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Top Bowling Tournaments In The United States

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Bowling is often viewed as a recreational sport for most people out there. It is something that can be played casually, although there is always some level of competitiveness once things get started.

In the United States, there are a few major bowling tournaments that always seems bring out the best of the best. Not only do the best players participate, but there is some real money on the line. Here’s a closer look at some of the top bowling tournaments in the United States every single year. Known as the four majors, each one brings something unique to the table for fans.

USBC Masters

The United States Bowling Congress Masters has been around, in some capacity, since 1951. This is a championship 10 pin bowling event that is mostly known for its trademark qualifying and the set up of double elimination matchplay.

At the beginning of the tournament, there can be as many as 360 entrants. All the bowlers will then compete in 15 games of qualifying, and only the top 63 qualifiers will advance. The final spot is always reserved for the previous year’s champion in the bracket. Once the matches or head-to-head, they consist of three games, and the highest total pinfall wins.

Held in the spring, the 2018 event took place in Syracuse, New York. Andrew Anderson took home the top prize of $30,000. The 2019 USBC Masters will take place in Las Vegas from March 26th to April 1st.

Despite being a major, the USBC Masters gets overlooked by some. It is still a great event, but the three below are just a little bit higher as far as visibility is concerned.

PBA Tournament of Champions

As the name implies, the PBA Tournament of Champions is the one tournament each year in which people are going to see the very best in the game today. Every year, a number of talented players all battle about to see who is the best of the best at the time.

Unlike the other majors, the PBA Tournament of Champions is currently an invitational event. It originally focused on the 32 most recent title winners on the PBA tour. Once they wanted to expand the tournament, they added past winners of the Tournament of Champions as well.

With competition being so high, it is pretty clear to see that things can certainly get competitive. There are a lot of nerves each year at this event, and some of the all-time greats have made a huge splash.

Those who have paid attention to bowling for quite a while probably have heard of Don Johnson’s 299 game way back in 1970. Many consider it to be one of the most iconic moments in bowling history, as the Hall of Famer bowled 11 straight strikes before leaving a 10-pin spinning on his 12th shot. He still won the title over Dick Ritger, but he missed out on adding another $10,000 and a Mercury Cougar because of that one shot. Him lying on the ground face down is something that has been replayed a lot of times.

Another more recent memory from the tournament came in 2010, when Kelly Kulick became the first woman to leave victorious at a PBA tour event. To be able to win the event at the Tournament of Champions made the moment one of the few times bowling received national sports attention. Shortly after, she received congratulations from the likes of Billie Jean King and Barack Obama.

Currently, Matt O’Grady is the reigning champion, taking home $50,000 by defeating Jesper Svensson. He will be looking to become the first repeat champion since Jason Belmonte in Fairlawn, Ohio.

PBA World Championship

For years, this event was referred to as the PBA National Championship. The name was finally changed in 2002 to reflect the growing field of bowlers from all parts of the world. It is still routinely held in the United States, and it is another major PBA event. The format used at the PBA World Championships is slightly different from the rest of the tour, which is what can make things interesting in the end.

Qualifying scores for the World Championship must come from other standalone tournaments at the PBA World Series of Bowling. This means that this event is only open to a PBA member who also enters the World Series of Bowling. Most of the top bowlers in the world do this, so it is really not that big of a deal.

Earl Anthony is known as one of the best bowlers of all-time, and he is a true legend specifically at this tournament. He has won the tournament a record six times, including a pair of three-peats from 1973-1975, and again from 1981-1983). Due to his massive success, the trophy is named after him.

The World Series of Bowling will be returning to Detroit in 2019. Many people are excited to see it return to its roots for the 10th anniversary of the World Series of Bowling format.

Above all else, the unique format of the PBA World Championship is perhaps the best way to understand where the sport is today. This was mostly a sport that was only popular in the United States at a professional level. Now, players from all over the world are coming in and competing for a true world championship.

U.S. Open

The U.S. Open is perhaps the most challenging tournament out of all the PBA tour majors. There are a few reasons why this is the case. For starters, it has the longest format by far. It takes about 56 games from the beginning of qualifying to the very end in order to win the championship. Not only that, but the oil pattern used for the U.S. Open is different than a lot of other oil patterns on other stops during the PBA tour. All these factors lead to some exciting finishes in the end.

Perhaps no finish was more memorable than in 2012, when Pete Weber, then 49-years old, made a surprising run for a record-setting 5th U.S. Open title. Few people were giving him a chance of winning at the beginning of the tournament, but he was able to pull off a one point victory in the final over Mike Fagan. His celebration after made headlines, and he solidified himself as the modern face of bowling.

Ask anyone about the most memorable quote in bowling history, and they are almost always going to answer with “Who do you think you are? I am!” Weber was clearly fired up to achieve history in 2012, and he was particularly fired up by a fan who clapped earlier in the tournament after he missed a pin. It seemed to be the motivation that was needed for him to reach back for a little extra.

While the U.S. Open is open to everyone, they have recently decided to personally invite top money leaders from various other events during the year. They still have to go through a lot of games, but the move was made to ensure that there were a lot of talented players in the field each and every year.

The tournament bounces around quite a bit, as it was held in Wichita, Kansas in 2018 and will be in Mooresville, North Carolina in 2019. It is usually one of the last events of the calendar year.

Other Events

The majors are always going to be the best way to catch the best talent in the world. This is where the most money is going to be handed out, and the professionals love to have the recognition of winning a major event. With that said, there are other event scattered throughout the United States that can be just as exciting as well.

One of the best things about bowling in general is that everyone starts with a chance to possibly bowl a 300. No matter how many times it has been done, this is always going to be a special moment for people to see in person. For example, back in 1987, the television world randomly had the opportunity to see Pete McCordic bowl a perfect game that netted him $100,000. It was the first perfect game on television in over 13 years, proving just how random it can be.

There are also other events local people will try to enter because it has an open format. Bowling is incredibly difficult to play at a high-level, but a person can qualify and play against the best for money if things fall away. Very few sport skills amateurs a true chance like bowling.

The best way to find out about other events either officially on tour, or just local rize money events, is to search around online. The PBA Tour schedule for 2019 is already set, with stops in nearly every area of the United States. Local event might be a bit harder to find, but for the most part they are going to be advertise at the local bowling alleys without question.

Top Pro And Recreational Bowling Leagues In The United States

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Arguably, league bowling is the most popular recreational sport in the US. Alongside pro leagues and pro tournaments, you will find hundreds of bowling leagues being arranged mostly by exclusive bowling alleys or by social clubs that include a bowling alley within their premises. And no matter what your skill level or age is, you can always find a bowling league of your choice in your own town or city.

In fact, the sport of bowling, thanks largely to its ability to bring people together, has huge cultural significance for the US people. The game is for the most part affordable and appeals to people from many different walks of life. As such, the game also provides the participants with great opportunities for socializing and for forming a sense of camaraderie with their respective bowling partners. In addition to that, today you will find many full-service bowling alleys that are equipped with food and drink stores; equipment shops where you can buy or borrow bowling equipment or apparels; and more. This makes bowling a fun and relaxing activity (unless you’re having a particularly bad night!). And of course, if you are competing in a league, what with the adrenaline rush and everything, the whole thing reaches a new dimension altogether.

And as we’ve mentioned already, there is a league available for bowlers of every stripe. There are individual leagues, team leagues, couples leagues and if you so want, you can even set up your very own bowling league at your preferred location and register it to USBC (United States Bowling Congress), the central governing body for the sport of bowling in the country.

Top Bowling Leagues

Basically, all bowling leagues and tournaments in the country can be divided into two major categories: Recreational Leagues and Professional Leagues/Tournaments.

  1. Recreational Leagues

However, when it comes to recreational leagues, there are leagues of all ilks and descriptions. There are leagues where bowlers participate mostly for fun and then there are those that are often bitterly fought! Of the latter category, many offer sizeable prize money for winners. So, don’t commit the mistake of confusing the term ‘recreational’ with ‘non-competitive’.
Normally, with leagues that offer prize money, half of your fees for participating in the league go toward the prize fund. The prize money is distributed among the top ranking teams at the season end. Most leagues will award individual awards as well such as an MVP award. Keep it in mind that although there are individual leagues, couple leagues, etc., most serious recreational leagues will feature teams, typically of 6-8 members.

Normally, all leagues are registered with USBC, so as long as you participate in a league, you’ll automatically become a USBC member. A USBC membership costs you about twenty dollars, but more often than not, this will be included in your league participation fees, so you don’t need to spend any extra bucks towards it. Why we mention this is because a USBC membership comes with its own range of benefits. With a membership, you qualify for award patches or magnets (as they are called these days) and can also avail useful discounts from different merchants, including car rental, hotels, etc.

Types of Leagues

Commonly, you’ll find four types of bowling leagues in the US—the Men’s League, the Women’s League, the Mixed Team League and the Youth League. Save the last category, there is no age bar for participating in these leagues. The Youth leagues are commonly reserved for individuals aged 22 or less. Some organizations offer separate Senior Leagues as well that, following the rules of Pro Senior Tournaments, are open only to persons of age 50 or over.

Leagues are also differentiated by skill sets, so you have Beginner Leagues, Novice Leagues, Experienced Leagues and finally, Advanced Leagues. In the last two categories, the competition is often fierce and participants are typically those who take a special pride in their bowling abilities!

Most Famous Leagues

Some of the most famous and prestigious bowling leagues in the country are arranged by well-known bowling alleys and social clubs many of which have franchises all over the country. Some of the most reputed of these bowling clubs include BrunswickZone, Bowlero, AMF and BowlMor Lanes. These clubs organize many of the major recreational bowling leagues across the United States.

How to Find the League of Your Choice

You can find news about many ongoing and upcoming leagues from websites of different bowling clubs. For example, if you are looking for a suitable bowling league to join for the upcoming season, you can look up the AMF website. AMF, a dedicated bowling club (although it offers some other facilities as well), has a page where you can enter your city of preference, preferred dates, type of league you want to join as well as other details/filters to find the right league for you. The site will not only exhibit their own bowling leagues but those arranged by other organizations as well.

Leagues Standing Sheets

You can find fixtures, schedules and standings of all the bowling leagues registered with USBC at USBC’s own site Bowl.com. For example, if you want to know the standings of a particular bowling league, visit this search page and fill out the required information and you’ll be summarily directed to a printable League Standing Sheet page. So, you can see that although all these various non-pro leagues are commonly referred to as ‘recreational’ leagues, they actually work under a well-organized and –supervised system—a testimony to the fact how seriously these bowling leagues are taken by both organizers and participants.

  1. Professional Leagues/Tournaments

Then there are professional bowling leagues and tournaments, all organized under the auspices of USBC. There are Open Championships, Women’s Championships, Youth Tournaments, Short-Duration Tournaments, Collegiate and Senior Tournaments.

Under each of these categories, you’ll find a number of tournaments. For example, the short-duration category includes some of the most prestigious pro bowling competitions in the country. These include USBC Masters, U.S. Open, USBC Queens, U.S. Women’s Open as well as Team USA Trials. You’ll need to meet different eligibility criteria for participating in these events.

To know more about them, visit the page dedicated to each individual tournament. For example, the USBC Queens page informs that the 2019 edition of the tournament will take place in Wichita, Kansas and the registration for the tournament is still open. The registration fee is $350 for anybody who registers before April 24. All later entrants will need to pay $400 as registration fee.

Similarly, there are different events in Youth and Collegiate categories. Youth tournaments include USA Bowling, Pepsi Championships, Youth Open Championships and Junior Gold Championships. In Collegiate, we have Intercollegiate Team & singles Championships. However, the most prestigious of all these are of course Men and Women’s Open Championships.

Senior Tournaments

For our purpose though, perhaps the most relevant are the pro senior tournaments. In this category, there are four tournaments in all: the Senior Masters, the Senior Championships, the Senior Queens and the Super Senior Classic. The last of these are meant only for individuals aged 60 or over while all other tournaments are open to those of age 50 or older.

Senior Masters

This tournament provides the most exciting opportunity for all recreational/hobbyist bowlers age 50 or older. This is an open tournament which means both professionals and amateurs can enter the tournament and it offers prize money of up to $100,000. However, you need to pay a steep entry fee ($400 or $350) and normally, you will only consider entering the tournament only if you feel that your bowling skills are good enough to trouble the professionals.

Other than that, the tournament offers the same fun, exciting and challenging double-elimination format that is followed for the traditional USBC Masters. According to this format, all participants start by rolling 15 games and only the top 63 scorers advance to the double-elimination round where they are joined by the defending champion of the tournament. Just as in USBC Masters, the players now engage in one-to-one 3-game matches. The winner of a game proceeds to the winner’s bracket and stays there as long as he continues to win. The loser, on the other hand, will find himself in the elimination bracket. The good thing with this format that even if you lose your first match, you’ll still find a second chance. However, losing a match while in the elimination bracket will sadly mean the end of the tournament for you!

This year’s Senior Masters will take place from June 2-9 and will be organized by Sam’s Town Bowling Center, Las Vegas. The registration is open, so if you feel you’ve what it takes, you can register now.

Senior Championships

Unlike the Masters, USBC Senior Championships is not an open entry tournament. Bowlers can only qualify for this tournament trough their state’s senior tournament. You should get in touch with your state association manager if you want to enter your state senior tournament. The 2019 USBC Senior Championships will run from August 6-9 at the Western Bowl venue located at Cincinnati, Ohio.