For West Valley Bowl general manager Mal Cowan and local bowlers at the event, it signaled the rebirth of the local lanes as a destination for the region’s top Professional Bowlers Association competitors.
“This is the first one we’ve had in, I want to say, at least 10 years, maybe longer,” said Cowan, manager of West Valley Bowl since 2016. “I used to bowl professionally myself. When I took over the bowling center as the manager, I noticed that … less tournaments were available for bowlers to bowl. With the owner’s permission, we put this together. We’re going to try to make it a regular thing every year.”
Cowan figures it’s his role, and the role of the local lanes, to provide opportunities to bowlers who strive to reach the elite levels of the sport.
“I can give back to some of these guys and the bowlers,” he said. “What they needed for a long time is what I got when I was younger.”
The weekend included a pro-am, with amateur seniors and juniors competing alongside professional bowlers on Friday night and amateur adult bowlers paired with pros on Saturday night.
The highlight of the weekend was the PBA50 Patton Amusement & Genesis Senior Open, which drew 60 professional bowlers age 50 and up. Almost all of them came from California, with some players from Arizona, Oregon and Nevada and one from Dayton, Ohio.
Cowan said it was the first tournament of the 2019 West Region Tour. Over the next year, players will travel to Las Vegas; then to Dublin, Modesto, San Jose and other California cities; and then to Oregon and Washington.
Gary Mage, the west region manager and tournament director, said he was happy to add Tracy to the schedule after Cowan contacted him.
“It was nice to get back again to this area. It’s a really good area because we’re so close to a lot of bowlers,” he said. “You’ve got San Francisco, San Jose, Stockton, Modesto, Sacramento, all that area, and there’s a big group of bowlers.”
The pro tournament started with two rounds of five games each Saturday. The 12 players with the highest pin totals qualified for Sunday’s round-robin, where they played 11 head-to-head matches plus one position round and then added those pin totals, plus 30 bonus pins for every match won that day, to their scores.
The tournament directors gave cash prizes to the top 17 bowlers. The total payout was $10,300, including $1,800 for first place, which went to Skip Pavone of San Jose. He averaged 240.09 over 22 games, including perfect 300s in the fourth game of Saturday’s first round and the fourth game of Sunday’s round-robin.
Tracy bowler Joseph Petrovich, 53, didn’t make Sunday’s round-robin, but he did place 15th overall, with an average score of 218.9 over 10 games, to collect a $300 check. He said the weekend event was one of the biggest tournaments he’d been to.
“In our western region, we haven’t had this many bowlers in one tournament. Most of the time we get between 35 and 40, maybe,” he said. “We’ve got a full field of 60, which is pretty impressive. There’s a lot of guys from out of town, hall-of-famers. We’ve got a lot of national players here. They made the trip to come down here, which is pretty exciting.”
Petrovich, who was ranked 10th in the PBA50 West Region for 2018, was in 18th place after the first round Saturday and moved up in the second round, recording his best score for the day, 239, in his second game of the second round. His pin total of 2,189 was 25 pins short of making the top 12.
Tracy’s Craig Miller, 55, who was ranked 11th in the PBA50 West Region in 2018 and was the PBA50’s Bowler of the Year for the West and Northwestern regions in 2014, came in 21st overall with average score of 212.4.
Miller was in 23rd place after Saturday’s first round and was confident he could move up in the second round, depending on how he managed his own mindset and the condition of the lanes.
“It’s very doable if you have the mental game,” he said. “The oil pattern is a little bit demanding. Not every shot is going to be perfect, so you’re going to leave spares and you just have to concentrate on getting spares.”
Miller did move up and bowled his high score for the day, 237, in the first game of the second round, but he still missed the cut for Sunday by 80 pins. Win or lose, he was glad to see the PBA50 tour for 2019 start in his hometown.
“This is probably the biggest tournament we’ve had for seniors, and the most competitive field, in a number of years. So we’ve got real good turnout, real good support,” he said.
While some of the top PBA50 bowlers make a decent income, Miller said that in most cases, the cash prizes are enough to cover travel and hotel expenses. In this case, the bonus was having a big tournament nearby.
“You don’t have to worry about room and board. It gets quite costly,” he said. “Most of the people who do it like the competition, because there’s not really much money to be made.”
Bowling in his first pro tournament was Mountain House resident Tony Braga, 54, who has bowled in amateur tournaments since his 20s. He finished in 56th place with an average score of 188.9.
“I just decided that I wanted to start trying it. Now that I’m a senior, I wanted to try the senior part of it,” he said. “It’s good that Mal stepped up and put (West Valley) Bowl up for the tournament. We don’t get a lot of the PBA senior stuff around here. We get the one in Dublin every year. Other than that, you have to travel.”