Several years have passed since a Long Island bowling center played host to a PBA tournament. But local professionals and elite bowlers now have the chance to celebrate: Port Jeff Bowl in Port Jefferson Station will host its first-ever PBA Eastern Regional tournament June 8 through June 9.
"We want to generate some excitement and add to the activity that goes on in our bowling center and in Suffolk County," said Matt Rubin, tournament director at Port Jeff Bowl. "Long Island used to have Regionals all the time in the '80s and '90s. It’s disappeared and we want it to come back."
Russ Mills, East Region Manager for the PBA, said the organization looks for quality bowling centers to host their regional tournaments. The PBA sanctions about 160 such events per year nationwide.
"It’s nice. The people there are great," Mills said of Port Jeff Bowl. "We were definitely looking to come back on Long Island."
According to Yvonne Francis, who has owned Port Jeff Bowl for the last 32 years, there's lots of work to be done before the tournament takes place.
First and foremost, she said, is attracting sponsors to help offset the costs of bringing in a PBA tournament. PBA tournaments work differently from private tournaments in that the bowling center itself is the entity that foots the bill for the PBA event, rather than the private tournament paying the bowling center to use its facilities. According to Mills, bowling centers typically lay out thousands of dollars for PBA regionals, sometimes averaging between $10,000 and $15,000 depending on the fees and prize money paid.
"We’re trying to get the people who you watch on television," Francis said. "To attract the biggest bowlers you need more sponsorship. That’s what we’re working on right now."
Rubin said Port Jeff Bowl will be holding mini-tournaments in the coming months in which the prize will be "win a spot in the PBA Eastern Regional tournament." It's a prize valued at $285, which is what non-PBA members pay to participate in a PBA tournament.
He said the Eastern Regional tournament has space for 128 bowlers and the goal is to have enough players to fill the tournament. "We’re trying hard and reaching out to a lot of bowlers," Rubin said.
In the area of physical preparedness, Francis also said the lanes themselves will be oiled in accordance with PBA standards.
On June 7, Port Jeff Bowl will hold a junior pro-am tournament, which typically accompanies a PBA tournament event. "It allows our everyday bowlers to be able to come in and bowl in their own tournament that’s handicapped," Francis explained. "They get a pro bowler that bowls on the same lane. Each game they get to meet a pro bowler."
Part of the system is attracting elite bowlers to participate alongside the professionals.
"A lot of our bowlers throughout Suffolk County have over 200 averages," Francis said. "You can bowl in the same tournament that the pro bowlers bowl in, too. It’s really exciting. It’s very good for our sport of bowling."