What Is It About Bowling and the Name Williams?

by Dave Williams

Have you ever wondered about the number of high profile bowlers with the last name of Williams? I have, probably because my last name is Williams, but also because the evidence is incontrovertible.

Perhaps the greatest bowler to ever strap on a pair of bowling shoes, Walter Ray Williams Jr., represents just one example. Others that come to mind are Ron Williams and Mark Williams, both among the top professional bowlers in the past 60 years.

A quick word search of the surname Williams and the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA), an organization that was formed in 1958, will result in at least fifteen members. Now that doesn’t sound like a lot, but I defy anyone to find a name that is more common among PBA players.

As I perused the list of PBA members with the last name Williams, I stopped for a moment at Bob Williams of San Carlos, California. I remember crossing lanes with the elder Bob on a few occasions and other members questioning if he was my father.

I really didn’t think that I resembled Bob in the least, but I always held my composure and replied, “No relation, that I know of.” But to someone that’s not a Williams, it could be as Hillary Clinton so infamously said about confusing Cory Booker and Eric Holder, “I know, they all look alike.” (Is there anyone in the universe that could get away with that line except Hillary?).

Most families with the Williams surname come from Wales, a sovereign country within the United Kingdom. According to website BowlsWales, the game of lawn bowling, or bowls, has been traced back to the 13th century in Wales. It’s a curious combination of bowling, curling and horseshoes.

I remember visiting the United Kingdom and spending time at AMF Humber Bowling Centers in the welsh hamlet of Cardiff, as well as nearby Wolverhampton, site of another of my exhibition 299 games in AMF’s International Division of Bowling. The locals affectionately called the center “Wolves.”

One afternoon, the Assistant Manager at Wolves took me for a drive to one of his favorite places he referred to as “The Dales.” When I saw it I knew that this was why my ancestors had settled in the town of Bodega, California, because the place was a carbon copy, both in appearance and climate.

But back to horseshoes… did I mention that Walter Ray is a 6-time National Horseshoe Champion? He was also a three time Junior Boys World Horseshoe Champion, where he earned the nickname “Deadeye,” with a ringer rate of 88.1 percent at the age of 10.

Veteran bowling writer Johnny Campos said in the Journal Star newspaper that “with fewer stops to bowl, and just a few senior events, Williams is finding other ways to (keep active), like teaching and clinics.”

In Walter Ray’s absence, a new crop of Williams have materialized in 2018, with two time champion Stuart Williams, from (where else?) Ellesmere Port in Wales, where he was the Crown Green Bowls National Champion at age 14; and Keven Williams, a two handed flame thrower from Springfield, Missouri.

I wonder if Walter Ray has ever tried curling? It’s an intoxicating game that I really enjoy watching on the Olympics Channel on television (yes, there really is an Olympics Channel). It would take someone with the talent of Walter Ray to overcome the insurmountable lead that Canada has achieved over the past 60 years of Curling in Olympic competition.

But with Walter Ray Williams Jr., anything is possible.

Ron Williams – Both Ron and Mark had unique backswings, reminiscent of Don Carter and Earl Anthony, that contributed to their accuracy and winning records on PBA telecasts. Photo courtesy of PBA, LLC.

Mark Williams – Mark was one of the only two time winners of bowling’s most prestigious tournament, the Firestone Tournament of Champions. Photo Courtesy of PBA, LLC.







Walter Ray Williams Jr. – The mustache, good looks and swashbuckling manner on the lanes, prompted legendary announcer Chris Schenkel to refer to Walter Ray as the “Errol Flynn” of bowling. Photo courtesy of PBA, LLC.