After more than a half century competing on the PBA National and Senior Tours, Hall of Famer Dave Soutar of Bradenton, Fla., is going to call it a career at the conclusion of the 2012 Senior Tour season.
Soutar will begin his 51st year in PBA competition when the 2012 PBA Senior Tour season opens April 21-24 with the PBA Senior Sun Bowl In The Villages presented by Storm at Spanish Spring Lanes.
The numbers tell the story of a storied career that began in Detroit in 1961 and produced 18 career PBA Tour titles and seven Senior Tour titles including five major titles spread across both Tours. He is the only player who has won both the United States Bowling Congress Masters (1973) and Senior Masters (2000).
A product of the golden era of team competition in the late 1950s, Soutar’s talents were recognized when he was asked to bowl with the fabled Stroh’s Beer team originated by the legendary Joe Norris. Soutar honed his skills in that decade by competing in some of Detroit’s elite leagues such as the Detroit News Teen Masters League and became a star in the prestigious All-Star League which included Detroit area greats Bob Strampe, Ed Lubanski and numerous other hall of famers.
A career competing on the fledgling PBA Tour beckoned and in only his fifth tournament as a professional, he won a major – the 1961 PBA National Championship – for his first PBA title. From that launching pad to stardom, he would go on to win 11 titles over the next seven years, finishing in the top 10 in earnings six times over that same period.
His best season came in 1970 when he won five titles, the most of any player on Tour that year, but it wasn’t quite enough to earn Player of the Year honors. That distinction went to fellow Hall of Famer Nelson Burton Jr., who won four titles. Soutar’s consolation prize was the PBA’s prestigious Steve Nagy Sportsmanship Award, awarded by his fellow competitors.
“For most of my career I considered myself a steady bowler. I never got on a real hot streak, but (1970) was the exception,” Soutar said. “The only thing that was disappointing that season was I didn’t get Player of the Year and that is really the only disappointment in my career.”
Soutar reached a low point in 1974 and was bowling so badly that he thought about retiring. Thanks to the encouragement of his wife, Judy (also a hall of fame bowler who announced her retirement after 50 years representing Brunswick in 2011), he was he able to turn his game around.
“It was just a depressing year, but looking back on it, it probably was not a slump that any athlete doesn’t go through at one time or another,” Soutar said. “Judy was the most instrumental factor in turning my game around, mainly through her encouragement and the insight she had as a professional bowler. Without her support it might have been a short career.”
PBA legend and fellow competitor Carmen Salvino, who bowled against Soutar throughout much of his career, agrees that Soutar’s greatest asset was his consistency.
“Dave was definitely one of the greats, but he never got the credit he should have for his consistency,” Salvino said. “He was a little bit overshadowed because he came up in the era of Dick Weber and Don Carter and then transitioned into the era of Earl Anthony, Johnny Petraglia, Dave Davis, Mark Roth and Marshall Holman.
“He may not have gotten the respect he should have from the fans, but I can tell you that all the bowlers knew he was great and had all the respect in the world for him.”
Burton, another one of Soutar’s rivals on Tour also attests to the fact that Soutar was one of his most feared competitors on Tour.
“I considered myself one of the top players in match play but whenever we had the opportunity to bowl in doubles formats, I chose Dave to be my partner so I wouldn’t have to bowl against him,” Burton said.
Soutar made the transition to the Senior Tour in 1990.
It was at the 1999 PBA Senior Tournament of Champions, conducted on an outdoor bowling lane installation at The Villages, that Soutar won one of the most memorable titles of his career. For winning that tournament he earned one of the most unique top prizes in PBA history – a house in The Villages worth an estimated $100,000, plus $10,000 in cash.
“That was definitely one of the most memorable moments in my career,” said the 72-year-old Soutar. “Bowling in that outdoor arena for the championship was impressive enough but to win the house, well, that was just unbelievable.”
Soutar’s last PBA title came in the 2003 Senior U.S. Open which marked his fifth major in PBA competition.
“With any luck I think I could have won a few more tournaments, but it always seemed like when I made it to the finals guys were throwing 250s at me when I was shooting 230 or 240,” Soutar said.
Among Soutar’s many other Senior Tour accomplishments entering the 2012 season are records for most Senior Tour tournaments entered (250) and career Senior Tour earnings of more than $512,000.
He was inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame in 1979 and the USBC Hall of Fame in 1985 and was voted the 20th greatest player of all time as part of the PBA’s 50th anniversary in 2009.
“Looking back, if I had to single out the most memorable moments in my career, it would be going into the PBA and USBC Halls and being selected to the list of 50 greatest players,” Soutar said. “I’m satisfied and have no regrets.”
The Soutars, who lived in the Kansas City area for several years before retiring to Florida, have travelled together for 20-plus years on the on the Senior Tour. One of their labors of love has been conducting a golf outing the day before each Senior Tour event.
“It started in the early 90s when a bunch of us would get together to play golf before every tournament and then it became more organized,” Soutar said. “We’ve made a lot of friends and had a lot of fun over the years. I will miss it.”
2012 PBA Senior Tour Schedule
April 21-24 - PBA Senior Sun Bowl In The Villages presented by Storm, Spanish Springs Lanes, The Villages, Fla.
April 28-May 2 - PBA Senior Don Carter Open presented by Ebonite, Carter Family Bowl, Winter Garden, Fla.
May 6-9 - PBA Senior Miller High Life Classic presented by Columbia 300, George Pappas Victory Lanes, Mooresville, N.C.
May 14-17 - PBA Senior Dayton Classic presented by Roto Grip, Capri Lanes, Dayton, Ohio
June 3-8 - Etonic PBA Senior U.S. Open presented by Suncoast, Suncoast Bowling Center, Las Vegas
June 10-15 - USBC Senior Masters, South Point Bowling Center, Las Vegas
June 17-20 - PBA Senior Northern California Classic presented by Track, Harvest Park Bowl, Brentwood, Calif.
August 6-9 - PBA Senior South Shore Open presented by DV8, Olympia Lanes, Hammond, Ind.
August 11-14 - PBA Senior Decatur Open presented by Brunswick, Spare Time Lanes, Decatur, Ill.