For years around local bowling centers he was known as "The Kid."
Now, on the heels of his fourth career Professional Bowlers Association tournament win last week, the Toyota Classic in St. Louis, Dundalk's Danny Wiseman has outgrown the nickname. At 24, he's an established PBA player who is a threat to win any tournament he enters, with an uncanny knack for bowling well in the nationally televised stepladder finals.
After Saturday's sweep through four opponents as the fifth seed, Wiseman's record in televised matches is 12-1 (.923 winning percentage), the best in PBA history. And when he won the Seattle Open in June, he also came from the fifth seed.
Wiseman can't explain his success on TV. "I just go out there to do my job," he said. "I've been lucky enough to win."
Ironically, his first tournament win, just 19 months ago at the Fair Lanes Open in Woodlawn, may have been his easiest. Seeded first, he only had to bowl one game, and when he started off with six consecutive strikes, the match was settled early.
"That gave me confidence for bowling on TV," Wiseman said.
It was then that people began asking Dennis Baldwin, president of Faball, a Baltimore bowling ball manufacturer whose product Wiseman used, if he would sign the local kid on as professional staff. But Baldwin, a longtime friend and adviser to Wiseman, resisted.
"I've seen a lot of guys win one tournament, then disappear," he said at the time. "I don't think that'll happen to Danny. He's too hard a worker. But I'll wait until he proves himself."
It had been in the works even before his recent win, but that made the timing even sweeter when Wiseman signed a contract last night as Faball's youngest ever professional staff member. He'll promote its Hammer brand bowling equipment and use those products exclusively.
"He's earned it," Baldwin said.
He's also earned more than $80,000 in prize money this year, "plus about 12 or 13 thousand in television incentives from manufacturers," Wiseman said.
So, this is a big week for Danny and his wife, Lisa. A tournament win, a staff contract, and tomorrow they fly to Puerto Rico for a working vacation. He'll compete in the World Scratch Open, a double-elimination match play tournament. "For us, it's a chance to see another country," he said.
For all the brilliance of his TV performances, getting to that last round has been most difficult. Consistency under the grind of tour life has been elusive. "It's been all or nothing for me," Wiseman said.
Sixteen times in 30 tournaments this year he has drawn a check. Twelve of those times he's been in the top 24. He'd like to improve on that record and works at it. Mental and physical adjustments must be made as the tour takes its toll.
"I'm getting better at it," said Wiseman, who like most pro bowlers rolls up to 100 games, including practice, in a tournmament week. "I've learned how to control myself in different situations. At the end of the summer I was getting a little fried. I can't bowl 10-12 weeks in a row. I've got to take a week off once in awhile. It's not easy to stay sharp 100 percent of the time."
He took advantage of a four-week break in the tour prior to St. Louis for a tuneup. He pulled out the video camera and tripod he travels with but hadn't used since February. He started using finger grips for the first time. And, "I'd been having a little trouble with my wrist," he said. "Walt Cervenka, who runs the pro shop at Country Club Lanes [in Essex], changed my grip three weeks ago. Since then, I haven't had any problems with it at all."
Even during competition he was making modifications. In St Louis, Billy Hall, his ball company's tour consultant, noticed something in Wiseman's arm swing and told him about it.
The overall result was a $27,000 check for his first win ever on synthetic lanes.
The ability to change and adjust is a survival tool on tour. Those who can't go home. Danny Wiseman will be out there for a long time. "The Kid" is gone. The young professional has arrived.