Guest Author - Todd Shipman
"Flip" called me into his office at the bowling center and took note that as a pro, I was going to have to correct and improve on some issues with my game. He told me that as a PBA bowler, I had to be at peak performing levels all the time and be "flawless" in order to win on the tour. (If any of you are considering bowling with the Pros, Iíd advise you to take careful note of the advice "Flip" gave me. Bowling on the tour is the toughest and most demanding experience anyone can have as a bowler.)
With his advice, my averages kept getting better and I won local tournaments such as the Lake County (IL) Singles Scratch event shortly thereafter - that was one of the major local tournaments at that time. My first national PBA event was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in late-1986.
In May of 1987 I was transferred to VA36 Attack Squadron at Oceania, Virginia Beach, Virginia by way of San Diego, California. I was able to pick up the Summer PBA Tour which started in Tucson, Arizona, ending up in Buffalo, New York, before having to check in at Virginia Beach.
Shortly thereafter, I was sent overseas which really cut into my bowling competition for nearly three years. I spent the time (1987 - 1990) around Israel, Egypt, and Turkey, I finally left the Navy in June, 1990. (The Mideast had no relation to my getting out of the service.)
In those days, there was a military exemption from paying dues and the number of PBA events you could enter. You still had to earn the Touring Pro 1 and Touring Pro 2 levels.
The military exemption worked well for me. After moving to Naples, FL, I was able to maintain my PBA membership until 1997. As the 1990's continued, I met my soon to be wife, Mary. When we got married, it was at the Naples-Ft. Myers Dog Track on the finish line in the infield. We had two Greyhounds stand up for us. She went with me on a few nearby PBA Regional and National stops.
One of the worst weeks for me was in Buffalo, NY in 1987. Just as I got the rental car, a tornado passed directly behind me and scared the daylights of me. Another time was when I was getting ready to leave a tournament city when a manufacturing plant next to the Airport-Hotel sprung a gas leak, which made it another "fun day." Overall, however, there were many areas that I went that were really nice places to visit.
The last national tour stop I cashed in was the "Paula Carter Open" in 1993 (Homestead, FL.), although I was nearly disqualified from receiving my prize money. In order to collect your prize money, you had to have all the spec sheets for any equipment you used during the tournament. I had left all of the recap sheets at the hotel. I turned to Mary and said, "Run back to the hotel fast and get the equipment sheets or I won't be able to cash," which she did, barely making it back in time. Itís a funny story now.
If anyoneís thinking of joining the PBA, I really suggest to get out and bowl in as many conditions and types of tournaments that you can. I've bowled in many different houses and various types of tournaments. Everything from an 8-pin No-Tap in San Diego, CA, to a Step-ladder Double Elimination in Fort Myers, FL.
It can be very lonely at times although I always tried to team up with another pro bowler to share expenses. Being on the road is very expensive. Reflecting back on all the tournaments Iíve been in, PBA or not, I've been able to see a lot throughout the country. I've met really nice people at the Pro-Am's and they always ask a lot about bowling and how it is to be on the road as a touring pro. Because I achieved my bowling dream I was able to tell them of my great experiences.
I've had a wonderful time and great memories that started in the 1970ís in Florida Junior Bowling, to Iceland in 1983 with a used ball and a 165 average, and my years as a touring pro. In later years, my wife had many health issues that affected my ability to participate in bowling tournaments. I bowled in a few leagues and tournaments in Naples until 1997.
Editorís Note: Iíll have been sidelined for about six weeks when I start bowling again the beginning of May. Your story has inspired me to go back to tournament bowling on a more frequent basis; and, even at my age, to revive my dream of bowling in some PBA events. Thanks, Todd.
A Hui Hou! (See You Again!)