Many amateurs have bowled good games and thought, “I just bowled a better score than the pros did on TV this week—I should become a pro bowler.”
It’s not nearly that simple, but it is possible.
Before you can even consider applying for membership, you must fulfill at least one of three qualifications:
- Average 200 or better, with a minimum of 36 games bowled, in your most recent league season.
- Average 190 or better in a USBC-sanctioned sport league.
- Cash in a PBA Regional tournament as a non-member.
Joining the PBA Tour
Let’s assume you averaged 210 in your most recent league season, thus meeting the minimum qualification requirement. You then must fill out the PBA application form (PDF from pba.com) and select a standard or full membership.
This does not guarantee you a spot in every tournament going up against Chris Barnes and the other exempt bowlers.
Bowlers want to earn exemptions because it means they can bowl in all PBA events for the length of their exemptions without having to go through the Tour Qualifying Round (TQR). An exempt bowler can pick and choose any and all PBA Tour events and is guaranteed a spot. You will still be subject to the TQR.
If you select a standard membership, you’ll be eligible to bowl in three regional tournaments and three PBA Tour Qualifying Rounds, plus three or more open PBA events.
If you select a full membership, you’ll be eligible to bowl an unlimited number of regional tournaments and PBA Tour Qualifying Rounds.
The Tour Qualifying Rounds
PBA Tour events have a set number of spots available. Exempt bowlers grab those spots at will, and any spots left over are available to the winners of the TQR. You, and your fellow competitors, will compete in the TQR, which can be thought of as a pre-tournament tournament. The top bowlers from this round make it into the real event. Once you’re in, you’re in, and you have just as much opportunity as Walter Ray Williams, Jr. to pull out a victory.