2009: The Year of Ron Mohr

He calls himself "just a pretty good bowler from Anchorage Alaska." Anyone who even casually followed the Professional Bowlers Association's Senior Tour this summer, though, might call him more than "pretty good." Some might call him great.

He is a retired Air Traffic Controlman from a town called Eagle River who wondered if he might be able to compete and found instead that he could dominate. But Ron Mohr is hardly prepared to assume any such thing about himself, even after three Senior PBA titles in a single season and "Player of the Year" honors almost certainly on the horizon.

"I looked at that group of players and thought 'What am I doing here?'" Mohr says of defeating Hall of Famers Tom Baker, Mark Williams and 2009 Senior PBA World Champion Harry Sullins en route to his third win of the season in Lansing, Mich. "I would look at the point standings on the senior tour, and I would see Wayne Webb, Tom Baker, Mark Williams, Hugh Miller and those guys, and then I would see my name at the top and I'm thinking 'This is just a great dream. It must be my proverbial fifteen minutes of fame.'"

Maybe so, but for a player who is good enough to have made Team USA three times, no one will call Ron Mohr's 2009 a fluke. And even if this season was just his fifteen minutes, it is a fifteen minutes that began 20 years ago when, walking the Atlantic City Boardwalk with friend and then-Team USA Member Harry Nicholson, Ron Mohr saw something that ignited a dream.

"I'm walking down the Boardwalk with Harry, who is on Team USA, and he's wearing his USA jacket, and I am so green with envy. I mean, I can't stand it. I love Harry, but I would have given anything to have one of those nice, white silk jackets that has 'USA' on the back. And crazily enough, the very next year I made the team."

Atlantic City is the kind of town where dreams are broken at least as often as they are made, but the dream Ron Mohr had there still follows him around the country to this day and, along the way, has compiled an itinerary of memories that will never be broken.

For the rest of Ron Mohr's life, Jackson, Miss. will remain the place where he held the first national title trophy of his career. And Lansing, Mich. will remain the place where he claimed a third title which, after defeating a trio of Hall of Famers on brutal lane conditions to attain a third title in four months, proved to Mohr once and for all that he has come a long way from the non-PBA member who stepped into a bowling center in Dayton last year to find out if he belonged there.

"The first tournament that I bowled was in Dayton in '08," Mohr remembers, "and I qualified fifth! And I thought 'OK, I don't know if this is an abomination, or if I have the opportunity to be one of the better players out here. Then the next week was the 'Ladies and Legends' in Rockford, Ill. And I qualified third! So I cashed twice and I joined right after that.'"

But the memory he made in Fort Wayne, Ind. had nothing to do with bowling. There, where Ron Mohr left his childhood to pursue a nearly 30-year career so fulfilling that he immediately began training the next generation of air traffic controlmen upon retirement in January 2008, bowling brought him back in touch with his brother, Jim Mohr, whose memories of days spent bowling with Ron at the local center using coupons peeled off of Palmolive bottles are just as vivid to him now as that more recent summer day in Lansing is to Ron.

"Bowling is in the blood. We're good at it, we spent so much time in the bowling alley growing up, we all spent so much time bowling," says Jim Mohr, who was just 15 when Ron Mohr left Ft. Wayne for Alaska and counted himself among the spectators at the PBA senior tour stop in Hammond, Ind. this past summer.

"Like I said, this is my fifteen minutes," Ron Mohr says of the family reunion that bowling made possible. "I'm still pinching myself every day because I can't believe that this has happened to me. I'm just a guy who is a pretty good bowler in Anchorage Alaska. Where it's gone from there has been just surreal."

With "Player of the Year" honors virtually guaranteed and three Senior PBA titles in four months to his credit, though, the question is no longer about where things have gone; the question is where do they go from here? If Ron Mohr has his way, they will go even farther than they have in a season so spectacular that he admits to pinching himself.

"Like any other player, probably, I want to win again. And I would really like to win a major," Mohr says.

Ron Mohr may face another challenge before that first major, though - a bit of a family score that brother Jim hopes to settle someday.

"I bet you if you give me a little practice I would give Ron a run for his money," Jim Mohr says, "I'd love to bowl Ron again."

The man is not kidding. And as the latest post on his blog suggests, he has a sore arm to prove it.

"I did wake up sore from last night's games," Mohr writes. "All things considered, for not having bowled in over 15 years, averaging 191 with no warm-up for 7 games isn't all that bad . . . Ron Mohr may have more to worry about than Walter Ray Williams Jr."