In 1980, an idea bloomed in the PBA headquarters at Akron, Ohio. Why not establish a tour for senior players since pro bowlers seemed to be getting older?
Bill Beach of Sharon, Pa., won the first senior event, in New Orleans in 1981. In the 12 years since, the senior tour has exceeded all expectations and still is growing.
From that one tournament, the senior tour has spread across the country with a dozen stops featuring more than 1,000 bowlers who have hit the half-century mark. The Showboat Invitational in Las Vegas last June drew a record field of 424 competitors, and eight of this year's events were televised nationally.
The 1992 tour makes its final stop starting today with the $85,000 Pinellas Suncoast Pinwheel Senior PBA Open at Seminole Lanes.
It is the first time the PBA _ seniors or otherwise _ has visited Pinellas County. The nearest stop was the $40,000 Sertoma Open in Tampa in 1967-68, won by Mike Durbin and Jim Stefanich, both of whom are expected to compete this weekend. Sarasota staged PBA events in 1977-78.
Seminole Lanes owner Jerry Krauss and the PBA scheduled all qualifying rounds during the day.
The full field of 240 pros begins qualifying Sunday. The five-man stepladder finals will be televised live on ESPN on Wednesday from 7-9:30 p.m.
The field will include bowling greats Dick Weber, Teata Semiz, Les Zikes, Carmen Salvino and Nelson Burton Jr. Semiz and Weber are the senior tour's top winners with six titles each, and Weber heads the money list with $155,525 in career earnings.
They may be less familiar, but John Handegard (Las Vegas) and Gene Stus (Allen Park, Mich.) battled last year for Player of the Year honors.
Handegard took the title, winning three events and earning more than $52,000. He has won once and finished twice this year. Stus was the first senior (and sixth PBA player) to roll a 300 game during a live televised championship round. He has won three titles and earned more than $40,000.