Life on Tour

by PBA Editor December 1, 2006 19:00
By Walter Ray Williams Jr.

At the beginning of last week, my wife and I stopped by Louisville to attend an RV exposition. I gave a very short speech at breakfast along with several other celebrities. Then my wife and I looked at some of the new models. Unfortunately for my bank account, she found several she liked! She is now looking for a good dealer to buy one from.

We then traveled to Wickliffe, Ohio for the tournament. I got tired at around midnight and was ready to stop. Paige decided she would rather go ahead and get there, so she drove the last hour and we arrived safely at about 1 a.m. Wednesday morning. The tournament qualifying round is from 9 a.m. to around 1 p.m. on Wednesday. I like to watch some of the bowling to see how I might want to play the lanes and encourage my friends. We have an official practice session after the TQR from 4 – 5:30 p.m. After the TQR I decided to take a little nap. At least that was the plan. I woke up at 4:30 when my wife got home from shopping so I missed about 40 minutes of the official practice session. After the practice session, my wife and I attended a reception hosted by the bowling center for the pros where we had some good food and good company.

Jim Tomek Jr., who is the ball representative for MoRich, had a ball drilled for me which he thought might be good for me to use in the tournament. Jim bowled well enough in the TQR to get the last spot in the tournament for the pros, so he was a little busy! The Viper Pattern typically allows me to play outside. Perhaps due to the wood lanes with overlay, the lanes hooked quite a bit more and I thought playing closer to the 2nd arrow would be better.

Thursday is the first day of competition for the exempt players. We bowl two blocks of seven games with the top 32 advancing to match play. In the first round I was doing ok, but nothing was really going great for me especially the last game when I missed the pocket twice for 175. I ended up playing inside of the 3rd arrow for the last three games. In the second round I started playing just left of the 2nd arrow where I started the first round. But I didn’t really care for my reaction, so instead of moving left, like I did in the first round, I moved a few boards right and threw the ball harder. I had some good games and ended up making the top 32 cut easily qualifying 21st.

Friday is match play day. This was an elimination tournament. The top 32 players are paired up in a best-of-seven-game match. The first match starts at 9 a.m. The winners bowl at 2 p.m. and those eight winners advance to the 7 p.m. matches. I prefer the round robin type of format, but sometimes this format gives me a good chance if things click. My first match was against Chris Hayden. Chris is a good left hander who got his exemption by being in the top 10 at the tour trials this year. I usually like bowling against left handers as they don’t mess up my shot and I don’t influence theirs. Chris bowled pretty well playing a bit outside the 1st arrow. But he made a few mistakes and I had a good reaction. I managed to beat him 4-0. I basically played up 7 in the match.

The round of 16 matched me up against Tommy Delutz Jr. Tommy played a very similar line as I did. We had a good match that went down to the 10th frame of the last game. Tommy left a solid 9-pin on his first shot in the 10th frame to help me win. I played around 7-8 on the right lane and 9-10 on the left lane. In the sixth game Tommy moved left and started hooking the ball from around 16 out to about 6.

The round of 8 match was against Jason Couch. The pair was quite a bit tighter (less hook) than all of the lanes I had bowled on all week. After a couple of games I started using a slightly sanded ball and started to strike. Jason looked pretty good for the first three games, but threw several bad shots the last couple of games. I had a good shot to the pocket and ended up beating Jason 4-1. I felt like I bowled really well in my matches. It was a pleasant change from the last four weeks, when I only felt my execution was mediocre.

Saturday is a rest day for the bowlers who make the TV finals. The TV finalists sign autographs in the bowling center for about half an hour and then we are interviewed by the ESPN commentators, Dave Ryan, Randy Pedersen and Norm Duke.

On Sunday the TV show starts at 1 p.m. Eastern Time which isn’t too bad if we are bowling in the Eastern Time zone. ESPN requires us to be at the TV set two hours before the show starts to do a rehearsal for the introduction. The ESPN truck was having technical difficulties, so the rehearsal was finally cancelled. They wanted me at the set to tape a promo spot for ESPN at 12:25 p.m. right before the practice session was supposed to start. ESPN was having trouble and my ‘spot’ didn’t get taped until after 12:30 p.m. which is when the official practice session is supposed to start.

I had four Awesome Revs with different surfaces from super shiny to semi sanded. The lanes had been hooking quite a bit most of the week, but I want to be prepared. I also had quite a few other bowling balls, but I used the Awesome Revs all week and was comfortable using them. The lanes were a bit tighter than during the week, with the right lane being the tightest. I was planning on using a semi shiny ball on the left lane and a semi sanded ball on the right lane. But near the end of practice the thumb slug on my semi shiny ball dropped. I couldn’t use it unless it was fixed. Jim Tomek fixed the ball for me while I finished practicing. I determined that I could use the semi sanded ball on both lanes while Jim fixed my shiny ball. At the end of practice I had several balls going high so I would move left and watch the ball slide. I had a pretty good reaction getting the ball to the pocket. But I kind of faked myself out. I needed to be about half board right, but I was afraid of the ball hooking through the nose as I was at the end of practice. So I spent the match going mostly light in the pocket.

Tommy Jones was my opponent and we bowled very similar games. We both chopped the 4-pin off of the 8 and carried a light mixer. I left 2 10-pins while Tommy left 2 4-pins. We both had one really light shot with Tommy leaving the 2-pin while I left the 4-pin after tripping out the 2-5. Unfortunately for me, Tommy had a four-bagger and a double to go with his open while I only had a turkey and a double. Tommy gave me a chance in the 10th frame when he left a 4-pin. I needed two strikes in the 10th frame to win the game. I was really light in the 6th and 8th frame and so I moved half board right with my feet as I didn’t want to move too much and go high. I thought I threw the ball pretty well, but I must have thrown it a bit hard as it didn’t hook up enough. It was a disappointing finish, but that happens.

On Monday, we will drive to Baltimore for my last tournament of the first half. My wife scheduled a cruise for us starting on the 17th of December which is also the date of the TV finals of the tournament in Long Island. Since I haven’t figured out how to be in two places at once, I am going to go on vacation with my wife. If you want to see more information on my matches, check out www.walterray.com! There is a lot of great information there including information on obtaining one of my new instructional videos on bowling and horseshoe pitching.
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