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From the Las Vegas Sun:
Las Vegas tournament is one of four PBA majors, but players say it’s the most prestigious
Think of the Masters for golf or Wimbledon for tennis.
Professional bowling's equivalent, The Tournament of Champions, starts match play Thursday at Red Rock Lanes with 24 bowlers after two qualifying rounds used to narrow the field from 63.
"This is the tournament I wanted to win as a kid growing up," pro bowler Jason Couch said. "You always want to win the Tournament of Champions."
Couch, a veteran from Claremont, Fla., has realized his dream three times now. Couch is the only bowler to win the Tournament of Champions three consecutive times, from 1999 to 2002.
Although the Professional Bowlers Association holds three other majors every year, Couch said this week's event is the most-coveted title because everyone has earned their way in. Every bowler in the Tournament of Champions had to qualify by winning a PBA event.
"It's the smallest field of the year, but anyone would give anything to win this event," pro bowler Dave Wodka said. "It's the most prestigious tournament because everyone bowling in this tournament has won before. Everyone knows that feeling."
The Tournament of Champions started in 1965 and has been held annually — except for 2001 and 2004 — ever since. It traditionally jumped around to different locations every year, but has settled in Las Vegas for the last three years.
Most of the bowlers like the permanence of the event at Red Rock.
"I'm awfully comfortable here," Couch said. "I've had success in the Las Vegas area."
Couch mentioned the atmosphere of Red Rock Lanes as one of the reasons he always looks forward to visiting. He said the lanes were always kept in top shape.
For bowlers who haven't competed at Red Rock Lanes before, Wednesday's practice session was an important time to become acquainted with the site. Anthony LaCaze, a PBA rookie who won last week's tournament in Dublin, Calif., broke down what he learned about the lanes Wednesday.
"They start off fairly tough," he said. "It seems like you have to play them pretty far right to start. The lanes seem to open up as you keep bowling on them. I think the scoring pace will be fairly high."
Just how tough it is to walk away with a Tournament of Champions trophy? Walter Ray Williams Jr., widely considered to be the best professional bowler of all time with 46 career titles, never has won a Tournament of Champions.
It's the only major championship missing from the 50-year-old's mantle. Couch, however, said it would surprise no one if Williams broke through this weekend.
"You can never count out Walter Ray," Couch said. "It's awfully hard to put him away."
In this tournament, it's hard to put anyone away.
"This is everything I've worked hard for," LaCaze said. "I know a lot of eyes and people are watching me."