Bowling legends stop in Tri-Cities for Sr. Pro-Am

By Wes Holtsclaw
SPORTS CORRESPONDENT

   This weekend, two of PBA's all time greatest bowlers are in the Tri-Cities for the PBA Pro-Am Tournament at Holiday Lanes in Johnson City.
   The legendary Mark Roth and George Pappas are competing in the tournament, which continues through today.
   Also in the tournament is senior tour member Dale Eagle, who has been a consistent bowler on the senior tour in the past few years. He has won seven titles on the circuit, and has been one of the most familiar faces with the tour.
   On Friday, this writer had the immense pleasure of sitting down and chatting with Hall of Famer's Roth and Pappas.
   Roth is known for revitalizing the art of bowling in the late '70's on the PBA circuit, and will leave the legacy of forever changing conventional thought on the way the sport is played.
   He set numerous records, including most match-play appearances, and was the first player in history to average more than 220 over the course of a PBA season.
   Roth won four PBA Bowler-of-the-Year honors in his illustrious career ('77-'79, '84), as well as the George Young High Average Award six times (1976-79, '81, '88), and was named to the Hall of Fame in 1987.
   "You have to be 35 to get into the Hall of Fame," said Roth. "My birthday was a few weeks before induction, so I knew I was getting in. You have to have 10 titles to automatically make it. I already had 30.
   "It's great to be there, but I also knew it was automatic to go in, and there it was."
   Roth, the 2002 Senior PBA Champion, was also the second bowler in history to surpass $1 million in career earnings, and is remembered for being the first player to convert the "impossible" 7-10 on national television.
   Roth took some time off in the early '90's, only doing exhibitions for Brunswick. In 1995, making a cameo appearance, Roth won the 1995 IOF Foresters Open, defeating Hall of Famers Brian Voss and Walter Ray Williams Jr.
   The memories are extensive for Roth.
   "There are tons of memories," he said. "I didn't make a show for seven years, and came out and won it in Toronto. Going for my first 300 game, I got 279. We could spend to next week talking about this.
   "This year, winning the senior world title in three out of five, where I got it in four straight."
   Roth has enjoyed bowling with Pappas.
   "We went five games in a tournament this year, I am two and one on him. The guy's great and still great. I enjoy bowling with a guy like that."
   Pappas is a legendary figure, not only in the PBA, but in the ABC. He was a premier performer in the early '80's, with the PBA, but had bowled since the late '60s for the ABC.
   Pappas is a premier record holder, and has an incredible television record, winning 32 times out of 43 appearances. He has won the Tournament of Champions, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame twice, in 1986 with the PBA, and in 1989 with the ABC.
   Pappas holds two records that will never be broken. In Kansas City in 1974, he won 22 matches, only losing two, in the old-match play style.
   "That record has stood until today," said Pappas. "They've changed it all around, so I don't know if it will be beat."
   In the ABC, he led the all-time average ten years in a row, the closest to that was Ted Kemanski, who did it seven times.
   Pappas recalls several good times bowling against Roth.
   "We've had some good matches," Pappas said. "He beat me in Vegas this year, and he went on to win it. There was a tournament in Tuscon back in 1977. Mark had won three in a row, nobody had won four in a row. I ended up winning it down the wire. I guess now he's getting even with me.
   "It was interesting -- a lot of people probably don't know that."
   Both men have enjoyed the senior circuit.
   "It's a different environment," said Pappas. "Most of the guys are not in it to make a living. In the national circuit, it was always a life or death situation, like you were bowling for a living.
   "Now it's more relaxed, and we are bowling because we enjoy the sport."
   Said Roth: "I've got four PBA's, now I want to win the seniors. We have two tournaments left, we've all got to work hard. There is a bunch of us with one win, and another one gets somebody up there."
   Both men have seen advancements in the sport over the past few years.
   Said Roth: "Everything's changed. We've got new balls that are unbelievable; I started out with rubber balls. We get new material every 10 years, I guess."
   "It would take a day to talk about (changes)," said Pappas. "We used to bowl before with telescores, now we have automatic scoring. We have synthetic lanes, high tech balls, and it is a totally different game than 10 to 15 years ago."
   Dale Eagle has also contributed a lot to the game. He is one of a select few bowlers to gun from 24th place to a title in match play.
   Like Roth and Pappas, Eagle is in the top 10 of most of the Senior PBA rankings, and it was good to see him as well.
   Championship finals for the Senior event will take place today at Holiday Lanes.