Volume 3, Issue 16, The 120th Edition
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez
Almost since I'd started bowling, I can remember watching or bowling in Pro Ams. In fact, after bowling a few early in my bowling career, I decided watching was better. The formula is pretty simple: bowl three games (often no-tap or 3-6-9) and bowl with three pro bowlers that you may or may not have ever heard of. Usually, there's some type of ball promotion where the participants can get a new ball for a drastically reduced price.
Faced with an upcoming regional tournament, two bowlers in the PBA Western Region decided that the run-of-the-mill wasn't enough. Regional bowler Eddie Williams and national touring pro Eric Forkel, had a vision, and together with AMF Rocket Lanes General Manager Tony Mendola and Eric's wife, Trish, set about creating a whole new type of event.
Throughout the month before the event, I heard bits and pieces, and was completely intrigued. Rather than simply host a pro am, they wanted to create a benefit for a charitable organization. As it happens, the Special Olympics bowls in that center, and a "cause" was born.
But that wasn't enough. Regional pro ams can be difficult enough because of a lack of star power. The players aren't usually household names. Diehard fans are interested, but trying to encourage nonbowlers or the casual bowler to participate can be a challenge.
So using their personal connections, and with the help of another regional player who also acts, directs, and comes from an entertainment family, the Celebrity Pro Am was created. This was no small feat, considering the timeline was greatly compressed. Many celebrities have calendars that are booked months in advance.
Drew Carey signed on willingly. It was a natural fit, since Drew has been a bowling fan for some time, showing up at national tour stops. Unfortunately the night before the event, local news programs led with a story of Drew Carey's hospitalization for chest pains. After an angioplasty, the top-billed star would not make it. The timing couldn't be worse, but the people involved forged ahead.
Saturday night came, and fans came through one entrance while the celebrities were gathering in the playroom turned "green room." Fans were encouraged to sign oversized get-well cards to the entertainer.
When the spotlight came up, regional players were announced and sent to each bowling pair. Next, performers from "Who's Line Is It, Anyway?", "The Drew Carey Show," along with other celebs including actors Todd Bridges and Kristoff St. John, Taebo creator Billy Blanks, and female boxer Mia St. John were announced and each joined a pro and the pro am participants on the pairs.
I was curious if the celebs would be bowlers, per se, or if they were just there for the cause. After watching several of them bowl, it was clear most of them don't bowl often, but they looked the part. Storm provided retro bowling shirts and balls to the celebs as well as bowling ball key chains to the participants.
Television news crews came out and interviewed the celebrities, the pros, and the Special Athletes. One station did a five-minute piece on the pro am. In a town like Los Angeles where bowling never makes the news, not even the PBA Tour, to have a regional event make the news is a big deal.
By the end of the evening, the pro am made $4000 for Special Olympics. Bowlers, spectators, and celebrities had created an evening that benefitted all. To the forward thinking folks who made this possible, congratulations. The bar on the standard pro am has just been raised. What these folks can do next year, with even more time, is almost unimaginable.