The 2018 UnitedHealthcare PBA50 National Championship kicked off Tuesday at Spanish Springs Lanes with two sessions of the Amber Bock Pro-Am event.
The pro-am is the chance for the every-day bowler to roll with the pros.
“We have sold out at 288 bowlers,” said Larry Ducat, owner/operator of the bowling operations in The Villages. “John Weber (commissioner of the PBA50) said it is the biggest pro-am in the country.”
Although a majority of the amateur bowlers were from The Villages area, keglers came from near-and-far to get a taste of rolling with the big boys.
Bowlers from all over the local area came to Spanish Springs Lanes to be a part of the big show.
“I want to thank the whole bowling community. This is our way of being able to put on the tournament,” Ducat said. “They not only come to this, they support the tournament all week. Without the pro-am, and their support, there would be no tournament. We appreciate their support and the pros appreciate them.”
Bobbi Mayo and Valerie Lowe were two bowlers who came from further away than just around the corner. It was the first pro-am for both.
Mayo said she drove about 20 minutes from her Pine Hills home.
Entrants in the pro-am were able to buy the Strike Package which got them a free bowling ball.
Mayo said that is what drew her to The Villages.
“I came for the ball,” Mayo, a 163-average bowler, said. “I also want to experience bowling with the professionals.”
Lowe estimated it took her 40 minutes to get to the lanes from her Tavares home.
She carries a nifty 194-average.
She said she is still learning and wanted to learn some things from the professional bowlers.
“I want them to give me some pointers,” Lowe said. “I will ask them to help me. I’m always trying to improve.”
Cape Coral PBA50 professional Christopher Keane said what makes the pro-am successful is one thing –“its fun”.
“You meet people from everywhere. I just met a man from Denver and a police officer from Miami. You get all kinds of stories,” Keane said. “If you see somebody struggling, you give them little pointers to get them over the hump.”
Results from the pro-am will be announced later in the week.
Competition in the National Championship begins Wednesday with three sessions of six qualifying games starting at 9 a.m.