Does Bowling a Good Game Mean You Can be a Pro?

A Great Game Is Different From a Consistent Game

Jason Belmonte
Jason Belmonte worked his whole life to become a professional bowler. Photo courtesy PBA LLC

The claims come often. A friend throws a 210 while bowling and says he could be a pro. A pro throws a 150 on TV and you remember the 170 you threw the week before, so you could be a pro. Most people realize it's not that simple, but how simple is it?

Pros Struggle, Too

The most famous example of a professional bowler having a bad game happened at the 2011 PBA Tournament of Champions, when Tom Daugherty bowled a 100. Recreational bowlers all over the world were wondering how they could get their spots on the PBA Tour. Media outlets had a lot of fun with it, too. How could a professional bowler possibly bowl a 100 in a tournament handing out $250,000 for first prize?

Just like pro athletes in all other sports have bad games, bowlers also have bad games. Nobody would have made it to the finals of that event without bowling well all week. Plus, to even enter the TOC, a bowler has to have won on the PBA Tour or PBA Regional Tour in the past. The 100 Daugherty bowled in that tournament is not indicative of his extreme talent that got him to that point. Therefore, the fact that a pro bowled a 100 on TV doesn't mean anyone can join the tour based on bowling a 200 or even a 110.

Consistency Matters

Now that we have the rare-but-existent low scores from pros out of the way, we can focus on amateur scores. League bowlers every week throw games of 200 and better. Scores of 300 are not nearly as uncommon as maybe they should be. If you're a league bowler, you could find a game every week, either bowled by you or another member of your league, that is better than the winning score on a PBA telecast.

It's not a fair comparison. Anybody can beat anybody in one game. But the likelihood of beating someone of superior talent over the course of 40 to 50 games is much lower. In most tournaments on the PBA Tour, every bowler who makes it to the TV finals has already bowled close to 40 games in the previous four or five days. Only the top four or five bowlers, after taking into account all 40 games, make it to TV. If you're in the tournament and bowl a 280 in your first game of the qualifying round, you just may take the lead over Bill O'Neill or Chris Barnes.

But that's one game. Can you bowl 39 more 280s? Or even 220s? Most finalists in pro tournaments average 220+ during qualifying.

Let's Not Forget the Oil

Recreational bowlers are used to house oil patterns, which, when compared to PBA oil patterns, seem like they're designed to generate strikes (and yes, they are). Switching from a house oil pattern to a PBA oil pattern is an instant detriment to your score. It's like playing home run derby on a Little League field, then moving to a Major League Baseball stadium.

Of course, there is a chance. You could resist the shock of the more difficult oil, bowl 40 great games in a row and find yourself on ESPN in the finals of a PBA Tour event. However, that's a lot more difficult than bowling one 250 game once.

Could You Be a Pro?

Because anything is possible, yes, you could be a pro. There are ways to get there. If you bowl a 250, keep at it. Bowl another 250. Become a consistently good bowler. Then, try your hand on the PBA Regional Tour or enter one of the open PBA Tour events.

It's not impossible. It's just much harder than a lot of people think.