Professional Women Regional Bowlers Need A Major Sponsor

by Dave Williams

The Professional Women’s Bowling Association (PWBA) announced their upcoming schedule for the 2023 season last week, with a total of 12 national tour events and nine regional events. The national events are scheduled from May through August, with the three majors being contested on May 17-23 (USBC Queens), June 13-20 (U.S. Women’s Open) and August 13-15 (PWBA Tour Championship). The Queens and U.S. Open events will carry a $60,000 first prize, while the PWBA Tour Championship winner will receive $50,000.

There are many interesting avenues to explore from the information provided by their news release. The one that really caught my eye is the fact that while the women will be shooting for some impressive prizes in the national events, there are only 9 regional tournaments scheduled for the year… in the entire country! This is in stark contrast to the men’s regional program that has grown exponentially since my first involvement almost 50 years ago.

As a western region PBA member in the mid-1970’s, I can remember around 12 yearly events that helped the full time members whenever there were no national tournaments scheduled. That was the case for most of the regions in the country, with the exception of the south. Regional director Harry O’Neale seemed to have an event scheduled almost every weekend in the southern region, and especially in Florida. It was an incentive for many national tour players to move to the sunshine state to supplement their income.

A look at the PBA regional calendar for 2022 (which turned into a two day search on the internet and consultation with PBA eastern regional director Russ Mills)  finds that there are significantly more events scheduled than could ever have been imagined in 1975, with at least one new region added (northwest) to alleviate extensive travel in that part of the country.

If our calculations are correct, there are now a total of more than 200 regionals scheduled throughout the country. That includes senior (PBA50 and PBA60), PBA Junior (youth league members), and at least a couple of women only tournaments on the west coast. In any event,  it would be fair to say that the PBA regional directors are definitely earning their salaries!

AMF Becomes Major Sponsor Of Regionals

Poster announcing special guest Dick Weber at the Grand Opening of AMF Bama Bowl in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (1987)

When I arrived on the scene at AMF’s corporate offices in 1982, I was the only PBA member, and one of only a few bowlers among the more than 300 employees in Westbury, New York. This afforded me great opportunities in every aspect of my newfound position. I was called upon to not only provide marketing services for the bowling centers division, but also to test new bowling balls and other products. I also became “the unknown bowler” in many of the AMF print ads and television commercials.

Perhaps my greatest thrill was taking advantage of AMF’s failing relationship with Dick Weber, and reestablishing him as the star of the AMF Staff of Champions. We utilized Dick for grand openings, exhibitions, and just about any other special event that I could dream up that would involve the greatest ambassador of bowling that the world has ever known. At $1,000 per event (plus expenses), the marketing value of Dick Weber could not be beat!

Another concept that we initiated at the AMF Bowling Centers was the sponsorship of PBA regional tournaments. AMF had always been involved on the national tour, sponsoring such well known tournaments as the AMF MagicScore Open, the AMF Angle Open, and the AMF Grand Prix, but the regional circuits had never been tapped.

My proposal to a couple of newcomers that had come upon the scene at the AMF Bowling Products Group about this time — George Kaltner and Scott Werthmann, was to sponsor a couple of PBA regional tournaments each summer to the tune of $2,000 each.  The impact upon the bowling centers during the lackluster summer months would be minimal in terms of displacing existing business, and in fact would be an enhancement to other ancillary forms of income such as food and beverage, pro shop and vending sales.

General Manager Bob Rainford (left) with 18 year old Jimmy Williams, winner of AMF’s inaugural PBA regional at East Meadow Bowl (1985)

Werthmann recognized this opportunity right away, and we embarked upon a PBA regional sponsorship program at some of our more lucrative locations, as well as newly acquired properties. Our first two sites in 1985 were at AMF East Meadow Bowl in New York, and AMF Lang’s Bowlarama in Rhode Island. As it turns out, the increased revenue from the food and beverage sales alone was enough to make the sponsorships successful.

A Winning Recipe For The PWBA

What the women need is a major sponsor for their regional program. Since AMF is heavily embroiled in their PBA and bowling center involvement, could Storm Bowling be the answer regarding sponsorship of the women’s regional tournaments? Or perhaps the women should look to another industry for assistance. It’s amazing what you can achieve just by asking.

That’s what happened when I approached Seagram about sponsorship of a tournament held during league play that eventually became known as Seagram’s Coolers Get Things Rolling Tournament at all AMF Bowling Centers. The next year my contact at the Seagram Building, Pat Roney, asked about even more involvement and I directed him to the Bowling Proprietors Association of America (BPAA).

The result of that initial meeting with Mr. Roney led to Seagram becoming involved in the US Open tournaments for both men and women. The unprecedented first place prizes of $100,000 for the men, and $40,000 for the women, have only recently been topped, after more than 35 years. To put the women’s 1st place prize in perspective, only one woman in the history of professional bowling (prior to 1987) had ever won more than $50,000 in an entire year, so this was indeed uncharted territory.

Another of my well known expeditions to Manhattan resulted in an interesting involvement with Revlon, where Mr. Kaltner had previously worked for the makeup company that has been around since 1932. Looking back on that adventure now, I’m sure that George must have provided some assistance with a couple of calls to his former associates. The result was a complimentary basket filled with Revlon products that we provided to bowlers in all our daytime ladies leagues.

So, whether it’s Seagram, or Revlon, or even HelloFresh that recently signed a multi-year deal with the Women’s National Basketball Association (remember Colie Edison?); all that someone from the PWBA needs to do is ask, and a vibrant regional bowling program with additional prize money and events could be the result.


Special thanks to Russ Mills of the PBA, and Aaron Smith of the USBC and PWBA, for verifying portions of the information provided in this article.

Photos provided by Dave Williams.