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PBA Regional Tour

What it is, Why it Exists, and How to Join

By

Tom Smallwood

Tom Smallwood bowled in the PBA Central Regional Tour until winning the 2009 PBA World Championship and earning himself a two-year PBA Tour exemption.

Photo courtesy of PBA LLC

Often, you’ll hear or read about the PBA Regional Tour, but rarely, if ever, is that explained. What is the Regional Tour? How is it different from the regular PBA Tour? Here are the answers you’re looking for.

What is the PBA Regional Tour?

According to the PBA, the PBA Regional Tour serves two major purposes:

  1. A way for high-caliber bowlers, including PBA Tour regulars, to work on their skills in preparation for the upcoming PBA Tour season.
  2. A way for bowlers with full-time jobs to compete at the professional level during the weekend events.

The PBA Regional Tour is professional bowling. There are seven regional tours across the country (Northwest, West, Midwest, Southwest, Central, South, East), and a total of around 200 PBA Regional Tour events are held every year. Each event has a cash ratio of 1:3 with a minimum of $400 for the last cash spot.

Some consider the Regional Tour the minor leagues of professional bowling, and in many ways it is. There are bowlers looking to move up to the top, there are bowlers content with their standing, and there are bowlers who just like to have fun on the weekends. Regardless, the bowling is good and the competition is exciting.

Do I have to be a PBA Member to bowl on the PBA Regional Tour?

No. In fact, in order to be eligible to become a PBA member, you must fulfill one of three requirements (average 200 or better in league play, average 190 or better in a sport league, or cash in a PBA Regional Tour event), so if you don’t meet the average requirement but want to become a PBA member, the Regional Tour may be your way in.

Many bowlers you’ll see on the Regional Tour are PBA members, and some of the top PBA Tour bowlers enter a Regional Tour event on occasion. If you’re expecting to show up and dominate like you do in your house league, you’ll be in for a surprise. However, it’s a great, low-investment way (typically $285 per tournament for a non-member) to compete against some of the best in the sport. There’s no other prominent professional sport with an opportunity like this.

It’s a good idea to be a PBA member, especially if you win, because PBA members can earn exemptions—non-members cannot. But you can earn money, so if that’s all you’re after, go for it.

How Can I Earn a PBA Tour Exemption Through the Regional Tour?

The PBA Regional Tour can be a springboard to a career as a PBA Tour exempt bowler, or it can be a fun way to test your skills on the weekend. Whatever your goals, the PBA Regional Tour could be the path there. Here are the ways to earn a spot on the PBA Tour through the Regional Tour:

  • Win a Regional Tour major, earning a berth in the PBA Tournament of Champions (the winner of the TOC earns a two-year exemption)
  • Be one of the top 25 bowlers in each region, earning a spot in the Regional Players Invitational—eight PBA Tour exemptions are on the line there
  • For non-members, cashing in a Regional Tour event can get you a PBA membership, which then qualifies you for all the other benefits

How Do I Join?

Visit the PBA Regional Tour page, find your region, and you'll see a schedule of upcoming events. Follow the instructions on the website, and register for one or more events.

Whether you want to make it to the PBA Tour or if you just want to bowl in a weekend tournament with potential rewards far greater than standard tournaments in your area, the PBA Regional Tour is worth investigating.

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