If you like league night at your local bowling alley, it might be a good idea to stop by Middle River this weekend.
But, this event is not like your average pro bowlers tour stop, or even a night at the local alley, for that matter. More than 100 bowling teams from around the country are convening at the Country Club Lanes, 9020 Pulaski Highway, and Brunswick Perry Hall Lanes, 4359 Ebenezer Road, in the Brunswick World Team Challenge.
More than 500 bowlers will be competing on five-player teams for a chance to qualify for the $150,000 Grand Championship in Reno, Nev., where they would bowl against teams from around (( the U.S. and the world.
A tape-delayed broadcast of the women's finals will be shown on Home Team Sports on Wednesday at noon and the men's finals will air at noon on June 14.
"The reaction to team bowling categorically has been that the bowlers really love it, the competitors love it and the people who watch it on TV love it," said Jerry Schneider, the media director for the World Team Challenge.
Schneider said Baltimore is a bowling hotbed and has produced several quality bowlers and some die-hard fans. In 1982, the American Bowling Congress held its national championships at the Convention Center, and the organizers are hoping this weekend's matches will be a similar success.
However, the team bowling format is unusual. Tomorrow's competition will be conducted under the Baker Scoring System, which requires each player to bowl two frames in one game to combine for one team score. The system was devised by the American Bowling Congress in the 1950s to develop a team format suitable for TV while complying with Olympic rules.
"The Baker System is great. It puts a lot more pressure on the bowlers to do well each time it's your turn," said Mike Bowers, a local competitor in this weekend's tournament. "You can't just come back and make up for your mistakes."
Today and tomorrow, the pressure will be even more intense for the competitors. The Baltimore stop is the 17th of 19 open division qualifiers, and for many teams this is the last shot at making it to Reno. This is the third and final stop on the women's tour.
The Baker System also forces teams to use strategy in devising their lineups. Bowers said many teams try to save the best bowlers for the fifth and 10th frames in the rotation so they can get the last crack at the pins.
Last year, Bowers and his Bowlers Alley Pro Shop team were one match from winning $18,000 and a free trip to Nevada. For these guys this is serious business.
Bowlers travel cross-country to qualify for the World Team Challenge, and Schneider said many teams hit five or six events a year.
"I don't know if I'd call it the Super Bowl, but it definitely is a playoff game for us," Bowers said. "After it's all over you can look at the lists and there are some pretty terrific teams that do not qualify for the finals."
What: Five-person bowling teams from around the country compete for $18,000 and a trip to the $150,000 finals in Reno, Nev.
When: Today -- open division, 8 a.m. to midnight, Country Club Lanes; women's division, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Brunswick Perry Hall Lanes. Tomorrow (all at Country Club Lanes) -- qualifying (to make cut from 10 highest-scoring teams to three finalists), 9 a.m.; women's finals, 2 p.m.; open division finals, 4:30 p.m.
TV: Women's finals on HTS, Wednesday, noon (tape-delayed); open division finals on HTS, June 14, noon (tape-delayed).
Admission: Both days are free.