The best bowlers in the world will converge on Springfield in a couple of weeks and the hometown hero hopes to defend his home lanes and cash a big check.
Keven Williams will be in the field for the inaugural PBA Springfield Classic at Enterprise Park Lanes, Feb. 7-11. The 39-year-old left hander is proud to be a part of playing host to the first Professional Bowlers Association national event in the Ozarks.
“I’m extremely excited for numerous reasons,” Williams said during a break from a practice session earlier this week, as he prepared for next week’s U.S. Open in Indianapolis. “I’m excited for the local fans to get to see the best in the world, day in and day out, not just on TV.
“If you don’t go to a tour stop, you just see the finals on TV, which is the smallest part of the story of how you get there, the preparation, the guys bowling qualifying, practice, talking to ball reps.
“I’m excited for the people around the area to get to see that for the first time and I hope they take full advantage of watching and learning and appreciating what it takes to become a professional bowler. It’s harder than a lot of people think.”
While a few PBA Senior Tour and PBA Regional events have been held at Enterprise Park Lanes in the past, this time it’s the big leagues of bowling. A $150,000 prize fund will be up for grabs with $25,000 going to the winner of the four-person stepladder finals on Feb. 11.
Among the stars of the sport on the pre-entry list are Jason Belmonte, Anthony Simonsen, Chris Barnes and Kyle Troup. Spectators are welcomed to attend and admission is free throughout the week.
National tour event ‘kind of fell into our lap’
Kyndall Martin, manager of Sunshine Lanes, is helping organize the tourney from the local end. While Steve Wiemer, owner of Enterprise Park and Sunshine Lanes, has hoped to bring a national-tour event for many years, Martin said this “kind of fell into our lap.”
“They called to reach out and see if we were interested,” Martin said of the PBA Tour. “We definitely were excited that we were in consideration and we jumped all over it. It’s been since about 2010 when we last had a regional here.”
Williams said geography played a role in the tourney coming to Springfield as stops already were scheduled in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and Wichita, Kansas, in following weeks.
Williams enters 2023 with confidence
After winning his first career PBA Tour title last March, at the Guaranteed Rate PBA World Series of Bowling XIII Shark Championship in Milwaukee, Williams said he enters the 2023 PBA Tour season with confidence because of the $20,000 victory. The Glendale High School graduate admitted there were times that he wondered if he belonged on the tour.
“I think any professional athlete goes through those moments where they feel they might not be as good as they think,” Williams said. “Especially in bowling or golf and you make a telecast, you wonder if it’s just a fluke, if they just got hot in one event.
“Getting a win is reassuring. It’s like, ‘OK, I’m good enough to do this, I’m good enough to win at the highest level.’ It gives you a sense of this isn’t a fluke and I’m not a one-hit wonder. It’s good. The payoff is always worth the grind.”
Bowling a pro tourney in his hometown will be a different experience. Williams said he entered the last regional at Enterprise when he was a teenager, saying “I shouldn’t have because I wasn’t really ready, but I bowled it to bowl it. I think I was 18 or 19 at the time.
“This is on another scale as we get all the best in the world.”
‘Extremely high’ expectations for Springfield event
Asked if he feels extra pressure to perform in front of his hometown fans, Williams said he can see it two ways.
“I know I bowl extremely well at Enterprise,” he said. “My expectations are going to be extremely high for the tournament. I’m going to have so much going on in my brain and having a little bit of my own pressure. Hopefully, I can tune that out and do what I do.
“But if I don’t make the (finals), I see it as a missed opportunity because I do know that I bowl extremely well in this center. But we are bowling against the best in the world and you never really know until you go up against them. So we’ll see.
“I tell everyone jokingly that there’s no way I’m going to make this cut or bowl good because I have so much going on in my brain. We’ll see if I can tune it out or not.”
Also an aspiring hip-hop musician — check out Williams’ YouTube channel for his music and videos — he’s hoping to soar in 2023 with that aspect of his life as well.
“I’m excited to see how that is gonna go,” Williams said. “I have a lot planned both with bowling and music and look to give it a real push this year. Excited to see what this year holds both bowling and music-wise.”
Springfield Classic championship round to be streamed
The Springfield Classic championship round will not be televised on Fox Sports or FS1, as are most tour stops, but fans can catch all the action on the streaming subscription service BowlTV.com throughout the week.
PBA Springfield Classic Schedule
At Enterprise Park Lanes (1625 S. Enterprise)
Admission: Free throughout the week
9 a.m. — Pre-tournament qualifier
3-5 p.m. — Practice session
11 a.m. — Qualifying Round 1 (6 games)
5 p.m. — Qualifying Round 2 (6 games)
11 a.m. — Qualifying Round 3 (6 games)
Top 22 players advance
5 p.m. — Qualifying Round (6 games)
Top 12 players advance
10 a.m. — Round-Robin Match Play (6 games)
2 p.m. — Round-Robin Match Play (6 games)
Top 4 players advance
6 p.m. — Stepladder finals
More tourney info: PBATour.com