The PBA60 Dick Weber Championship will be played at Pro Bowl West in Fort Wayne today through Thursday. A practice session will run from 9 a.m. to noon today and the qualifying rounds will follow at 2:30 p.m. Competition will start at 9 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday, and the stepladder finals are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Thursday.
As a teenager hanging out in Fort Wayne’s bowling alleys, Ron Mohr never dreamed that he could be elected to the Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Fame.
It didn’t seem any more likely in his 20s, when he took a job as an air traffic controller in Alaska instead of chasing a career in bowling. A place in the Hall of Fame was the furthest thing from his mind when he retired at age 52 with the intention of entering a few PBA50 Tour events, just to see how he would fare in the senior league.
But just 10 years later, Mohr, now 62, returns to compete in his hometown as a Hall of Famer, having been inducted in a ceremony in Indianapolis in February.
“It’s so far beyond the pale, just to be in that group, to have your name mentioned in the same breath as the greats of the game,” Mohr said. “I personally don’t put myself in that group, but fortunately I didn’t have a vote. I’m not sure I deserved it, but believe me, I’m not turning it down.”
Mohr is one of 101 bowlers entered in the PBA60 Dick Weber Championships, which will be played at Pro Bowl West in Fort Wayne this week. The qualifying rounds begin at 2:30 p.m. today, and the three-day tournament concludes with stepladder finals at 1 p.m. Thursday.
Mohr, who finished fifth in the PBA50 Cup in Grand Rapids, Michigan, over the weekend, said that entering elite bowling later in life took away a lot of the pressure he would have felt as a younger man trying to make a living in bowling.
“You wonder, had I had any inkling that I might be competitive at a world-class level, should I have tried it in my 20s?” Mohr said. “And I like to think, no, I chose to go with a guaranteed paycheck and go for a career, but that’s just B.S. The real reason was I was just chicken because the bowlers that we watched on TV every Saturday afternoon were great, and I was nowhere near that caliber.”
But with the financial security of a pension and a job as an air traffic control instructor set up in the winter months, Mohr entered his first PBA50 event in Dayton, where he finished in the top 10. And then he finished in the top 10 again in his next tournament in Rockford, Illinois, which meant he had to join the PBA to continue entering senior tour events. He didn’t do nearly as well in his third tournament in Jackson, Michigan, finishing 61st, but it almost didn’t matter.
“Now, I was a professional member,” Mohr said. “I bowled for the rest of the year, 2008, which was probably the most fun that I ever had bowling, just getting to meet a lot of the players that we grew up watching on TV and competing at a regular level and traveling from town to town to bowl.”
The following year in 2009, Mohr won three events and earned the first of two player-of-the-year awards. He has now won 10 titles, including one this season at the PBA50 Northern California Classic, and has never finished the season with a scoring average below 220.
Mohr said he and his fellow senior bowlers do not have the strength and power of the 20- and 30-somethings who are now the best bowlers in the world. But the competitors entering the 50-plus and 60-plus tournaments can make up some of the difference in savvy and experience.
“You learn more about the science. You learn internally what you need to do to be successful,” Mohr said. “Some of the patterns, and by patterns, I mean the way they oil the lanes, they kind of balance it out, so that that much power is not necessarily a benefit. And in those events, I’m very competitive. But on other patterns where (the young bowlers) can just do whatever they want to do, I’m really not competitive in those.”
Mohr now lives in Las Vegas, where instead of heading to the bowling alley as a refuge from the Alaskan winter, residents bowl to escape the desert heat. He competes in 30 to 35 tournaments a year but does not have many opportunities to visit friends and family in Fort Wayne.
“It’s tough to travel that far to come and bowl, and there’s plenty of bowling out west,” Mohr said. “Obviously, growing up here for 20 years, there’s hundreds if not thousands of people that you know and would like to see again, people that I grew up bowling with and against. And that would be great. But it doesn’t seem to happen as much as I would like.”