to get professional at bowling than some imagine, it is still a dream worth fighting for.
But it is not always necessary to commit to a professional bowling lifestyle in order to meet the pros. I'm talking about taking part in a pro tournament as an amateur, which is possible in many cases.
Different ways to bowl PBA events as an amateur
Depending on the tournament, there may be several ways to secure a place without being a full professional.
At a basic level, these include options pay an entrance fee or take part in a qualification competitiont.
In addition, in some cases the field is opened to amateurs when there are still places left after all the professionals who want to play have entered.
Within these options, the exact process varies depending on the tournament. Let's look at how things work within the parameters of the PBA (Professional Bowlers Association).
The PBA acknowledges that amateurs may be eligible to participate in multiple competitions, including "Select PBA Regional Tour, Senior Regional Tour, and PBA50 Tour Tournaments".
In some tournaments, a certain number of seats (e.g. 6) can be reserved for high-finishers in a Pro Tour Qualifier (PTQ) round.
Outside of the PBA, other bowling organizations have different requirements. In some cases there may be a mix of professionals and amateurs, and in some cases it is the professionals who are limited in number.
How good do amateurs have to be to bowl in a pro tournament?
After the previous section on amateur eligibility, we have a caveat to those of you who think they can spend some cash and take a seat next to Jason Belmonte in a major tournament.
To dig deeper, we need to break down what we mean when we say "amateur". If we go back to the PBA examples, you will see that amateurs use the average minimum requirement to qualify for the competition through all available channels.
So what is the scoring requirement?
Amateur bowlers who want to qualify for a PBA event must have one 200 Average (or 190 Average in a USBC Certified Sports League)) for 21 games within the last calendar year.
These bowlers must be willing to prove this average either through an online review on the USBC website or through a letter from the league. (Source)
Additionally, all non-PBA members entering a tournament must adhere to the Code of Conduct and other standards for tour bowlers.
So when we talk about amateur bowling at professional tournaments, we are usually not talking about beginners or novice bowlers. In most cases, these are bowlers who are close to, if not at the level at which they could bowl professionally.
So the distinction is which bowlers are officially members of the PBA and which are not. There are currently around 3,000 bowlers registered as members of the PBA. Because of this, the percentage of amateurs participating in tournaments can be higher than one might think, and it is a more common practice than in other sports such as golf.
These amateur bowlers simply did not choose to turn pro for a variety of reasons, which is often the fact that they have another job and bowling on the side. In addition, with professional bowling salaries at a lower level than almost any other comparable professional sport, there are fewer incentives for the average bowler to join the PBA. When tournament prices aren't high enough, the costs that aspiring amateurs incur, from entry fees to travel, tend to work to deter them from entering competitions.
If you're a rather laid back league bowler who still wants a chance at bowling alongside the big pros, then it would be a better way to find one and take part in this one Pro-Am (professional amateur) event. Amateurs are usually handicapped and there are some other specific rules that ensure a level playing field.
To sum up, amateur bowlers attending professional events matter because of all of these facts, but it's not necessarily the kind of amateur you would think of first. Amateurs have won major bowling tournaments in the past, and it hasn't always been a major underdog story; On the other hand, for some reason, this bowler just hadn't turned pro. But in other cases, more aspiring amateurs have competed with more experienced professionals and defeated them. So if this is your dream as a bowler, keep fighting for it! If you competed in a tournament as an amateur, let us know how it went!