Williams shoots for participants, not pins

January 05, 1994|By Dave Glassman | Dave Glassman,Contributing Writer

Walter Ray Williams Jr. is beginning to enjoy the spoils of his victories, seven of them in all on last year's Professional Bowlers Association tour.

There's a new trailer for Williams and his fiancee to live in as they roll across America. There's a new truck on order to pull it. After all, his near-record 1993 tournament winnings of $296,370 can't all go in the bank.

And there's the publicity gained from seven titles and four runner-up finishes in 13 television appearances. Along the way he set records for most tournament games bowled in one year (1,300) and average (222.98).

And there's the new role that publicity brought him: spokesman for the Fair Lanes $300,000 National Match Play Championship, a handicapped amateur event to be held at Fair Lanes centers around the country. It will culminate in June with six regional champions competing via satellite hookup for the $30,000 first prize. That's what brought him here Monday.

Williams' incredible year hasn't brought him a contract for, say, Air Walter Rays, but he has a contract with Ebonite, an equipment manufacturer.

"I'm definitely being asked to do a few more things now," he said. "Usually in bowling you're paid for what you do every week. If you can get paid for what you did last year it's even better. . . . I really enjoy the tournament competition, but wouldn't mind a few extra things."

But not too many exhibitions. Williams stayed "pretty much healthy" save for a groin pull during his record-busting season. "I don't want to hurt myself bowling those extra games," he said.

Last year was a breakthrough season for Williams. He had won five tournaments in 1986-87, but hadn't won one on U.S. soil again through the next five seasons. "I wasn't enjoying myself on tour; I'd been complaining about lane conditions," he said. So he practiced a little harder.

Then, during a tournament in Phoenix last January, Williams decided to drive to Tucson to visit his mother. A rainstorm hit. "I hydroplaned and it scared the [daylights] out of me," he said. The truck skidded onto the median strip. "It made me realize I was lucky to be alive."

Close encounters with danger have a way of sharpening one's focus. Williams finished third in the tournament and was on his way.

And he began using the new reactive resin ball. "It fit my game to a T," he said. "It gave me confidence." During a remarkable run, he won six tournaments in 14 weeks on the PBA summer tour.

Amateur bowlers over 18 can register for the $300,000 National Match Play Championship at any Fair Lanes center.

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