Aberdeen resident Mark Bowers sometimes works at his parents' Edgewood furniture store. For the past couple of years, however, the 28-year-old bowling fanatic has gained more pleasure playing on the wood then selling it.
Since 1989, Bowers has been a member of the Professional Bowlers Association Tour. What started as a hobby when he was 8 has turned into his profession.
"I wanted to try the tour to prove I was good enough," said Bowers, who carries a 207 competition average. "At first I didn't do so well, but after I won my first tournament, I really got better. I proved to myself that I could compete with the big guys."
Beginning tomorrow, Bowers and more than 150 other professional bowlers will again try to prove themselves when they compete at Fair Lanes Kings Point in Randallstown in the $150,000 Fair Lanes PBA Open.
"You make a living," said Bowers, who each tournament week spends close to $1,000 on hotel rooms, entry fees, meals and equipment. "I didn't even think about going on the tour until two years ago when I won [the Pennsylvania Masters Tournament] in Reading, Pa. That gave me a lot of confidence to try it, and also a very nice check."
So far this winter, Bowers has finished in the money, among the top one-third of the field, three of four times, including a 20th-place finish in last week's tour stop in Erie, Pa. He's competed in 11 tournaments each of the past two years, finishing as high as fourth in a nationally televised match last fall in Rochester, N.Y.
Still, the bowler said, he doesn't do as well on tour as he does in leagues at home. Bowling on lanes across Harford County, Bowers has compiled a 225 average -- far above his touring average. He attributes this to ever-changing lane conditions.
"The game's always changing on tour," he said. "Where they put the oil [on the lanes] matters a lot. You can't tell where it is until you throw the ball. They can make it real easy or real hard. The shot's just a lot more consistent at home."
Bowers, however, has done well enough on the road to make a decent living. He's even picked up a few fans along the way.
He said: "I was walking around in this mall in Chicago a couple weeks after the tournament there. This guy comes up to me and says: 'I know you. I saw you on TV.' I was just stunned. I couldn't believe he actually recognized me."