Pleasanton Weekly

Cover Story - January 22, 2010

Pro bowling comes to town

Earl Anthony Classic, which wrapped up Sunday, brings fame and dollars to Valley

by Janet Pelletier

Hundreds of bowling bags have been wheeled out of Dublin as the Earl Anthony Memorial Classic Tournament wrapped up its week-long run at the alley that shares its namesake.

The tournament, part of the Professional Bowlers Association's Lumber Liquidators nationwide tour, welcomed amateurs, rookies and pros.

It was a rookie who made a name for himself, winning the tour title and $25,000 prize Sunday. Twenty-seven-year-old Anthony LaCaze of Melrose Park, Ill. threw three clutch strikes in the ninth and 10th frames to defeat Michael Machuga for the title by a score of 214-206.

The title game was televised live on ESPN. Bleachers were installed on a carved out portion of the 40-lane alley to seat approximately 300 fans. Special lighting, a scoreboard and newly polished lanes completed the finishing touches. One PBA staffer had the job of warming the crowd up as the games got under way and every time the broadcast went to and came back from commercial break. PBA commentators Bob Stone and Andy Peterson, dressed up in suits, ran through their lines as the audience watched, waiting for the live broadcast to begin. Much like golf, the crowd kept silent when a bowler got into his or her stance and began cheering, some holding up handmade signs, as the ball rolled down the lane.

Also televised as part of the broadcast were the semifinal leading up to the title game and the PBA Women's Series final, where Stephanie Nation topped hometown favorite and Concord native Linda Barnes for the win and the $10,000 prize earnings.

As LaCaze hoisted the crystal trophy over his head and later kissed it, Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti had a front row seat to watch all of the action. He was seated near Dublin Councilmen Don Biddle and Kevin Hart, Dublin Rotary Club President Jerry Cauchi and Police Chief Casey Nice.

The Earl Anthony Memorial was dedicated to the late bowling champion, who was recognized as the greatest player in PBA history in January 2009 during the PBA's 50th anniversary celebration. Anthony won more than 40 titles and was the first bowler to earn $1 million.

An estimated 1 million people tune in to watch the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour every Sunday on the cable sports network, according to PBA spokesman Bill Vint. The organization has more than 4,000 members from 13 different countries.

As the excitement over at Earl Anthony's Dublin Bowl has expectedly quieted down, owner Ted Hoffman, Jr., a former bowling pro himself, will consider hosting the tournament again next year. Before this month's play, the PBA hadn't been back to Dublin since 1992. It's something he will discuss with proprietor and Anthony's widow, Susie Anthony, who traveled with their son Mike from Washington to watch.

Hoffman co-owned the bowling alley with Anthony, who asked Hoffman to manage operations while he was touring on the bowling circuit.

Earl Anthony purchased the 40-lane bowling center in 1980 and in 1985, asked Hoffman to be his partner. Anthony died in 2001 of a head injury after falling down a flight of stairs in a friend's home.

When the receipts are totaled by a number of local businesses, the competition play was expected to have brought a spotlight and dollars to town -- hotel stays, restaurant and bar patrons and gas station purchases.

Sbranti, who occasionally bowls recreationally, played in the Pro-Am Saturday, where people pay to play alongside the pros. Sbranti was on a team that included Susie and Mike Anthony.

Also bowling with Sbranti was Walt Lupeika, who owns an accounting firm in Pleasanton.

"It feels great to see this in Dublin," Lupeika said before his first game began. "You see it on TV and now you have a chance to see it live."

Lupeika, like many of the 500 who participated in the Pro-Am, bowls in a league at Dublin Bowl.

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