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The Journal Gazette

  • E.J. Tackett won three PBA tournaments, finished second at a fourth and took fourth place at the U.S. Open this season. He's in contention for Player of the Year again after winning in 2016 and finishing as the runner-up last season.

  • Photos courtesy PBA Tackett will bowl with Team USA this week at the World Championships in Hong Kong.

Sunday, November 18, 2018 1:00 am

Driven to be top bowler

Tackett says goal yearly is to win PBA Tour honor

VICTORIA JACOBSEN | The Journal Gazette

In many ways, E.J. Tackett's 2018 PBA campaign was a success: The Huntington North graduate won three tournaments, finished second at a fourth and took fourth place at the U.S. Open, the biggest event of the year. He's in contention for Player of the Year again after winning in 2016 and finishing as the runner-up last season.

But Tackett, now 26, said he feels as if he competed for just half the season. 

“I threw 16-pound bowling balls for a while, and I actually switched back to 15 in February, so I basically lost a few months because I was trying to really figure out how to bowl again,” Tackett explained. 

Tackett said he made the switch at the advice of his dad, who has coached him on the lanes his entire life. 

“At the bottom of the swing, when I release the bowling ball, I'm very unique in that area, and I think the 16 pounds was making me lose that,” Tackett said. “And that's what my dad saw. I didn't feel it, but my dad saw it. And so he suggested that I go back to 15 pounds, so I did. And then things got better again.”

Tackett's results started picking up in May and June, but he said his biggest disappointment of the season was probably at PBA Tour Finals in Allen Park, Michigan, in May, where he lost to Jason Belmonte in a two-frame roll-off.

“In the 10th frame I made the right move, I thought in my mind, and it ended up not being the correct one,” Tackett said. “I really feel like that was a huge missed opportunity, because that would have gotten me a fourth title this year, and it might have helped me in my bid for player of the year.”

But his greatest accomplishment of the season, at least in his own estimation, came at the US Open, a weeklong tournament held in Wichita, Kansas, last month. 

“My ball reaction there wasn't great; the way I was seeing the lanes wasn't the best,” Tackett said. “I was in almost 75th or 80th place after the first day. And I was able to just grind my way up and bowl a little bit better each day, and I was able to make the show and finish in fourth. ... It makes me feel really confident in what I'm doing, that I didn't have all my best tools that week, and I still was able to have a really good finish.”

November and December are technically bowling's off-season, but it won't feel like much of a break for Tackett. He will travel with Team USA to the World Championships, which will take place in Hong Kong from Friday through Dec. 5. His schedule also includes a stop in Orlando, Florida, which is open to the top eight money earners on the PBA Tour, and an invitation-only event in South Korea.

Tackett said he expects to someone else take home Player-of-the-Year honors next week, and after winning the award in 2016 he says that is his goal entering every season. 

“In 2017, I won four events and a major, and I was runner-up to Player of the Year, and I feel like this year I'm going to be runner-up to Player of the Year,” Tackett said. “So I'm really close to having three Player of the Years in a row. I kind of use that as fuel, that I was that close, twice. I don't want to be close. I want to win it hands-down, no questions asked.”

Even though Tackett has enjoyed an incredible amount of success since joining the tour in 2012, including 10 titles, two major wins and recognition as Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year, he said rough patches like the one in early 2018 will still give any professional bowler pause.

“It's so hard to be successful on the PBA Tour, because there are so many good bowlers,” Tackett said. “If you're finishing in 20th, 30th place, you're not making a whole lot of money, and so the (pressure) starts creeping into the back of your mind a little bit. But the success that I've had helps keep that in control, because I know it's going to come back, I'm going to do that again. It's just going to be a little bit of time here, you have to suffer through it, and then come back and do what I've done over the last couple years. And I was able to do that at the end of the season.”