Friday, March 25, 2011

EJ Tackett and Men's Team USA

Unless you follow bowling pretty closely, you've probably never heard of EJ Tackett. But he deserves a lot more attention in the bowling world and beyond than he seems to be getting. At least that's the point I tried to make to PBA Xtra Frame's "bowling doctor" Jeff Mark and USBC announcer Lucas Wiseman the other day as Xtra Frame and collaborated to bring us live online video coverage of the recent Team USA tryouts for the Pan American Games.

The tryouts, which took place Tuesday and Wednesday at the USBC's amazing International Training and Research Center (ITRC) in Arlington, TX, had all eleven members of this year's men's Team USA bowling eight games on each of four different patterns to partly determine which two bowlers would represent the USA in Guadalajara, Mexico this summer in North and South America's version of the Olympics held every four years.

The competing members were PBA stars Bill O'Neill, Chris Barnes, Patrick Allen, Wes Malott, Tommy Jones, Mike Fagan, and Walter Ray Williams, along with Scott Boyle, Steven Smith, Jarret Mizo, and EJ Tackett. The top two were determined based 60% on where they finished in the tryouts, 20% on their finish in the USBC Masters, and 20% on where they finished in the U.S. Open. By virtue of those calculations, Bill O'Neill, who ran away from the field for most of the tryouts, and Chris Barnes were the top two point-getters and will represent the USA in the men's bowling competition at the Pan American Games. I can't think of two better choices, can you?

But what impressed me almost as much as these two bowling superstars during the tryouts was the performance of EJ Tackett. For much of the competition, he held his own with bowling's big guns on challenging patterns, even sitting in fourth place after 17 games, until he faltered at the end, and by virtue of his performances during the tryouts and the U.S. Open earlier this year where he finished 15th overall, he was the highest overall point-getter among the non-touring pros on Team USA, finishing behind Walter Ray Williams.

What was so impressive about this? Well, EJ Tackett is only 18-years-old and is still in high school, and he throws what looks to me to be one helluva ball. I can't imagine how gratifying it must have been for him to make men's Team USA this year, finish so high in the U.S. Open awhile back, and then bowl so well against such a stellar field of pros in Arlington earlier this week. Talk about a kid's dream come true!

Well, not quite. EJ's biggest dream is probably not to win a PBA "major" or represent men's Team USA in international competition, but to win a PGA major. That's right, EJ Tackett says he loves golf more than he does bowling, is currently a 2-handicapper, and will be attending college on a golf scholarship next year.

As I watched him bowl during the tryouts, I wrote a Facebook message to Jeff Mark and Lucas Wiseman that I was surprised they weren't paying more attention to EJ instead of treating him like just another competitor. Mark's response was that unless and until he wins a big tournament, he hasn't really done anything all that noteworthy and doesn't deserve any more attention or coverage than he's been getting.

I respectfully disagree. I think one of bowling's biggest problems right now is poor public relations. It doesn't know how to market itself to the masses in a way that gets people interested and makes them respect the sport and the players more. When a young phenom like EJ Tackett or Kamron Doyle comes along, bowling publicists should jump on the opportunity to bring them to the public's attention. How many boys and girls and young men and women, who are the future of bowling, might be inspired by the stories of young competitors such as these to take up the game and get serious about it? When guys like Jeff Mark and Lucas Wiseman take the ho-hum attitude that they do, they're just shooting themselves and bowling in general in the foot, and they're not giving superbly talented and accomplished young competitors like EJ Tackett their due.

I wish EJ Tackett well with his golf game. He's certainly right when he says there is more "opportunity" in professional golf than there is in professional bowling. But I hope he keeps bowling too. I really like his game and would love to see him shine as a star on both the PGA and PBA Tours.

Below you can watch two video stories on EJ Tackett and video of the Team USA tryouts for the Pan Am Games. And you can click here for the official USOC press release on the selections for the Pan Am Games.

1 comment:

  1. EJ is a great kid. I am proud to say he is a humble person and a good friend.
    Steve, thanks for taking the time to write about him.

    Right now he is averaging over 240 in my Thursday bowling league.
    Keep working hard EJ.

    You will do big things!
    Carl K