ARLINGTON, Texas - The opportunity to compete on the professional level is a rare one for most athletes. But for one day, league bowler Kevin Reuer had the chance to experience what it is like to compete at the highest level in the sport.
Reuer, a United States Bowling Congress Sport Bowling member from Hoffman Estates, Ill., won a six-game qualifying tournament on April 6 at the International Training and Research Center in Arlington. His victory was the culmination of a contest that started last August.
Reuer's reward? A spot in the field for the PBA Experience Showdown and the chance to bowl against PBA Tour competitors Norm Duke, Rhino Page, Bill O'Neill, Mike DeVaney and Jack Jurek.
The first event to be nationally televised from the new ITRC was taped on April 7 and bowling fans can see Reuer take on the pros when the show airs Sunday, April 11 at 1 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
"I thought I knew what pressure shots were during the qualifier, but this brings it to whole new level," Reuer said of his experience. "Trying to execute when your heart is pumping like this and you know everyone is just waiting for you to throw the ball, it's real hard to execute good shots."
While the competition was at a new level, the chance to be in the middle of the action - to be sitting among the pro bowlers - was one of the highlights for Reuer.
"I had a blast, an absolute blast," Reuer said. "I was sitting here during the first five frames ... the talk with Norm Duke and Rhino (Page) is hilarious."
The chance for a USBC Sport Bowling league member to compete in the PBA Experience Showdown started in August 2009. For almost six months, the top bowler (highest scratch series) each week in Sport Bowling leagues throughout the country were eligible to be entered. From those Sport Bowling leagues, which use many of the same lane conditions that are used on the PBA Tour, more than 1,300 entries were sent to USBC.
From those entries, 18 competitors were randomly selected as finalists and were divided into six groups based on the lane condition on which they bowled to qualify. Three finalists were randomly selected from each category and bowling fans went online to vote for their favorite bowler from each of the six lane patterns. Fans cast more than 140,000 votes to determine the six bowlers that competed in the qualifying tournament.
The six finalists were invited, along with their league secretary and the center's owner, to Arlington for the qualifying tournament at the ITRC. Each finalist qualified for the PBA Experience Showdown at a center that is a member of the Bowling Proprietors' Association of America.
Reuer said the PBA Experience Showdown is something more league bowlers should have the chance to experience.
"This is something that I shouldn't have for myself," Reuer said. "This is too much fun for just me."