Jess Stayrook spent most of his younger days in San Diego in the fast lane instead of the bowling lanes.
Stayrook loved to party and ride motorcycles. Bowling was more of a hobby.
"I was a messed-up kid," said Stayrook, who will be one of the favorites to win the $150,000 Fair Lanes PBA Open that begins today at Fair Lanes Kings Point in Randallstown. "My parents let me mostly do whatever I wanted after I was 18 or 19 years old, and I made a lot of mistakes. I was into all the stuff like partying and riding motorcycles."
Life in the fast lane was fun, but the laughing ended when Stayrook tried to live on his salary as a carpenter.
He quickly decided that maybe the bowling lanes might not be such a bad place to spend time after all.
"When I found out I could make more money as a bowler than a carpenter, that's when I became serious about the game," he said. "But I didn't know how to go about getting sponsors. I didn't know how to approach people or what to say."
So, there were many times when Stayrook, 31, nearly gave up bowling during six years on the regional bowling circuit.
However, his career took a dramatic change when he met the woman, Kathy, who became his wife four years ago.
"She turned my life around," said Stayrook. "She told me I could quit my job as a carpenter and she would support me. All I had to do was practice and concentrate on bowling. I was out there practicing five, six and seven hours a day."
That time to practice enabled Stayrook to move up to the national PBA tour in 1987 and win $109,445 in 1989.
The 1989 earnings included his first tournament win (Seattle), and last week in Erie, Pa., Stayrook won his second tournament -- the $130,000 Flagship City Open.
The left-handed bowler, who once thought about becoming a baseball pitcher, rolled two 300 games in Erie and defeated Walter Ray Williams, 256-207, in the nationally televised final Saturday.
Although Stayrook isn't ready to announce that his troubles are behind him, he is ready to be a force on the tour for a long time.
"I missed the young part of my career, and that hurts some," he said. "You never know what's going to happen in life. There are always setbacks. I'm doing OK now. I'm working out in the gym in addition to practicing, and that is a factor in my recent success."
To win the Fair Lanes PBA Open, Stayrook will have to stay hot to fend off the likes of Baltimore's Danny Wiseman, the defending champion.
"Danny Wiseman's an outstanding athlete, and I wouldn't doubt if he comes back to win this tournament again," Stayrook said.