Only in America would the World Ranking Masters fail to draw standing-room only spectators at Kegel Training Center

    05/09/07

    Column

    The World's Elite Bowlers do battle but the spectators stay home By Dick Evans

    ColumnistDickEvans.jpg Drive south on U.S. 27 after passing another series of homes that used to be orange groves and you start looking for the Kegel Training Center.

    Kegel is known by bowlers and proprietors world wide so you are sure that you will see this giant neon sign signaling where you should turn right to the unique bowling complex...something like looking for the MGM sign when driving down the Strip in Las Vegas.

    Wrong. You have to know where you are going or you could wind up in Avon Park or even Sebring farther south.

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    Once you find the bustling Kegel Training Center you expect to see scads and scads of people standing on their tip toes to get a glance of the action as 50 of the elite amateur bowlers from 23 countries compete in the World Ranking Masters Tournament.

    Wrong. The only spectators are either team members, coaches, officials, workers, husbands/wives, reporters or friends. Even worse, this great sporting event is open to the public free of charge -- an unheard of miracle in the United States.

    Only in America would be my guess for the apathy displayed toward this big time sporting event.

    After all, Tiger Woods was performing his magic in a golf tournament, the Spurs were winning an NBA playoff game and a bunch of hockey teams were still involved in the Stanley Cup.

    For some strange reason, bowling does not seem to be able to capture the imagination of the American public. Oh, millions upon millions of Americans like to bowl in leagues and at birthday parties and when out on dates, but they are not really bowling fans like these international champions are accustomed to performing in front of in Asia and Europe.

    Maybe the problem is that in America it is hard to get the word out to the public -- the non-bowling public.

    If you walked in the pressroom at the World Ranking Masters you would see five or six writers such as Bowlers Journal's Bob Johnson and USBC's Lucas Wiseman hard at work at their computers.

    Down where the bowling was taking place, Lenny Nicholson (alias the Phantom o Phantom Radio fame) was doing a web radio broadcast -- hour after hour after hour. And sitting next to him was Germany's Herbert Bickel, working feverishly to make sure every game goes on his Website (www.Bowlingdigital.com) as quickly as humanly and computably possible.

    But the problem here my friends is that all of them are hard at work getting the bowling word out to bowlers who are either actively involved or interested in the game or have a family member or friend who is actively involved.

    A lot of burden for spreading the word that bowling is a tough sport falls on the people world wide who are keenly interested in bowling news and go to webpages daily. They must spread the word among their friends and families, and maybe even to a few enemies that the sport of bowling is among the best kept secrets in the world.

    What this industry needs to do is get the word out to baseball fans, football fanatics, TV viewers, computer nerds, businessmen, housewives, children and let them spread the word for the bowling industry.

    In my mind, investors didn't make Las Vegas popular, people did by spreading the word from shore to shore and continent to continent.

    Bowling also needs to gain the attention of the general public with things like flashy billboards, great TV coverage, daily newspaper stories, radio plugs but especially through word of mouth from one human to another.

    Once bowling fans convince the public that this is indeed a challenging sport that deserves recognition, then bowling will thrive.

    I for one truly believe that a great PERCEPTION adds up to a winning RECEPTION.

    Tournaments like the World Ranking Masters and the USBC Women's U.S. Open and the PBA tour are too good and feature too many outstanding athletes to be ignored.

    Thankfully, the entire bowling industry is pulling together today to change bowling's image from just a recreation for the fun bowlers to a difficult sport for the serious bowlers.

    You could tell that USA Coach Jeri Edwards and super star Diandra Asbaty were serious at Kegel. They huddled after every couple frames and the teamwork paid off Monday.

    Diandra, who was mired in last place after the opening game, which may have been a hangover from her last TV game in the USBC Queens where she finished second, came on strong in the stretch. Her courageous comeback reminded me of Street Sense's great late charge from 19th to first in the Kentucky Derby.

    Diandra was awesome in the two TV games Monday, rolling winning scores of 233 and 235 on long and short oil patterns to win $10,000. That gave her more than $25,000 in earnings in a six-day period...not bad for an amateur who should be considered among the female amateur athletes of the year candidates.

    Diandra becomes the first two-time winner.

    Polk County, which saw the value of its previous TV coverage of the World Team Masters, expanded coverage to 90 minutes and got lucky with two close games between the male leaders before Stuart Williams uncorked a big last game to win going away.

    Give credit to the United States Bowling Congress for knowing the importance of this event and putting its money muscle behind the competition. Michael Carroll and Jeff Boje, the soon-to-be past president and soon-to-be president of the USBC, drove over to speak with tournament officials.

    Give even more credit to John Davis, founder and owner of Kegel who came to the rescue of this tournament when it was floundering, looking for home at the 11th hour.

    Davis has surrounded himself with a staff second to none and that's why the tournament runs so smoothly.

    Heikki Sarso, president of the World Tenpin Bowling Association, said it best when he said: "Our current host does it again (host) for a third time and deserves extra thanks and honor. I take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the USBC and Kegel."

    Added tournament director Kim Thorsgaard Jensen: "On behalf of bowlers worldwide, I express my gratitude to Kegel and the USBC for their willingness to jump in and take the host responsibility at a very late moment, which de facto saved the World Ranking Masters 2007."

    Among the tournament staff were a lot of the Davis clan -- Jonathan, Dennis, Chris and Mike.

    Now if I only can convince someone that Kegel is a historic bowling landmark, then maybe someone will OK building a sign on U.S. 27th citing the building as -- Home of the world respected Kegel Training Center.

    When that happens, it will become another big time tourist attraction in tourist oriented Florida.

    I can see it now, for a $10 admission charge you get a chance to beat former pro champion Del Warren in a one-ball rolloff, you are given a 30-minute presentation about the revolutionary C.A.T.S. coaching system, a chance to finger test Kegel oil and a two minute ride on Kegel's new lane machine.

    Watch out Mickey and Minnie, Kegel soon may be the new sport in town.

    Email address: Evans121@aol.com