Is there life after 40 on the demanding pro bowling tour?
“You betcha,” says easy-talking Butch Soper.
The Tustin pro has missed only three PBA tournaments in seven years and will begin another today in the $145,000 Kessler event at Town Square Lanes in Riverside.
At 41, he is one of two “old men” among the many young challengers toting the 16-pound ball to the foul line 6 1/2 hours a day, week after week. The other is Ernie Schlagel, 44.
Both are winners. In fact, Soper found a lane condition he liked two weeks ago at Dublin, Calif., and won his fourth title in 20 years of pro bowling.
“People ask how I can take the grind,” he said. “I ask ‘em right back, ‘What grind?’ ”
Soper said the bowling keeps him in shape.
“I surfed regularly along the local beaches all my life up until several years ago,” he said. “Maybe that’s why my legs are still as good as ever.
“I can still throw the ball hard without weakening and that’s important. With today’s playing conditions, a hard or fast delivery is a must to have a chance of winning.
“I race five steps to the line to get the necessary speed on the ball. Some say I throw the straightest ball on the tour. That’s why I appreciate a condition that itself gives the ball hooking action.”
Soper, 5-feet-5 and 150 pounds, is a father of three, one of whom took a stride in the footsteps of his champion dad recently. Shane, 18, bowled a perfect game.
When bowling begins today, Tom Crites of Tampa, Fla., will defend the title he won here a year ago. Amleto Monacelli, the 1989 PBA player of the year and high-average champion, is also among the favorites competing for the $24,000 first prize.
The pros will bowl day and night through Friday. Five will gain Saturday’s nationally televised title roll-off at 11:30 a.m.
Town Square Lanes has 60 lanes side by side in a building longer than a football field. . . . Past tournament champions here: 1984, Gary Skidmore, now off the tour; 1985, Dennis Jacques, now off the tour; 1986, Mats Karlsson; 1987, Brian Voss, not entered this year; 1988, Sam Maccarone, and 1989, Crites. . . . Forty-one Southern Californians are in the field of 160.