In order to promote a particular sport and hold professional tournaments, a sanctioning body works in every country. The organization that works for the promotion of ten-pin bowling in the USA is the PBA or Professional Bowlers Association, headquartered in Chicago. The organization hosts some of the most competitive tournaments in the sport.
The Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) is a world-renowned bowling organization with more than 3,000 members from 30 countries. Founded in 1958, the PBA has seen many great bowlers come and go, leaving their mark on the sport’s history.
The PBA is the world’s largest organization of professionals for ten-pin bowling. While the PBA may be most well-known for its televised tournaments, there is much more to the organization than meets the eye. For nearly 60 years, the PBA has been at the forefront of the sport, and it shows no signs of slowing down.
Let’s explore the history of this organization, how to join it, and what benefits you can avail by becoming a PBA member.
A Brief History of the PBA
The PBA was founded in 1958 by a group of 33 professional bowlers. This group wanted to create a more organized and structured bowling circuit that would be more competitive and fair.
The first PBA tournament was held in 1959 and was won by Dick Weber. Since then, the PBA has grown exponentially, hosting tournaments in many countries. Today, the PBA is considered the premier professional bowling organization worldwide.
In March 2000, three business tycoons in the tech industry acquired the PBA to spend money on further expansion. All three of them were former Microsoft executives having mutual ambitions for the promotion of bowling. In 2019, the PBA was acquired by Bowlero Corp, which is the largest operator of all major bowling centers in the world.
Today, Bowlero Corp and FOX Sports together manage all PBA bowling telecasts and offer their expertise to take the sport to a new level. There are numerous awards and scholarships offered by the PBA to its members. One of the highly prestigious awards is the Player of the Year award, which is presented to a player with exceptional performance throughout the season.
The Player of the Year award was officially started in the year 1963. A player is chosen based on their performance, including season earnings, Tour average ranking, total titles, and major titles. The first-ever player to receive this award was Billy Hardwick in 1963, and he is also the youngest PBA member to win this title.
Another award offered by the PBA for outstanding performance in bowling is the Rookie of the Year award. The first player to receive this award back in 1964 was Jerry McCoy.
The PBA Tour
The PBA Tour comprises a small percentage of PBA-registered bowlers who compete in national and international events. Currently, there are 82 members with a PBA touring pro status. You can only join a PBA National Tour if you’re already a member of the organization.
To be able to bowl in a PBA-hosted tournament, players have to cash in some money and become part of the event. A regional tour costs $220 for members and $285 for non-members. Senior tours cost $450 for members and $500 for non-members. The fee for PBA Tour is $500 for members and $600 for non-members.
The PBA Regional Tour is the entry-level tour for professional bowlers. It consists of eight regions: East, Midwest, South, Southwest, West, Central, Southeast, and Northeast. Each region has its own schedule of events. The PBA Regional Tour is a stepping stone to the PBA Tour. Many of the world’s top professional bowlers got their start on the PBA Regional Tour.
While non-members can participate in these events, there are usually very limited seats for these players. To enter and pay for an event, you will have to contact the Director to inquire about the number of non-member entries available. Even if you’re not a member of the PBA, you still have to meet the average requirement of at least 200 in a USBC-sanctioned league.
One downside to participating in a PBA event as a non-member is that you won’t receive a PBA 300 Ring if you score a perfect 300. This is a big achievement; therefore, it is recommended that you first obtain a PBA membership and then play in the events.
How to Join the PBA?
Joining the PBA is a great way to take your bowling career to the next level. You’ll enjoy exclusive access to tournaments and events, the opportunity to win big prizes, and discounts on bowling equipment and gear.
However, it’s not as simple and straightforward as it sounds. If you want to become part of the most prestigious bowling organization in the United States, you must meet their eligibility criteria.
At a glance, there are three important requirements to be eligible for the PBA:
- You must be at least 18 years of age
- You must demonstrate a USBC bowling average of 190 or higher
- You must be a USBC member with a good reputation
One of the most important things in bowling is consistency. This is what separates the good bowlers from the great bowlers. To have a 190 bowling average, you need to be able to bowl games in the 190s regularly. This requires a lot of skill and practice.
If you’re a skilled and consistent bowler with the required mental toughness and practice regularly, nothing can stop you from becoming a full-time PBA member. Focus on your technique and master it over time with practice and experience. Having an average of 190 or above is the only challenging condition on the requirements to become a PBA member.
If you fulfill all of the above requirements, you can fill out an application and pay the required fees. Once your application has been processed, you will officially become a member of the PBA.
To apply for Pro and International PBA Membership, you must be at least 18 years old, and you either have above 200 average in your most recently played league season with at least 36 games played, or you have received a cash prize in a PBA regional tournament as a non-member.
Read more here: Bowling Leagues: What You Need to Know.
Your PBA membership will be suspended if you don’t pay its monthly fee for three consecutive months. An additional $99 will have to be paid to remove the suspension.
PBA Junior Membership has two plans: Basic and Premium. The basic plan costs $39.99, and the premium plan costs $89.98 annually. These members have unlimited access to PBA Junior Regional tournaments and many other benefits. However, you need Pro Membership (Full or Standard) to get a subscription to Bowlers Journal Magazine.
Benefits of a PBA Membership
If you’re passionate about the sport of bowling or want to pursue a career in it, the first step is to join the PBA. As a member of this prestigious organization, you will have access to all its exclusive events and receive discounts on bowling equipment and products.
The events that PBA gives you access to as a member include the PBA Tour Championships, the PBA World Series of Bowling, and the PBA Players Championship. These events are some of the most high-status tournaments in the sport of bowling, and they offer a great opportunity for members to showcase their skills.
The PBA World Series of Bowling is an annual event held in different locations worldwide. It is a great opportunity for professional bowlers to showcase their skills and compete against the best players in the world. This event is open to all PBA members and is a great way for them to earn prize money and exposure.
Some other benefits of PBA membership include early access to PBA Tour event tickets, PBA branded swag packages that include many items like a pro membership card along with a member sticker, bowling towel, customized jersey, schedule magnet, PBA console game, and annual bag tag, special offers at Bowlero clubs and other locations where PBA allows the practice, annual free vouchers for a free game of bowling at any Bowlero center, and access to PBA member website.
These perks are quite attractive, and you can visit PBA Membership Benefits to find out what type of membership you need to avail of a particular benefit. For example, if you have Pinsider Membership (that costs $49.95 annually), you won’t be able to play in PBA Tour, Regional Tour, and PBA50 Tour events.
Similarly, if you have International membership, you won’t have access to free annual vouchers to play at any Bowlero location. If you want to advertise your Pro Shop on PBA official website and put the logo on your jersey, you need full Pro Membership that costs $300 annually and comes with a Pro Membership Card.
And finally, as a PBA member, you can manage your own account by visiting your membership dashboard. This dashboard will provide you access to certain resources that are unavailable to the general public.