Bowling is a popular sport and only in the USA is played for more than 70 million people, country in which is almost considered part of their culture. If you consider the amount of players per inhabitant in America; you have to agree that the popularity of the game is huge.
The sport arrived in America with the European settlers, and the first evidence of the presence of the game in the country were images back to the end of the 17th century showing people from the Netherlands practicing a kind of sport similar to Bowling.
The first registered mention of the game is dated in 1819, when it was alluded in the Washington Irving’s book “Rip Van Winkle”. In the novel the main character witness a Bowling kind of sport played by elderly persons from Holland.
Due to the ample variety of Bowling games that were played by settlers that arrived in the USA from such a diversity of countries, the necessity of a unified set of rules was evident. The solution to this issue arrived in 1895 with the American Bowling Congress which gave origin to the unified standards that were applied by the Bowling clubs from New York led by Joe Thum.
The beginning of the 20th century marked the explosion of popularity in the sport, and the end of the prohibition helped to the appearance of professional bowling, which was sponsored mainly by beer producers which saw the opportunity to participate in an activity that in the long run became one of the favorites of the Americans.
The influence of the media made that the popularity of the game grew even further, and with the advent of the television which contributed greatly, specially with the firs transmission of a bowling championship broadcasted by the NBC, the sport gain definitely the recognition of several millions of sports aficionados.
In 1958, 14 countries around the world participated of the Professional Bowlers Association which showed a membership of a considerable amount of persons, and which have the privilege to have an event that was the first transmitted by the ABC, which later became one of the participants in the development of the Pro Bowlers tour, which broadcasting became part of the most successful sporting events in the country.
The attraction of Bowling has reached all the activities of the life of the Americans and even presidents like Harry Truman an Richard Nixon ordered to built lanes in the white House.
Professional Bowlers Association
The major institution that regulates and manages the activity of 10 pin bowling in the USA is “The Professional Bowlers Association” most commonly known as the “PBA” which based in the capital of the state of Washington, Seattle, the body groups instructors, Bowling shop owners and staff, and specially bowlers that participate of the different tours that are sanctioned by the PBA.
The institution looks after of several Bowling tours, like for example the PBA Women’s Series, the PBA50 Tour, which is the actual version of the senior bowler tour and is intended to be played by players of from 50 years of age and more, the PBA Regional Tour, that includes 7 regions in which amateurs bowlers participate in events that are specifically programmed on weekends, and of course the most important competition that is the PBA Tour and is played round the year.
Before the PBA, television Bowling airings were uncommon, and with the support of the association in the middle of the 20th century the appearance of Bowling shows like the famous “jackpot Bowling” started to be broadcasted weekly.
Eddie Elias was the mentor of the PBA, who in 1958 made a presentation to 60 prominent participant of the sport and with nearly 30 of them, agree to donate the funds that were necessary to give birth to the PBA.
The official competition started in 1959 with “The empire State Open”, which was won by a resident of New Jersey who born in Italy, called Lou Campi, name that will be remembered by everybody who love Bowling. Following were the Dayton open and the Paramus Eastern open, which both were won by the first recognized Bowling superstar, and native of Indianapolis, Dick Weber.
The tour reached in 1962 the amazing amount of 30 tournaments, increasing the number of championships from 13 in 1961 and 7 in 1960 making Weber was the most prolific winner of those years, wining the remarkable figure of 10 tournaments of the 23 that were played.
The prizes offered by the PBA tournaments increased regularly, until in 1982 when Seagram distillery fund a purse of U$500.000 for the US open, and at the same time the winner prize was increased to U$100.000, a record for the PBA tournaments standards.
The undeniable popularity and the growth of the Bowling sport around the world has been so quick, that the media in some moments have struggled to follow it,but in the USA the mutual cooperation of them has been rewarded to all the participants of the sport, making it one of the most liked activities in the USA. The fact that the game can be played by everyone without distinction of age and gender has contributed greatly to the huge development that the activity had at the end of the last century and that continue to attract aficionados today.