Friday, April 15, 2011

Wayne Webb, One of the All Time Greats

"I always bowled well on TV, and I was known for being able to make a big shot when I needed it."
--Wayne Webb

I grew up watching PBA telecasts. I've seen almost every one of them and every top professional bowler since the mid-60's. I've never compiled my own PBA top 50 list, but if I were to do so, Wayne Webb would rank high on it. He ranked 18th on the official PBA "50 Greatest Players" list released a few years ago.

Whenever Wayne Webb stepped foot on the approach, he had my full attention. There was just something unusually charismatic and commanding about his demeanor. It was all business and brimming with equal measures of standout competence and quiet confidence.

And then there was that compact, efficient style of his that just pleased the eye. You know how some bowlers on tour have styles that you just love to watch every chance you get? David Ozio, Brian Voss, Bryon Smith, Chris Barnes, Parker Bohn, and Robert Smith are among the many who come to mind, while there are others, whom I won't name, whose styles are an eyesore. Well, Wayne Webb had and still has the kind of style you love to watch.

But that great style also generated one powerful ball. Back in the day, it was one of the most powerful balls on tour, and I heard an old-timer on PBA Xtra Frame once say that Wayne was the first or one of the first on tour to move in deep enough to loft the gutter cap. Everybody else would be struggling to play outside or shallow inside lines, and there Wayne would be firing strike after strike from deep inside with all that skill and power of his.

For awhile, he was nearly invincible. He won the Tournament of Champions and was PBA Player of the Year in 1980. Between 1980 and 1985, he won over $100,000 three times and over $90,000 twice, which was great money for the PBA back then.

But he began to struggle after that, and although he had a few more good years, particularly in 1988 and 1997, he left the Tour in the early 2000's to concentrate on running pro shops. The end of his career on the regular tour is profiled in the outstanding 2004 bowling documentary "A League of Ordinary Gentlemen."

Wayne eventually moved to the Sacramento area and opened a couple of pro shops here, and after I moved to Sacramento, he became my go-to pro shop guy. This wasn't just because he'd been such a great bowler on tour and one I'd always enjoyed and respected more than most. No, it soon became apparent that this guy had tremendous knowledge of bowling and bowling equipment, and he was willing to share it with you at length. You could learn a lot from listening to Wayne Webb.

Once, I asked him to give my wife, who was a beginning bowler, a bowling lesson, and he helped her game. Another time, I asked him for a ball recommendation. He watched me throw a few balls first. We then went into his shop, he gave me his recommendation, I took it, he fit me for the ball, laid it out and drilled it, and the first time I used it, I shot over 800 in league. I was so happy, I called him on the phone the next morning and thanked him. That ball is now several years old, but it still fits me better than any other ball I've owned, and I still use it whenever I can.

I was sorry to see him leave Sacramento to take over a bowling center in Columbus, Ohio. But I was delighted to see him do so well on the Senior Tour and enjoy so much happiness with his new family and business venture.

The reason I bring all of this up is because I've just received the April, 2011 issue of Bowlers Journal International in the mail, and one of its articles profiles Wayne. The article is titled "For Wayne Webb, Life is Fun Again. In an upcoming post, I will write about some very interesting parts of that article.

Below is video of Wayne Webb's title match at age 24 with Gary Dickinson in the 1980 Tournament of Champions.

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