SHAWNEE, Okla. - After bowling on the PBA Tour for more than 12 years without a title, Mike Edwards of Tulsa held a record he didn’t especially want: most prize money won without a PBA Tour title.
After several runner-up finishes during that span, the native Oklahoman put an end to that record on April 16, 1994 when he won the IOF Foresters Bowling for Miracles Open at Club 300 Bowl in Markham, Ontario, for his first PBA Tour title.
Edwards, who was top qualifier for the ABC-TV Pro Bowlers Tour-televised finals 20 years ago, turned back fifth-seeded Pete Weber, the tournament's defending champion, 203-192, in the championship match for the $43,000 first prize.
“It was one of those ‘strike-to-win’ moments I dreamed of as a kid,” Edwards recalled. “I just made up my mind to be aggressive and leave it all out on the table which helped me get over the nerves.”
That championship match 20 years ago wasn’t easy, but Edwards remembers it as if it happened last week. He and Weber were neck and neck through the first seven frames before Weber, who would eventually become a member of the PBA Hall of Fame, gave Edwards an opening by leaving the 4-6-7-10 split in the eighth frame. Knowing victory was within reach, Edwards clinched the match with a strike on his first shot in the 10th frame.
“I had an idea that the scoring would be lower by the time we bowled the championship match so my game plan was to keep the ball in play,” the now-52-year-old Edwards recalled. “Any mistakes you make would be exaggerated so staying focused and not getting caught up in the moment was important.”
Edwards, who now splits his time between the PBA50 Tour – for players 50 and older – and the so-called “kids’ tour,” will be among the 120 top PBA players when the Grand Casino Resort and FireLake Bowling Center in Shawnee hosts Oklahoma’s Grand Casino Resort PBA Summer Swing May 17-25. The Summer Swing will mark the PBA’s first visit to Oklahoma since the 2005 Tulsa Championship at The Lanes at Coffee Creek, which was won by Tommy Jones.
The Summer Swing will include four PBA Tour title events – the Wolf, Bear and Badger Opens, and the PBA Oklahoma Open – plus Oklahoma’s Grand Casino Resort Summer King of the Swing special event which will include the four tour event winners plus a “wild card” player. The finals of each event will be taped over the May 24-25 weekend on a special lane installation in the Grand Casino Resort Events Center for airing on CBS Sports Network beginning in early June.
One of Edwards’ most cherished accomplishments is his induction into the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997. He is the only bowler to be inducted into the Hall.
“It was a feeling of pride for not only myself but also for the sport,” Edwards said. “To be recognized with the other great athletes in the Hall was a great honor.”
Edwards is still a highly-competitive player. He demonstrated he can still play the game at a high level when he finished third in the 2012 PBA Senior U.S. Open – the first tournament he entered as a “senior” competitor – and won the United States Bowling Congress Senior Masters a week later.
Beyond his participation on the lanes, he has increasingly turned his eyes toward helping the PBA off the lanes. He and his wife Samantha Mulligan, who is a member of the PBA staff, were instrumental in bringing the Summer Swing to the FireLake Bowling Center and the Grand Casino Resort.
“The Grand Casino people have really embraced the sport and competitive bowlers,” Edwards said. “They started by hosting successful regionals including last year’s RPI and they want more tournaments. We approached them about the idea of hosting the Summer Swing and they were immediately very interested. We’re just happy to be able to bring the sport back to Oklahoma.”
All qualifying and match play rounds in the Summer Swing will be held at FireLake before the finals move to the specially-constructed lanes in Grand Casino’s Center. The eight-day program also will include a PBA Southwest Region tournament at FireLake over Memorial Day weekend.
Bowling fans will be able to follow all of the preliminary action on PBA’s online bowling channel, Xtra Frame, or by watching the “live scoring” feature on pba.com. For subscriptions to Xtra Frame, visit pba.com and click on the Xtra Frame link. Subscriptions are available for $7.99 for a month or $64.99 for a full year.
The tournament program also will include a pro-am on May 17, where Oklahoma youth, adult and senior league bowlers will be able to bowl with PBA stars. The pro-am entry fee is $65, or $165 including a high-performance bowling ball. Pro-am entries may be purchased by contacting FireLake Bowling Center (phone: 405-275-0404 ext. 0).
For TV finals tickets, visit www.grandboxoffice.com, call 405-964-7263 or visit the Grand Casino Event Center Box Office. General admission all-day passes are available for $25 each day for Saturday and Sunday’s TV shows. A lane-side all-day VIP pass is also available for $80 each day. Tickets for practice session, qualifying, match play rounds (May 18-22) and pro-am day (May 17) are $10 each day or $30 for a week-long pass (which does not include TV finals).