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PBA Tour Rep Turned Ice Cream Gambler

I thought I'd share my favorite tour rep story with friends out there. I spent six years as part of the team that represented the Ebonite International brands at the national PBA tour stops, and I made many great friends along the way. There's not a whole lot more gratifying in bowling than helping one of your teammates and friends reach the ultimate goal. But some of the best stories come at times when those teammates are no longer bowling. This was the case here with 4-time PBA tour champion Mike Wolfe.

It was 2009 and the PBA was hosting their first ever World Series of Bowling at Thunderbowl in Allen Park, MI. The format was grueling. Players competed in round one of qualifying very early in the morning. If memory serves me correct, practice was around 7:30 a.m. Bowlers would bowl until just after 12:00, and then players who made the first cut ate lunch, and came back for round two of qualifying. After round two, the top 16 for each daily tournament moved to the arena side of Thunderbowl for a matchplay bracket final to get to the television show. It was several days of the same format, and then a few days of matchplay finals in the arena to decide who made the shows. At that time, the PBA had enacted the "no coaching" rule during competition. So once a matchplay round started, there was no reason to be down at the lanes. The best thing to do was to head up to the arena stands and get a great view of the best players in the world competing. One of those days Mike Wolfe found himself spectating instead of bowling. Mike was on our staff, and we had worked together a lot that week.

One of the great things at Thunderbowl is the ice cream machine between lanes 20 and 41. You read that have to go to Thunderbowl to understand. Anyway, Mike and I kept our slender figures that week by visiting the ice cream machine occasionally. On one day of the finals, I met Mike in the stands and I think we were both pretty punchy after a long week of grinding on the lanes and trying to succeed. I remember telling Mike that I was pretty sure he owed me an ice cream bar after I had done such a fantastic job helping him find the chair he was sitting in at that moment, instead of one down in the settee area. He respectfully disagreed, and told me that I should find a different way to earn one. I like to gamble here and there, so I bet him an ice cream bar that Jack Jurek was about to throw a strike. Mike takes the bet as the ball hits the top of Jack's backswing, and sure enough, Jurek strikes. Jeff 1, Mike 0.

Now I'm looking to double up, and Mike's looking to get even. I mean, what's better than an ice cream sandwich? Of course, two of them. I bet him that Brian Kretzer was about to get less than 7. He took that bet immediately, and Kretzer promptly got up and left a big 4. Jeff 2, Mike 0. Bet #3 came on a shot made by Chad Kloss if memory serves me correct. I remember that I won that one as well, because it allowed me to go double or nothing on two "units," and hold back my original ice cream sandwich for good. From there, we had a series of wagers going back and forth, and somehow it got to the point where I was up 17 ice cream bars. Most of these were earned on ridiculous bets that just kept coming in. Calling a nine count on a professional bowler, over/under pinfalls, spare attempts, etc. I even remember betting on whether a player would sit on the left or right side couch of the settee area once. Feeling sorry for Mike, I made him the fool-proof guarantee double or nothing bet to get him back to even on 16 ice cream bars, which would have finally made him go buy my original ice cream sandwich that he still owed. So I bet him double or nothing that Walter Ray Williams, Jr. would miss the 10-pin he had just left. Of course, Mike took the bet immediately.

Since then, I've wondered if Mike would have bought the 33 Snickers ice cream bars from the machine, or would he have gone to the grocery store and bought multiple boxes for the savings? We're talking significant savings versus the $3.00 each from the Thunderbowl ice cream machine. That was the only single pin I ever saw Walter Ray Williams, Jr. miss in my six years as a tour rep. Love ya Wolfe, and don't forget to just hold that ball a little lower if it's not quite coming around the corner....

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