Pleasanton Weekly

News - January 8, 2010

Pro bowlers head to Dublin next week

Live, ESPN televised Earl Anthony Memorial comes to Tri-Valley bowling alley which shares its namesake

by Janet Pelletier

Next week, the sounds of balls rolling, pins crashing down and hands clapping in a show of support will fill the walls inside Earl Anthony's Dublin Bowl. But it won't be a typical week at the lanes -- the Professional Bowlers Association is coming to town after 18 years, bringing with it dozens of pro players, their entourages and an ESPN crew that will broadcast competition play live nationally on the cable sports network.

The Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour Earl Anthony Memorial and the PBA Women's Series Earl Anthony Memorial will be under way with qualifying games Tuesday, a Pro-Am next Saturday and wraps up with the big finale next Sunday, televised live at 10 a.m. Big names in the bowling world will include Walter Ray Williams Jr., Wes Malott and Walnut Creek native Wendy Macpherson, who will be defending her Earl Anthony Memorial title.

Everyone over at the Dublin bowling alley is "pumped," according to Ted Hoffman Jr., who knew the man the tournament is named for. Earl Anthony purchased the 40-lane bowling center in 1980 and in 1985, asked Hoffman to partner with him and operate it. Anthony, who was the first bowler to earn $1 million in earnings in a single year and won a total of 41 titles, died in 2001 of a head injury after falling down a flight of stairs in a friend's home. His wife Susie retains part ownership of the Dublin bowl.

The PBA was last in Dublin in 1992. The association broadcast tour events here beginning in 1984. The Earl Anthony Memorial started in 2002 and was first held in Tacoma, Wash., where Anthony grew up. The opportunity to bring the event to Dublin came a year ago, Hoffman said.

"There was an opening for January of 2010 and Earl's wife Susie and myself had dinner with the PBA commissioner and he wanted to know if we would like to host the tournament," Hoffman said. "So, we made that decision last January."

Anthony's connection to the Tri-Valley region happened on accident, Hoffman said. He was visiting friends in Moraga in 1979 when he had a heart attack. He spent a month recovering here and decided he liked the area, moving to the Crow Canyon Country Club in Danville soon after. It wasn't long before owners of bowling centers in Danville and Dublin approached him about taking over ownership. Anthony accepted, and later called on Hoffman to become his partner so he could handle operations while Anthony was touring on the bowling circuit. Hoffman, a member of the PBA Hall of Fame, was a touring pro from 1961-1968.

"I was finishing up my career when he was starting his career," Hoffman said of Anthony.

Having the Earl Anthony Memorial back in town is expected to bring a mini stimulus in Dublin -- hotel stays, restaurant and bar patrons and gas station purchases. While Hoffman said he's working on a $50,000 budget to host the event here, it will more than pay for itself.

"It's a lot of work, more than I anticipated, but the rewards will be there," he said. "People already are hyped up. We're getting a lot of support from the city of Dublin. Mayor Sbranti is really high on this. He's a big sports fan. And I've gotten a lot of support from my vendors, bowling centers in the area."

To cover the cost, some 60 businesses and organizations, including the city of Dublin, have paid $1,500 to have their name put up at the ends of the lanes.

"We will close the facility from Tuesday through Sunday," Hoffman said. "Starting this coming Monday, the PBA will show up with the bleachers, which they'll put down the lanes to become a stage. People will be sitting in seats on the lanes watching the pros bowl."

While Hoffman is hoping the financial boost from national notoriety won't be short-lived, business at the lanes is fairly brisk as he estimates sales are only down 5-8 percent year-to-date, pretty good numbers in a struggling economy. Nearly half of the bowl's income stems from league play (some 1,500 bowlers at junior, adult and senior levels) and the rest comes from corporate and birthday parties, followed by open bowling. The center is more than prepared for the pro event since it underwent an extensive $1-million renovation in 2003.

The Earl Anthony Memorial could become an annual event in Dublin, but that decision will be made by Hoffman and Anthony's widow after competition ends.

Mayor Tim Sbranti, who will be bowling in the Pro-Am (where bowlers play with the pros) next Saturday, said a high-profile event such as this will put Dublin on the map.

"To have an event of that stature in the house that Earl built, literally, is something that's really exciting for our city," he said.

"It's exciting not only for Dublin, to have bowling returning to the Bay Area for the first time in almost 20 years," Sbranti added. "There's the LPGA in Danville and there's been taped events, but to my knowledge, it's the first nationally televised live event in the Tri-Valley, so for us, we think that's pretty significant."

Tickets to the event are selling fast, but some are still available for those wanting to watch the final next Sunday. Spaces are also open for the Pro-Am, in which a portion of the proceeds benefit the Earl Anthony Memorial Scholarship Fund. Tickets can be purchased at www.pba.com or in person at Dublin Bowl.

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