Born: August 18, 1966
Hometown: Horseheads, New York
Joined Tour: 1986
Total Championships Won: 4
Major Championships Won: None yet
Awards and Honors:
- 1987 PBA Rookie of the Year
- 2008-2009 Steve Nagy Sportsmanship Award
- 2012-2013 Steve Nagy Sportsmanship Award
Ryan Shafer’s bowling style is unmistakable. He’s a classic cranker, using power and revolutions to decimate the pins. While his release can appear violent, as can the explosion of the pins, his precision on the lanes is impressive.
Shafer, valedictorian of his high school, had a choice to make after graduation: college and a potential career as a lawyer or professional bowler. Knowing he could always go back to school, he gave bowling a shot and immediately made an impact.
Shafer’s Rookie Season
Shafer bowled in two tournaments in 1986, making it to the TV finals in one. 1987, his official rookie season, saw him participate in 22 events, cash in 10 of them and advance to match play five times. While he didn’t win any titles nor appear on TV, his season was good enough to earn him the PBA Rookie of the Year Award.
First Title and Beyond
Despite the fast start, Shafer didn’t win his first title until the 2000 Orleans Casino Open. Until then, he was making a name for himself as the best bowler to have never won a title. He’d made the TV finals 12 times between 1988 and 1999, and in the year 2000 alone, made it to television 11 times and won two titles.
He earned over $123,000 that year, then followed up in 2001 with another $132,200, helped by his third career title. In 2004, he won his fourth (and most recent) PBA Tour title.
Between the years 2000 and 2008, he never earned less than $78,000, topping six figures three times. In 2007, he rolled a televised 300 game, advancing him to the finals of the Pepsi Championship, where he was then defeated by Norm Duke.
Shafer has made it to the television finals at least once every season since 1997.
Throughout his career, Shafer has made it to the television finals of 14 different major championships but has yet to win a major title. Of those 14 tournaments, he finished runner-up five times. These are both PBA Tour records among bowlers who have not won a major.
Because of his impressive performances in major tournaments, Shafer is referred to by many as the best bowler to have never won a major. This is not a title he relishes, as he would much prefer to have a trophy case full of major championships. Much like he shed the best-bowler-to-have-never-won-a-tournament moniker by winning a tournament, he’d like nothing more than to win a major title in the near future.
Despite not having won a major, Shafer has consistently performed well enough over the years to earn more than a million dollars on the PBA Tour. He was the 30th bowler to accomplish that feat.
Catching a Break and Sportsmanship
Shafer famously noted he never seems to catch a break in the big tournaments, a potential reason he performs well in majors but never comes out on top. Some people misconstrued his comments, but he was not talking in a give-me-pity fashion. The best bowlers often benefit from catching a break, and Shafer, an honest and forthright individual, was merely commenting on his perceived lack of breaks.
His fellow bowlers honored Shafer with the 2008-2009 Steve Nagy PBA Sportsmanship Award, a title bestowed upon the bowler who best exemplifies sportsmanship in all aspects of the game, on and off the lanes.
Style and Attributes
Shafer is widely considered a cranker, though with the deterioration of bowling-style classifications, he’s also now known as a power tweener. His versatility, accuracy and high rev rate combine to make him a force in every tournament and a frequent competitor in television finals.