Del Ballard said he would rather forget the gutter ball he rolled in last year's finals of the Fair Lanes PBA Open at Fair Lanes Kings Point in Randallstown. But then someone brings it up.
"The only time I remember it is because guys like you [reporters] won't let me forget it," Ballard said with a grin at a news conference promoting this year's tournament at Fair Lanes Woodlawn on Feb. 16-22.
Ballard found the gutter in the 10th frame last year, handing Pete Weber a 213-207 victory and the top prize of $30,000. But Ballard probably wound up with more attention than if he had made a strike.
"I got a lot of publicity out of the gutter ball, and so did the sport of bowling," he said. "I made every TV show in the country for about two weeks afterward. I was the Play of the Day, Play of the Week and Play of the Month. Everybody wanted to talk to me about it. I couldn't get away from it. I figured, the heck with it, let's have some fun with it.
"A couple of weeks after I messed up in Baltimore, I was warming up for a pro-am in New Jersey and, on purpose, I rolled my first ball down the gutter. I got a standing ovation and a lot of laughs. It loosened everyone up.
"If I thought of it as a minus it would be on my mind all the time and it would drive me nuts. Now I know that after this year's tournament here it will be forgotten."
But Ballard remembers last year's situation. He needed a pair of strikes and seven pins in the 10th frame to win the championship match. He rolled two strikes and looked as if he had the title wrapped up.
"Rolling a gutter ball ran through my mind before I stepped up to the line," Ballard said. "I had been flirting with trouble all through the tournament, putting a number of balls on the first board, and a couple of them teetered before breaking into the pocket.
"I decided to go for everything instead of playing it safe and rolling the ball down the middle. I guess I got a little overconfident, and I put the ball in the gutter. I was a little nervous, and I just missed it. If I had to do it over again I'd put the ball right down the middle."
Ballard, of Dallas, has earned more than $800,000 in 10 years on the PBA tour, quickly redeemed himself. Two weeks later, in Sayville, N.Y., Ballard beat Danny Wiseman of Baltimore, 250-247, in the semifinal and routed Jim Johnson, 223-183, in the title game.
This year's tournament begins with youth and adult pro-ams on Feb. 16. Pros will qualify Feb. 17, and pros will practice and hold an autograph session Feb. 18. The Fair Lanes PBA Open will begin Feb. 19 and continue through Feb. 22 with the finals televised on ABC (channels 13, 7) starting at 3 p.m.
Wiseman won the last tournament held at Woodlawn, in 1990.