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Senior Open's pro-am draws 1,194 of all ages

Putting a pro-am tournament together is like trying to gather chestnuts with an army of squirrels around.

Jerry Krauss cajoled 1,194 people, including senior citizens and youngsters, into joining the fun before this week's $85,000 Pinellas Suncoast Pinwheel PBA Senior Open, which ends tonight at Seminole Lanes.

The five-man stepladder finals begin at 7 p.m., televised live on ESPN. Admission is $10 for the show. Get there early; seating is limited.

Krauss is the owner of four Pinellas County centers and has a tie-in with Bill Morris and his three centers in Tampa and Zephyrhills. Bill Boje owns Tropicana Lanes and Brandon Crossroads Bowl and has interests with Krauss in Crossroads Kenneth City Bowl.

All seven centers hosted the junior divisions of the pro-am tournament last Saturday while the adults and seniors bowled their shifts at Seminole Lanes.

Dick Evans, PBA Hall of Famer and former Miami Herald bowling writer, believes nearly 2,000 pro-am entries is a record _ for the PBA senior or regular tours. Evans now works the PBA senior tour. The largest number of entries I can recall was at the Showboat in Las Vegas last June with about 660. Ron and Maryann Woods annually put about 600 eager amateurs with the pros at their year-ending PBA Southern Regional at Hudson Bowl.

Krauss started thinking about staging a PBA event many years ago. He toured the country, scouting the senior tour and finally landed a show.

"I had never staged anything so large and complex as a PBA event and I knew I needed a lot of help to do so," Krauss said.

Krauss is a soft-spoken, energetic hustler with unlimited enthusiasm and a penchant for getting things done _ immediately. He had the unprecedented cooperation of most of the area's bowling proprietors and a host of major businesses in putting on one of the senior tour's best events.

The tournament is the first PBA stop _ seniors or otherwise _ in Pinellas County history. Tampa and Sarasota have had PBA stops in the past and the ladies' pro tour has visited Pinellas County often since the 1980s.

Saturday's pro-am, sponsored by First Florida Bank, was a pleasant surprise to the 240 senior pros who showed up to bowl the tour's final 1992 stop.

"I can't say enough about the way Jerry Krauss put on this show," said bowling legend Dick Weber. "The pro-ams I bowl in are such fun and this one was exceptional. The people were just great."

If you wanted to see bowling crowds, Friday night's catered meet-the-pros party at Seminole Lanes was Grand Central Station on a 1942-era weekend. Krauss opted to let his leagues bowl that night, and a huge sheet split the bowlers from the partygoers. "I haven't eaten this well on the tour all year," said Sunrise pro Tommy Evans, who won his first senior event this year.

Cassie Campbell of Sunrise Lanes won the Bantam Division over all of the juniors at the seven centers. She had a remarkable 1,476 total, with the help of her three pros, of course.

Jason Filipiak, J. B. McClellan and Michael Moore were the other overall junior winners. Steve Vitan and Robert Chacon tied as winners of the Special Olympic division.

There were in-house winners, too, and all the pro-am winners will receive their awards this morning between the seventh and eighth game at Seminole Lanes.

If success is measured in numbers, Krauss, Boje and the other Suncoast proprietors who contributed are winners.

There was more to this unprecedented happening in Pinellas County, however.

Perhaps Clearwater's Harry Beierlein summed it up best. "This is the thrill of a lifetime for me, even though I don't expect to make the cut," he said. Beierlein got one of the house spots in the pro field and was a respectable 67th after the first day of qualifying. He didn't make the cut.

"Hey, I've got bad knees, a bad back and a sore thumb, but believe me, I don't hurt a bit after bowling with those guys. It's the greatest bunch of folks in the world."

Around The Lanes: Frank Neiswander rolled a 300-714 and Darrin Campbell recorded a 300-797 at Largo Lanes last week. Billy Finocchi fired a 300-756 at Rainbow Lanes. Elijah Willis nailed three 244 games for a 732 series at Sunshine Bowl. The Clearwater Women's Association annual meeting is Oct. 25 at Countryside Lanes. Carol Gianotti, off a summer vacation at her Australian home, won the LPBT's Columbia 300 Delaware Open last week. The Style Master 300 tournament visits Tampa's Crown Lanes this weekend with a $25 entry fee and $1,200 to the winner. Seminole Lanes offers an almost-midnight team tournament Saturday with a $75 per-team entry fee and $1,000 to the winner, based on entries.