Anthony figures sport needs boost he can give it At 58, he makes return at World Team Challenge

June 21, 1996|By Kevin Eck | Kevin Eck,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

He may be a 58-year-old grandfather, but Earl Anthony's return is to bowling enthusiasts what Michael Jordan's comeback was for basketball fans.

Anthony, a Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Famer who won a record 41 PBA titles, will make his first appearance in a U.S. tournament in five years when he competes in the American Bowling Congress Brunswick World Team Challenge Open Division event this weekend at Country Club Lanes in Rosedale.

"I figure bowling needs a little shot in the arm," said Anthony, a member of the PBA tour from 1970-83. "The sport in general isn't doing quite as well as I'd like to see, and I thought maybe if I came back and bowled a little bit, I'd create a little interest."

The legendary left-hander from Cornelius, Ore., will be part of a field of 76 teams from 14 states entered in the tournament.

At the same time, 48 teams from 15 states and Canada will compete in the Women's International Bowling Congress division the event at Brunswick Perry Hall Lanes.

Action in both tournaments begins tomorrow morning, with the teams rolling six qualifying games with the top 10 teams in each division advancing to the Baker System format (each member of a five-player team rolls two frames in one game to combine for one score) on Sunday morning at Country Club Lanes.

The top three then qualify for the stepladder finals that afternoon at 2 p.m.

Winners of both tournaments earn expenses-paid trips to the BWTC Treasure Chest Casino Grand Championships, Aug. 24-27 Kenner, La., where they will be joined by a host of foreign entrants and other U.S. qualifiers.

This is the second comeback for Anthony, who first retired in 1983 after being named Bowler of the Year for the sixth time. He returned in 1988 to compete on the Senior Tour, before again retiring in 1991.

"I wanted to quit while I was on top," said Anthony, who in 1982 became the first PBA player to reach $1 million in career earnings. "I wasn't having fun with it anymore, and it was draining me mentally and physically.

"I came back a few years later on the Senior Tour and had some fun with guys my age, but then I got away from it again because I was back in that burnout situation."

Anthony, who works as a color commentator for ESPN and Prime SportsChannel, has competed just once since then, in a tournament in Germany last year.

"I wasn't bowling at all," he said. "I didn't even own a bowling ball until about a week ago."

Anthony's return was encouraged by World Team Challenge executive producer Ed Baur, who challenged him to bowl this weekend.

This is more than a one-shot deal, however.

Anthony, who has been practicing two hours daily for the past week, also plans to participate in eight tournaments on the Senior Tour this summer.

And if he does well there, he said he would consider bowling in a few PBA events in the fall.

"If I feel I can compete, I may take on the kids a little bit," Anthony said. "I feel like I'm throwing it pretty good. I'm about 15 pounds heavier than I'd like to be when I'm bowling, but when you get to be an old man, that's hard to get rid of."

Fact box

What: Brunswick World Team Challenge

Where: Country Club Lanes in Rosedale and Brunswick Perry Hall.

When: Tomorow: Open Division qualifying at Country Club Lanes, 8 a.m; Women's Division qualifying at Brunswick Perry Hall, 9 a.m. Sunday: Top 10 teams in each division advance to Baker System format at Country Club Lanes, 8 a.m.; Stepladder finals, 2 p.m.

Television: Taped for HTS to air at a future date.

Admission: Free.

Pub Date: 6/21/96

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