By Randy Pedersen
Well, congrats to Michael Haugen Jr. on winning his first career title last week. At the age of 40, it just goes to show you that winning never gets old. For those of us who have been fortunate enough to win on the Denny’s PBA Tour, we never forget that first win. It may be the toughest. Some may argue it’s the second title that’s the toughest, but I think it’s the first. The first win confirms that you have the ability to do it, to get it done. I think that when you’ve won for the first time, mentally you believe you can do it again.
I’ll never forget the first time I won. Ah, it seems like just yesterday. Okay, it was 21 years ago, but who’s counting? I was rooming with this guy from Florida, Del Warren. I remember it was the first tournament of the year: the AC Delco Classic. In those days, we had a “Rabbit Squad,” or a Tour Qualifying Round for us non-exempt guys. I bowled the “rabbit” and led the field, which meant I got an automatic exemption for the next week. Oh yeah, playing on the house’s money.
As a side note, the rabbits back then consisted of two five-game blocks and there would be a couple hundred bowlers for about 50 spots. The field for the rabbit that week in California was 192. I'm the only player to have ever led the rabbit and gone on to win the tournament. The toughest rabbit was in Kansas City at the King Louie Open. There, they had about 300 bowlers for approximately 25 spots.
In my opinion, the TQR is much tougher to get out of. There are less spots but also not as many bowlers competing. Remember that back then, we gave exemptions for a lot of different reasons. Exemptions could be given to Hall of Famers, past champions or were sometimes based on career money.
Well, back to me. I make the show, and it’s a stepladder, and I qualify fifth. Who would have thought some skinny kid from Southern California with bad teeth (this was before braces) would have a chance to win? Besides, this guy named Walter Ray Williams Jr. was on the show.
So, the stage is set. It’s my third show ever (if you count doubles) and I have to get by Walter Ray. Well, not only did I beat him, I beat some guy from Jersey for the title (Dennis Jacques).
Back in those days when you won for the first time, the PBA welcomed you to “The Firestone”… the prestigious Tournament of Champions. So there I was, some ex beach bum from So. Cal with a PBA title, a birth in the T of C and some cash. What was I to do? I did what all PBA bowlers do, I went to the next stop. Only this next stop would be different. You see, my roommate from Florida had never won before either and damned if he didn’t win the very next week in Torrance at The Gable House. That’s right, back-to-back wins for two roommates who had never won before.
See, I told you the first one is special.
Chapter 3 of my new instructional book: WHEN TO SUGGEST MAJOR SWING CORRECTIONS TO YOUR OPPONENT
See ya next week!
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