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What is a Professional Bowler? Skills, Training, Earnings & Facts

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Bowling is one of the most popular sports in the world, with over 90 million people participating globally.

It’s entertaining, accessible, and sees competitive play at various skill levels. But what does it take to rise to the top and become a professional bowler?

Professional bowlers are essentially the highest tier of competitive bowlers, representing the very best in the sport. They possess world-class skills acquired through years of dedicated practice, training, and experience.

To reach professional status, bowlers must meet strict requirements and compete on elite tours like the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA).

The life of a professional bowler involves constant travel, media commitments, sponsorship duties, and the highest-pressure moments under the bright lights.

Let’s take a closer look at everything it means to be a professional bowler at the pinnacle of this classic sport.

Requirements to Become a Pro Bowler

The key entryway into the professional ranks for bowlers around the world is joining the Professional Bowlers Association. The PBA, established in 1958, is recognized as the major sanctioning body for the sport.

To become a card-carrying member of the PBA, bowlers must first meet the minimum average score requirement.

This involves maintaining at least a 200-average bowling score over a minimum of 36 games. Bowling an average of 200 means being able to consistently knock down 200 pins per game.

In addition to the scoring requirement, bowlers must pay annual PBA membership dues and entrance fees for tournaments. But the ultimate test is competing in and passing PBA Qualifying Rounds.

These are essentially tryout events where bowlers must finish high enough to make cuts for upcoming tournaments. Surviving the rigorous Qualifying Rounds proves a bowler has the skill to hang with the world’s best.

Skills and Attributes of a Successful Pro Bowler

Simply having raw bowling talent isn’t necessarily enough to reach the pinnacle of the sport. Professional bowlers require a very specific and rare mix of physical abilities, technical skills, mental strengths, and intangibles to thrive.

On the physical side, qualities like strength, stamina, hand-eye coordination, and dexterity are essential. Pro bowlers have to handle and smoothly deliver a bowling ball weighing up to 16 pounds hundreds of times per day without wearing it down.

Specific muscles in the wrist, fingers, and forearms require strengthening to achieve both power and fine control of the ball.

Stamina is also hugely important, as tournaments can last for months and involve back-to-back competition. Even a momentary lapse in energy and focus from fatigue can be the difference between winning and losing.

In terms of technical bowling skills, professional players have generally mastered optimal delivery mechanics to generate speed and leverage.

They can read lane oil patterns and instantly adapt their angle of release, rotation and placement. Their accuracy in consistently hitting pins even when going for difficult splits is world-class.

Mentally, the best professional bowlers maintain laser precision concentration through the distractions and pressure cooker environments of major tournaments.

Keeping composure is also key – any sign of frustration on the lanes can be detrimental. The greats are also intensely competitive, with an internal drive to perform under pressure and win at the highest levels.

Beyond their impressive bowling abilities, most successful professional bowlers share an unrelenting passion and dedication for the sport.

They devote themselves fully to continual improvement year after year. The very best in bowling live, breathe, and sleep the sport essentially 24/7.

Daily Training and Practice of a Pro Bowler

With no offseason in professional bowling, training, and practice is a daily requirement to stay sharp. This involves hours of work on the lanes honing skills, analyzing data, and conditioning the body.

A pro bowler’s typical training session starts with repeated delivery practice to groove their approach, timing, and release.

Slow, smooth repetitions reinforce muscle memory for consistency. They experiment with lines on the lane and make micro-adjustments to their strike position.

Using video analysis software, pro bowlers examine their mechanics on recent tournament rolls frame-by-frame.

Even the smallest technical issue like foot placement or shoulder alignment gets called out. By studying their footage and that of competitors, the professionals tune their techniques to perfection.

Understanding oil patterns on the lane is another key training activity. Pro bowlers carefully analyze oil density, texture, and distribution to make informed adjustments to their delivery, speed, ball choice, and more. They learn precisely how their ball will react when encountering certain oil conditions.

Physical conditioning is also integral to a pro bowler’s training. This includes strength training to prevent muscle imbalances along with cardio for endurance.

Proper stretching before and after sessions preserves joint health. Poor conditioning increases the chance of painful overuse injuries.

Competitions and Tournaments

Professional bowlers spend up to 30 weeks per year on tour traveling across the country and occasionally the world for major competitions. For PBA members, these tournaments make up the PBA Tour.

The PBA Tour calendar kicks off in January with one of the most prestigious events – the PBA Championship.

Here the best bowlers in the world compete in a grueling “stepladder” bracket format for a massive $100,000 top prize.

Other major tour stops include the Tournament of Champions and PBA Playoffs with similarly large purses and TV coverage.

Points are awarded based on performance and accumulated throughout the full season. The PBA Player of the Year is awarded to the bowler with the most points at the end of the year. This person is considered the top performer in the sport.

As professional bowlers, competing on the demanding PBA Tour means constant pressure to perform under the bright lights for sponsors and fans.

Travel weariness, injuries, changing lane conditions, rising young stars, and mental game factors all combine to test veterans and rookies alike. Managing the lifestyle and demands of pro bowling is half the battle.

Lifestyle and Routine of a Pro Bowler

With over 30 action-packed competition weeks, dozens of qualifying events, and special appearances, professional bowlers rarely have an offseason. It’s essentially a year-round commitment to exhausting travel, training, and recovery routines.

Flying or driving thousands of miles weekly to compete in states across the country is normal. Top pros may also travel abroad for international tournaments in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Jet lag and fatigue from air travel can make performing at the highest levels challenging both physically and mentally.

When not competing, pro bowlers also make public appearances, hold clinics for aspiring amateurs, meet with sponsors, and more.

Media interviews and contractual obligations are additional demands. Between all this, they still carve out time nearly daily to train and keep their skills razor-sharp.

Finding time to recover from repetitive bowling strain properly is also a priority. Pro-bowlers frequently apply ice, get sports massages, undergo physical therapy, and take anti-inflammatory medication to manage pain. Preventing and managing serious wrist, finger, and elbow injuries is paramount.

Financial Earnings and Sponsorships

For the handful of bowlers who make it to the upper echelon of the PBA Tour rankings, the earning potential is impressive.

The very top performers take home massive cash purses from tour events, sometimes over $100,000 for a single tournament win. Additional income comes from lucrative equipment and apparel sponsorships.

That said, breaking into the elite pro ranks and making big money is exceptionally difficult. The difference in skill and consistency between a top amateur and a world-class professional is immense despite surface similarities. Only those willing to devote nearly every waking moment to the craft have a realistic shot.

For lower-ranked pros, earnings from competitions are modest and sponsorships are tougher to come by.

These bowlers supplement their income through other means but continue chasing the dream. Perseverance, resilience, and supreme confidence are prerequisites just to survive life in professional bowling’s challenging main stage.


Professional bowlers exist in the very top percentage of competitors in their sport, possessing rare talents.

Becoming a true pro requires years of intense dedication, sacrifice, resilience, and unwavering commitment to excellence. Only a select few can thrive under the microscope of competitions like the demanding PBA Tour.

At the end of the day, passion for bowling above all else fuels these athletes. The best competitors can’t imagine life without the thrill of delivering the perfect strike under pressure or dethroning reigning champions.

Thanks to this passionate community of elite athletes, competitive bowling continues to grow in popularity around the world.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it hard to become a pro bowler?

Yes, it is extremely difficult to become a professional bowler. It requires immense physical skills, technical mastery of bowling techniques, and the mental fortitude to perform under intense pressure. Bowlers aspiring to go pro also need to dedicate years of intense training and practice time while competing in qualifying events. Only a small fraction of bowlers have the talent and determination to reach the top professional ranks.

What does it mean to be a pro bowler in the NFL?

Being named a Pro Bowler in the NFL is recognition for having one of the best seasons at your position in that year. It means being selected to play in the annual Pro Bowl game featuring star players from the AFC and NFC conferences. Though an honor, many top players declined to participate in the exhibition game to avoid injury and rest.

How much money can a bowler make?

The top professional bowlers can earn over $100,000 for winning major tournaments on the PBA Tour. They may also earn $50,000 – $100,000 per year or more from equipment sponsorships. But bowlers ranked lower on tour often supplement income from other jobs and make well under $50,000.

How many people are professional bowlers?

It is estimated there are around 250-300 actively competing professional or “pro” bowlers worldwide in a given year. Most belong to the Professional Bowlers Association which has about 4,300 total members. But far fewer actively meet tournament eligibility and compete at the highest levels.

Do professional bowlers get paid well?

A small number of elite professional bowlers can earn substantial incomes of over $100,000 per year. However, the majority of professionals earn quite modest incomes from tournaments and sponsorships, often less than $50,000 annually. Significant costs for travel, equipment, and more also cut into earnings.