This season, Sean Rash is blogging his life on the Denny's PBA Tour for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer website in Seattle, Wash. Follow his blog all season long on either www.seattle-pi.com or PBA.com.PBA Weekly Blog
By Sean Rash
Monday March 10
I was supposed to land in Paris around 10:30 a.m. and head to the hotel, shower and get ready for a seminar for Brunswick we were doing for a few days. Instead, I had to fly through London then to Paris, and I got in around 2 p.m. and got to the hotel around 3. By the time I got there, my girlfriend, Sara, was already there sleeping. I took a quick shower and headed to the bowl. The seminar was running smoothly with Rick Benoit and Mika Koivuniemi already there taking care of everything. Today's seminar was with a translator and it seemed as though everything was great with the communication. Around 6:30 p.m., Mika and I got our bowling balls and decided to bowl for a little bit to try and get used to the center. We were at a place called Plaza Bowling Center. It is owned and run by one of Brunswick's biggest distributors in Europe, The Valcke Family. This family took really good care of everyone who was involved in the Brunswick Euro Challenge tournament, including myself.
After some practice, it was time for some food and then I went back to the room to try and go to bed and get accustomed to the time zone change. It was a five-hour difference from the East Coast.Tuesday March 11
Brunswick was having another seminar all day but this time in English. Mika and I got to the seminar at around Noon. We didn't have to be there at the crack of dawn for the beginning which was nice. We ate lunch and ended the seminar around 6 p.m. that night.
After the seminar, Rick laid out a few bowling balls for me and Mika to drill for this week's event. We were promoting a new ball called the Etoile. It is an international ball and was specially-made for the event. Another great meal at the restaurant at the bowl and Mika and I decided to bowl the 8:30 p.m. qualifying squad. We figured since we were there, we might as well bowl. I bowled +60 for six games which was pretty good, I thought. The scores were not going to be very high this week due to the oil pattern and the players not transitioning the lanes like the pros do on Tour.
After we got done bowling, the bowling center closed down and about 10 of us stuck around after hours. Rick, Sara and I joined some of the staff running the event in some fun on the lanes and laughter for hours. We had a blast.Wednesday March 12
After being out late, Mika and I had to be at the bowl at 1 p.m. for a Pro-Am sort of event that was set up by the tournament coordinator, Martina. Youth players came from all over Europe, but many were from France or Belgium. We coached for about an hour and then we went on to do an hour of trick shots. The fans loved this. We had a great time doing things we love to do.
I had a quick bite to eat after we signed autographs for about an hour and decided to bowl again that night. This event allows entries and re-entries so you can bowl as many times as you want to try and qualify. I bowled -3 this time with one bad game that cost me to have a bigger score, but I knew my +60 from the previous day was probably still okay. I had two more squads to bowl if I wanted to on Friday and Saturday. I will give you a quick run down of how the format works.
Every player bowls six games of qualifying. The top 52 after all the squads make the finals. The top six players from the first weekend's squads automatically make the finals plus six players from a Desperado Squad make it, which happens on Saturday night at Midnight. So, a total of 64 players make it to the finals on Sunday.
After bowling, it was time for bed. Four hours of sleep and not adjusted to the time yet. Thursday March 13
This day was set for sightseeing. Tim and Brenda Mack joined Sara and I for a day of fun sightseeing. I could go on for hours about what happened today. I will try not to bore you. Earlier in the week, I had asked Henri Valcke to call the restaurant at the Eiffel Tower to see if we could get a reservation. Well, dinner was out of the question as they were already booked for months, but he was able to get us lunch reservations at 12:30 p.m.
We got up around six a.m. and headed to the train station at 8:30. We took the 9:27 train into Paris. The four of us bought bus tour tickets to ride around the city. We rode the bus for about an hour until we notice we might not make it to the tower in time for lunch. So we hopped off the bus to take the metro straight to the Eiffel Tower. What a sight when we finally walked around a building to see it.
We spent four hours at the tower. Our meal cost almost 400 Euro which is around 600 U.S. Dollars but it was well worth it. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we took full advantage.
After lunch we decided to head to the Museum De Louvre. Once we got there, it was closed. This is where the famous painting of The Mona Lisa is. We were all bummed but we decided to go find a place for dinner and call it a night. Tim called one of his friends he met years ago who now lives in the city to take us somewhere nice for dinner. She met up with us and took us around the city for awhile until we went and ate at a wonderful Italian place. She walked us to the overpass of the tunnel where Princess Diana's fateful crash was years ago. It was an unbelievable site, with writing all over the wall in remembrance of her.
After dinner, it was night time, of course, and the Eiffel Tower was lit up with flashing lights. What a magnificent site. We finally headed back to the train station around 9 p.m. that night. We got back to our hotel around 11 and it was for sure time for bed. Friday March 14
My first day to finally sleep in and rest. Sara and I slept until 1 p.m. We were wiped out from walking around all day and doing things and we didn't even get to see the Museum, Notre Dame, or The Arc de Triomphe (which is where the cars drive in a huge circle around the Arc).
I chose to bowl in the 4 p.m. squad because I figured I should try to make the top 16 in qualifying because if you qualify in the top 16 you get a first round bye and head straight into match play. I drilled up another Etoile ball since the first one rolled so well. I went on to bowl 1,383 which is +183 and moved me into fourth place. I had a solid set and bowled pretty well.
After we finished bowling, we grabbed another meal at the bowl and hung out with the all the players from other countries who had arrived on Thursday. I have been over to Europe around 15 times now and have created a lot of friendships and fans over here. I always enjoy coming to Europe because our sport is treated the right way: we get the respect of being athletes and it is awesome to be able to see parts of the world you dream of as kids - or even as adults.
Sara and I had a great time with my friends and reminisced about past trips here. There was lots of talk about future events coming up and when I am coming back over here. I will probably see my friends again in Turkey in September if I go or at the Men's World Championships in Thailand if I am selected to represent my country in August.Saturday March 15
After bowling well Friday afternoon, Sara, Tim, Brenda and I decided to head back to the city and see all the sites we missed on Thursday. Like I said before, I could go on forever about this place. You could literally be in Paris for a week and not see all the wonderful things they have to see. It is like going around Washington, D.C.
We were joined today though by Mike Fagan, Chris Loschetter, Ronnie Russell and Alex Cavagnaro. These guys also came over on Wednesday to bowl and hang out.
We first went to the Museum to see The Mona Lisa. Once we finally got there, the painting was on a wall by itself behind glass with a couple of security guards close by. We were able to take pictures and get to about 10 feet from it since it was roped off and a bunch of people were all over to see it. I had imagined it all differently; I guess I expected it to be bigger than it actually was, but that was probably because of the massive size of the museum and other paintings in that same room. The painting across the room from it was the size of the outside wall of my house. We then went to see the Crowne Jewels. Wow, can you say money and power if you were part of those families.
We then headed to see Notre Dame. The buildings here are so old; it makes you wonder why they built them and how long it took to build them. The architecture is absolutely beautiful.
The Arc de Triomphe was the last thing on the list to see for the day. It just seemed like this building was built in the middle of nowhere for some reason back in the day. The circle around it is the biggest roundabout in the world and it can take hours to get through this intersection. The group decided to pay to walk up to the top of it. It was 284 steps straight up in a circle stair case. Wow, this took a long time. Haha. The top of the Arc had an awesome view of the whole city.
After we walked all the way back down, the group had other things they wanted to do. Tim and his wife went bicycling around the city with Andrew Frawley and Jason Belmonte from Australia. The group of four guys went to the Eiffel Tower since they were not with us Thursday. Sara and I headed to the Hard Rock Café. I have been to 15 different countries now and I collect things and so does my mother. After a few hundred dollars purchase it was time to find our way around with the train system and head back to the city where we stayed for the week which was about 50 km away from Paris.
We got to the bowl to see how scores were and talked to some of the people there. I had to find out what time I had to bowl in the finals as well. It was time for dinner and bed since I normally bowl better for any finals when I'm well rested.Sunday March 16
The finals of the event started at 9 a.m. and I didn't have to bowl until 1 p.m. Sara and I got ready and headed to the bowl to watch the end of the semis and grab a bite to eat. The food in the restaurant was awesome all week. Not very often do you get good meals at a bowling center.
Anyway, I was matched up against a guy from England; I actually bowled with him a few games on Wednesday. His name is Adam Scott. The format of the finals was best two-out-of-three and the winner moves on to the top four. Unfortunately for me, I wasn't able to beat Adam. He had a great ball reaction and I missed a spare in both games to give him the lead and he never faltered. Too bad it wasn't best-of-seven games because I am pretty sure I would have won. But, my hat's off to the mate for having a great week. He went onto the top eight and lost to American Ronnie Russell. I was later told by players from England that he has just started bowling competitively and this was his best finish ever. Good for him. Having confidence is one of the biggest reasons for success, in my opinion, in any sport.
The rest of the day I dwelled on the fact I had a good ball reaction, but I know it will only make me a better player in the future. The finals in the top four were #4 Osku Palermaa from Finland, #3 Peter Ljung from Sweden, #2 Ronnie Russell and the #1 ranked player Mike Fagan. They went on to a stepladder format. Peter Ljung climbed the ladder to win the 16,000 Euro top prize which is around $25,000 U.S. He is also left-handed, by the way. For some reason the left's look wasn't good all week but on Sunday it was awesome. Almost felt like we were on Tour again. Haha.
After bowling was over, The Valcke family rented out the restaurant next to the bowl and had a celebration party for everyone. This went on for hours, I'm sure. We were only there for about three hours since Sara and I needed to pack and get ready to fly home on Monday.
With the week over, I had a great time and can't wait to go back to see some things I didn't get to see. I need to say thanks to a lot of people. I'm sure I'll forget a few but here we go.
Thanks to my girlfriend for taking a week off during her spring break to travel with me to Paris and enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime memory. I can't wait to do more of this with you, babe.
Thanks to Tim and Brenda Mack for sightseeing with Sara and I and helping me spend all my money. Haha.
Thanks to Brunswick for having me in Europe and helping attend some seminars. Without Brunswick I wouldn't be where I am today.
Thanks to Martina who was the tournament director of the event and also works for Brunswick for getting everything arranged and having so many great volunteers and help throughout the week.
Last but not least a huge thanks to the entire Valcke Family: Luc, his wife Ann, and their two sons, Laurent and Henri. They truly treated me and all the players with great respect. Those two guys really took care of me and truly know how to have a good time. Thanks for everything you do for the sport of Bowling and Brunswick, not just in Europe but worldwide.
Tomorrow is travel day and back to life on the road on the Denny's PBA Tour. Until then, see you in a week. From left, Michael Fagan, Ronnie Russell, Chris Loschetter and Rash with the Mona Lisa.Notre Dame CathedralRash and his girlfriend, Sara, with the Mona LisaThe gang outside the Louvre MuseumSean and Sara visit the Eiffel Tower.The Eiffel TowerThe Eiffel Tower at night.
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