Walter Ray Williams Jr. Still Looking For Elusive PBA Tournament of Champions Title

by Jerry Schneider January 11, 2011 03:03


With a career record that earned reigning Professional Bowlers Association Player of the Year Walter Ray Williams Jr. second on the list of greatest players in PBA history, you might think that the all-time leader in Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour titles has accomplished all there is to accomplish in a career that has spanned 28 years. But, there is one thing missing from his resume – a PBA Tournament of Champions title.

A Tournament of Champions win for the 47-time Tour titlist would set off a domino effect into ultra-elite status among PBA players for Williams.  He has already won the PBA World Championship (2001, 2003 and 2006), U.S. Open (1998 and 2003), United States Bowling Congress Masters (2004 and 2010) and PBA Touring Players Championship (1994), so a Tournament of Champions victory would mean completion of the PBA's Triple Crown and Grand Slam.

Only five PBA players have won a PBA World Championship, U.S. Open and Tournament of Champions - Billy Hardwick, Johnny Petraglia, Pete Weber, Mike Aulby and Norm Duke. Aulby and Duke are the only ones to add a Masters title to complete the Grand Slam. Aulby is the only player who owns a Touring Players Championship, an event no longer conducted.

Many of William’s titles came when the PBA Tour was televised on ABC and the famous broadcasting duo of PBA Hall of Famers Chris Schenkel (who died in 2005) and Nelson (Bo) Burton Jr. were the announcers. The $1 million 2011 PBA Tournament of Champions returns to ABC live Saturday, Jan. 22 at 2:30 p.m. Eastern from Red Rock Lanes in Las Vegas and Burton will return as a guest commentator.

“I think bowling on TV is the dream of every bowler,” said Williams whose best Tournament of Champions finish was second in 1989. “When you’re on TV, the adrenaline makes the time go by so fast.

“Getting to know Chris and Bo was an added bonus because they were so professional and classy at what they did. I’m looking forward to seeing Bo again and, of course, we all miss Chris.”

While a Tournament of Champions title is on William’s short-list of goals, it’s not something he loses sleep over.

“It’s one of those things I’m missing, but it’s not a disappointment as far as my career is concerned,” he said. “However, with the PBA’s revised schedule this season and the prize money involved with it, I am doing everything possible to prepare myself the best I can for it.”

One part of William’s training regimen was competing in the recent Team USA Team Trials in Las Vegas where he finished second.

“Even though I’m on Team USA 2011 already, I thought it would be a great opportunity to prepare myself for the second half of the Tour season, plus being able to meet a lot of the young talented bowlers who are the future of our sport,” Williams said.

Williams won a record seventh Player of the Year honor at the conclusion of the 2009-10 season after a battle for the crown with Bill O’Neill and Mike Scroggins that came down to the last tournament of the season.

Pete Weber’s first PBA Tour victory in the season-ending PBA Marathon Open handed the crown to Williams, who thus became the first to win the PBA Player of the Year title seven times, breaking a tie with the late Earl Anthony. And at age 50, Williams also became the oldest to win the crown, breaking the previous record of 45 held by Anthony.

During the 2009-10 season Williams won two titles — the season-opening Motor City Open and the United States Bowling Congress Masters for his eighth major — to improve his all-time career titles record to 47. He had five championship round appearances and his titles in 2009-10 extended his record run of consecutive seasons with at least one title to 17.

Over the summer Williams also made a bid to become the only player to win a National Tour and a Senior Tour Player of the Year crown. In a Senior Tour Player of the Year race that also went down to the last tournament of the season, he fell short of the honor to eventual winner and fellow Hall of Famer Wayne Webb. But, Williams did manage to become Senior Rookie of the Year.

Shortly before the start of the 2010-11 season Williams underwent hernia surgery but says that it has had minimal effect on his bowling. He has, however, had an issue with developing arthritis in his fingertips.

“Physically, I’m doing pretty well,” Williams said. “The hernia surgery I had didn’t give me any problems but going into the World Series of Bowling I probably wasn’t as a prepared as I would have liked.

“For the past couple of years it has been quite painful to bowl with the arthritis but I’ve been able to work through it. Paul Figliomini from Track has helped me a lot in shortening my span so that I don’t feel like I’m wasting the first 15 minutes of my bowling getting loosened up. I’m not pain free, but it is about 10% of what it was.”

Williams, who began his Hall of Fame Tour career in 1983, has competed in 729 Tour events. He earned his Player of the Year crowns over a 24-year span. His previous Player of the Year titles came in the 1986, ’93, ’96, ’97, ’98 and 2002-03 seasons. At age 50, Williams is thought to be the oldest player in any major sport to win his sport’s season-long points or “most valuable player” title.

PBA Tournament of Champions Winners by Year

1962 - Joe Joseph

1965 - Billy Hardwick

1966  - Wayne Zahn

1967 - Jim Stefanich

1968 - Dave Davis

1969 - Jim Godman

1970 - Don Johnson

1971 - Johnny Petraglia

1972 - Mike Durbin

1973 - Jim Godman

1974  - Earl Anthony

1975 - Dave Davis

1976 - Marshall Holman

1977 - Mike Berlin

1978 - Earl Anthony

1979 -  George Pappas

1980 - Wayne Webb

1981 - Steve Cook

1982 - Mike Durbin

1983 - Joe Berardi

1984 - Mike Durbin

1985 - Mark Williams

1986 - Marshall Holman

1987 - Pete Weber

1988 - Mark Williams

1989 - Del Ballard Jr.

1990 - Dave Ferraro

1991 - David Ozio

1992 - Marc McDowell

1993 - George Branham III

1994 - Norm Duke

1995 - Mike Aulby

1996 - Dave D’Entremont

1997 - John Gant

1998 - Bryan Goebel

1999 - Jason Couch

2000 - Jason Couch

2002 - Jason Couch

2003 - Patrick Healey Jr.

2005 - Steve Jaros

2006 - Chris Barnes

2007 - Tommy Jones

2008 - Michael Haugen Jr.

2009 - Patrick Allen

2010 - Kelly Kulick

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