It’s Bob Chamberlain, who, over the last year, has won more senior titles than anyone (3). Chamberlain is pictured in the Stroh’s Brewery uniform that he adorned from 1971-86 – lambchops not included.
Once again in his career, Bob Chamberlain
is making noise.
Most fans and bowlers consider Bob Glass as the
preeminent player on the PBA Senior Tour. But, Chamberlain, a 53-year-old, of Auburn Hills, Mich., has developed into a true contender for the unofficial title.
“It’s actually a pretty nice feeling,” he said. “It’s nice when I go home. I talked to Matt Fiorito (Detroit Free Press bowling columnist) the other day and he said, ‘Bob, people keep asking me all the time what’s happening with you out there. You’re making noise.’ I guess that’s good.”
What’s good is Chamberlain’s game.
Since winning his first senior title last summer in the PBA Senior Northwest Classic he has followed-up with two more wins and a flurry of top-five finishes.
“I think it has a lot to do with what I’ve done to my game. I’ve changed my game to the point where I went to spinning the ball, instead of rolling it. It took me a couple of years out here to learn what I had to do. I used to be a very high roller.”
Chamberlain turned 50 in 1999 and immediately joined the Senior Tour.
“I watched the success that Bob Glass has out here. He’s a spinner. When I first came out here, Al Sanford had won a couple of titles. He’s a spinner. So, I decided I had to find a way to change my roll.”
Just as all the pieces fell together in late 2000, Chamberlain hurt his knee while bowling on the Tour. Following surgery and rigorous physical therapy, he was ready to give it another go – only to be set back once again.
During the 2001 ABC Senior Masters
in Reno, Nev., he was struck by a car while walking from the National Bowling Stadium, re-injuring the knee.
“I don’t want to say the knee injury has been a blessing, but it got me to slow down and throw the ball a little bit different. It made me think about things more. I had to be aware of what I was doing at the foul line, how I was going into the slide. I had to make sure that I wasn’t going to stick. It probably added more concentration to what I was doing.”
Ultimately, the knee had to be replaced. He had a new, titanium joint installed late in 2001.
Amazingly, Chamberlain battled through the pain and won his first two senior titles in hobbled pain (2001 PBA Senior Northwest Classic
& 2001 PBA Senior Tar Heel Open
). Then, he picked up crown No. 3 on the new knee earlier this season (2002 PBA Senior Pennsylvania Open
No player has equaled Chamberlain’s winning pace over that stretch.
“I hate to say it’s a feeling of power, but it’s a great feeling. People come up to you all the time and ask you, ‘What are you throwing?’ or ‘Where are you throwing it?’ People want to know what you’re doing all the time – the same as I always wanted to know what the top players were doing.”
AN ABBREVIATED RUN
Chamberlain had already made considerable noise as a bowler prior to bowling on the PBA Senior Tour.
He was always known as a great bowler, bowling leagues and exhibitions with the prominent Stroh’s Brewery Team for 16 years throughout the 70s and 80s.
But, unlike the PBA Legends who lived the professional dream for decades, Chamberlain’s National Tour career lasted only four years.
“I’m a plumber by trade – and plumbing got really slow. We didn’t have any work around the Detroit area. So, I had spent some time on the road. I went down to Tennessee and worked on the Watts Barr Dam for a little while. I got sick of being on the road, so I came back. As long as there wasn’t any real work, I thought it was a good opportunity to try the Tour. I hooked up with Dave Bernhardt and he became my first sponsor. He said, ‘Yeah, Bob, let’s just make a commitment right now and let’s just go for it.’”
That was 1984. Chamberlain’s first tournament was in Peoria, Ill., followed by an event in the Cleveland, Ohio, area. However, it was stop No. 3, the Toledo Trust PBA National Championship, that proved to be the most memorable moment of his career.
“It started snowing in Detroit. I was driving back-and-forth to Toledo from my house in Auburn Hills (Mich.). I was on C-Squad and I went down there to bowl the first round and the snow just kept coming. They just got hammered down there and we got snowed-in.
“I couldn’t get back home. I couldn’t get any clothes because, for the first few days, I couldn’t get anywhere and a lot of the stores were closed. I wound up washing my shirt and pants in the sink of the motel room so I could continue on and have a clean shirt to bowl in every day. I wore that same shirt for a couple of days along with burgundy and grey pants. Harry Smith kept telling me right from the get-go, ‘I’ve been watching you throw the ball. You’re going to win this tournament.’ I’d known Harry for a long time, so I laughed at him and just kind of went on. After I won the tournament
, he came up to me and said, ‘I told you what you were going to do. I think you should have your banner made in burgundy and grey.’ That’s exactly what I did.
“Now, for my senior banner, I have Michigan colors, Maze and Blue. They had lost my original banner by the time I came to the Senior Tour, so I had to pick something different. I couldn’t have those Ohio State-like colors anymore. I love Michigan Football and have been a season-ticket holder for 12 years.”
A SECOND ‘FIRST’
Chamberlain didn’t do well in defense of first National Title (he didn’t cash). But, this week, he’ll have another pop at defending a first
title – only this time it’s a senior title.
“I’m more relaxed about bowling. Plus, I’m bowling really well. I’ve got a win already this year, a third-place finish in Detroit and second-place in Brentwood (Calif.). So, I feel pretty comfortable about going back into Beaverton. And, I’ve bowled well there the past two years.”
Chamberlain will defend his PBA Senior Northwest Classic title, June 23-26, at Valley Lanes in Beaverton, Ore.
He’ll be the one making noise.