What's happening with the women's pro tour?



    By Joe Lyou (Tenpin Slants)

    What's happening with the women's pro tour? Will it start up again anytime soon? These questions are being asked often, ever since the PWBA (Professional Women's Bowling Assn.) Tour folded almost three years ago.

    John Sommer.jpg Following the demise of the PWBA - the last tournament was held in July 2003 - owner John Sommer sold all rights to the WIBC, which has since been absorbed by the USBC.

    In order to find out what's going on with the women's pro tour, Tenpin Slants contacted three prominent people - USBC honcho Roger Dalkin, former PWBA tournament director Fran Deken, and 2001 PWBA Player of the Year Carolyn Dorin-Ballard. The latter was at the peak of her game when the tour went under.

    Roger Dalkin.jpg Roger Dalkin's reply came by way of Jerry Schneider, a USBC Communications staffer:

    "While USBC would like to be a key player in re-establishing a women's tour, USBC is not prepared to make the financial commitment it would take to put on a quality tour at this time. I'm sure you can understand that it will need additional sponsorship and/or industry support which have not yet materialized.

    "Also, please be sure that it would be unique for a national governing body to operate a pro tour. Most other tours, like golf, tennis, and PBA, are commercial ventures that are not involved directly with the governing body.

    "In the meantime, we are stepping up our efforts to promote top-flight women bowlers and former pros. The 2006 (USBC) Queens prize fund of $200,000 with $30,000 going to the winner will be guaranteed and we are close to signing an agreement with ESPN2 to televise it once again.

    "Through our media efforts and by utilizing and promoting our official spokespeople, such as Kim Terrell, Carolyn Dorin-Ballard and Diandra Asbaty, we are doing what we can to keep women's bowling in the forefront of people's minds.

    "The more media coverage these ladies get, we hope that potential sponsors will see the value of becoming involved with these athletes.

    "As for enlightening the fans, there's just not much more to report, unfortunately. Believe me, if anything develops in regards to a women's tour, we (the USBC) will be geared up to tell the world."

    Fran Deken.jpg Fran Deken, who was inducted into the inaugural USBC Hall of Fame (for meritorious service) at the recent USBC Convention in Orlando, said that the women's pro tour was a main part of her acceptance speech. Deken was kind enough to provide Tenpin Slants with a copy of her speech. Here's what she had to say:

    "Good morning! It's an honor to be addressing the delegates of the first USBC Convention. As a Hall of Famer, I'm honored to be in the first group inducted in the merged organization that I so strongly believe in.

    "And while it is very important to make sure this merger works and improves our favorite sport, there are two integers of bowling that are near and dear to my heart.

    "The first thing I urge you (the delegates) to do is to consider ways to resurrect the Professional Women's Bowling Assn. It's been suggested in the past that bowlers be assessed one dollar along with their membership fee to bring back women's pro bowling.

    "If we don't bring it back, who do our female collegiate and high school bowlers learn from and emulate?

    "As a first step toward that goal, it would make sense for the USBC and the Bowling Proprietors' Assn. of America to annually conduct a Women's U.S. Open so that the female stars of each state have another place (or platform) in which to shine.

    "The other program that ranks high on my personal agenda is high school bowling. We should all work hard to make sure that the program continues to grow all across the United States, and I urge seniors like myself to get more involved because you will find it to be extremely rejuvenating.

    "I have just completed my first year coaching a mixed high school team of almost all brand-new bowlers, and it is one of the most fun and rewarding things I've ever done in our sport.

    "The enthusiasm and the desire to improve have been wonderful to see, and I applaud these teenagers who have the courage to learn a new sport and jump right into competition against almost overwhelming odds.

    "I know you have a lot of other business to take care of here, but the future of women in the Hall of Fame is at stake, because without high school bowling for women, collegiate bowling for women, Team USA, and professional bowling for women, there will no longer be viable candidates to choose from for Superior Performance, and that would truly be shameful.

    "Thank you and have a great convention."

    Carolyn_Dorin-Ballard_5230.jpg Meanwhile, Carolyn Dorin-Ballard, even without the women's tour, is keeping herself busy - very busy.

    Dorin-Ballard says, "I'm working a lot with the BPAA on the 'Coach It Up' program, helping to write the program and doing seminars across the country.

    "I am also the spokesperson for HSB (High School Bowling) and am on the Storm and Dexter staffs. So everyone is keeping me busy.

    "The trip to California on May 8th was something that Tom Clark (Director of Communications) set up through the USBC."

    (Dorin-Ballard was referring to the "Bowling With the Stars" charity event, which was to be held at Corbin Bowl in Tarzana, Calif. with Kim Terrell and Diandra Asbaty also participating in the worthy promotion. Tenpin Slants will have a behind-the-scenes report in our next column.)

    Carolyn, who is married to PBA star Del Ballard, added that they now own a pro shop (Ballard's Bowling Solutions). She says they do "a lot of clinics and lessons." As for the women's tour, Carolyn says:

    "I know that last year, Jan (Schmidt of the USBC) proposed a budget for the tour, but it was turned down. This year, I have no idea what is going on at the USBC as I have really not kept up with it since last year.

    "I will continue to bowl some of the PBA regionals, but I'm a little bitter that no one in bowling has tried to do something about the women's tour. It (pro bowling) is still very male dominated, and we (the women pros) are always fighting for the dollar."

    The Ballards, who live in North Hills, Texas, are the proud parents of a daughter, Alyssa. Carolyn says, "Alyssa just turned two and is full of energy. She definitely has my personality, but has the inquisitive mind of Del."

    BPAA selects Jerome Bettis as first Celebrity Hall of Famer

    The BPAA recently selected Jerome 'The Bus' Bettis as the first Celebrity Hall of Fame inductee into the new wing at the International Bowling Hall of Fame and Museum in St. Louis. Bettis, a running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers, retired after they won Super Bowl XL in February.

    While Bettis was an excellent choice, in our humble opinion, the first Celebrity HoF candidate should've been comedian Harold Lloyd. Not only was Lloyd an ardent bowler, but he was co-owner of the famous Llo-Da-Mar Bowl in Santa Monica. His partners were veteran Hall of Famers Ned Day and Hank Marino. A team sponsored by Llo-Da-Mar Bowl won the 1946 ABC team championship, rolling a splendid 3,032 series.

    Harold Lloyd was a good bowler and had a 300 game to his credit. And that was in the days when perfect games were hard to come by. It is also said that Lloyd carried a personal set of bowling pins in the trunk of his car, because in those days many centers used old, dilapidated pins.

    And then there's Roy Rogers. The cowboy singing star was a regular league bowler, who competed many times in the annual California Men's State Championships.

    But the best celebrity bowler of them all is John Burkett, a major league All-Star pitcher who won a total of 166 games with five different teams.

    Burkett, a 41-year-old righthander competed in this year's inaugural USBC Open Championships in Corpus Christi. A 220-average bowler, Burkett shot a splendid 2,082 all-events total. He rolled 721 in the team event - he had 30 clean frames - 753 in singles and 608 in doubles.

    Burkett, who started bowling in junior leagues as a youngster, has bowled in several PBA tournaments as a guest and cashed in a 2002 event. He just missed the cut in the 2004 ABC Masters in Reno.

    Clearly, all three - Harold Lloyd, Roy Rogers and John Burkett - are excellent nominees as future Celebrity Hall of Famers.

    Email address: tenpinslants710@aol.com