Those who are skilled in the sport of bowling may be wondering what it is like to go professional, and how much money professional bowlers make.
While there has been a decline in the sport in recent decades, which has affected how much money professionals earn, the top professional bowlers still make a decent amount of money.
This article is going to discuss professional bowling, and how much these pros can end up making.
What Is The Average Salary Of A Pro Bowler?
The 60s and 70s were known as the ‘golden age’ of bowling, with professionals making double the amount of money that NFL players were making at the time.
Pro bowlers were making tons of money at tournaments, getting sponsorship deals, and living the high life.
The best of the best were signing million-dollar contracts, and also became celebrities, paving a path for aspiring bowlers who wanted to be just like them. Some great names of this time were the likes of Earl Anthony and Pete Weber.
Unfortunately, things aren’t like they were back then, with the yearly salary of a professional bowler being a lot more modest. Nowadays, professional bowlers can expect to make around $45,000 to $50,000 a year, without including sponsorships.
However, the top professional bowlers can still make a lot of money, with names such as Walter Ray Williams Jr, making an average of around $250,000 to $300,000 a year.
While things aren’t the way they used to be in the ‘golden ages’ of bowling, the top professionals still have the potential to make a lot of money if they’re good enough and know what they’re doing.
How Do Professional Bowlers Make Money?
Professional bowlers make money in several ways, but the main one is by winning prize money in tournaments.
The main tour in the United States is The Professional Bowling Tour (PBA). While others take place in other countries such as Japan, the PBA is where bowlers aspire to compete.
There are also different tours that are aimed at different groups, such as juniors and seniors.
How Much Do Bowlers Make On Tour And For Winning A Tournament?
How much a bowler makes from tournaments depends on the actual tournament itself, and their experience level.
In some PBA tournaments, many competitors will go home empty-handed, as the prize money is concentrated on the top winners.
However, other tournaments are more generous, and will even pay bowlers who are eliminated early on. They can sometimes be paid around $5,000 to $10,000.
As mentioned, the above will depend on the tournament. An event in New York that has many sponsorships and high-profile attendees may be able to offer more money to all participants, but an event with a lower profile may not have the funds to offer this.
When it comes to major tournaments, there’s a lot more money available. In 2021, for example, the PBA Players’ Championship prize was $1 million, which is the highest-known prize in recent years.
Most top tournaments will normally pay around $50,000 to $100,000 to the winners, and half of that to any runner-up participants.
How Much Do Bowlers Make From Sponsorships
As mentioned earlier, professional bowlers could expect to receive tons of hefty sponsorship deals during the ‘golden age’, but unfortunately now that is rarely the case.
As bowling doesn’t bring in the television ratings it once did, big sponsorship deals are saved for the big names and legends, such as Norm Duke.
Despite this, other professional bowlers can receive sponsorship deals that range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. This may involve wearing a certain branded t-shirt in return for payment, or using certain bowling gear in order to get a brand noticed.
Occasionally a professional bowler will have a backer who will cover living expenses and entry fees during PBA tours. This usually means they’ll need to share earnings during any victories at tournaments.
Do Professional Women Bowlers Earn Less Than Men?
The average salary for a professional woman bowler is around $30,000 to $50,000 a year. Those who are of a higher standard can earn from around $75,000 to the low six figures.
Unfortunately, professional bowling earnings are low for both men and women nowadays, but there is a gap in television ratings between men’s and women’s bowling, and this makes it even more difficult to make a living as a professional bowler for women.
However, this doesn’t mean that there is no potential for this. There are still a few big names out there that earn a lot of money in bowling, which means if a woman is good enough, she could make it up there too.
Why Do Bowlers Make Less Money Today?
As mentioned earlier, the 60s and 70s were known as the ‘golden age’ of bowling, with the top players having the potential to make millions of dollars each year.
These top players were known as international celebrities, and Don Carter, a top pro bowler, was known as the first-ever sportsman to land himself a million-dollar sponsorship deal.
The top players were earning an average of $446,710 each year, which is a lot more than current earnings in the sport.
The main reason for the decline in salaries is due to the decrease in interest in the sport. Bowling is not as popular as it once was, and compared to other mainstream sports such as basketball and baseball, it barely makes the cut.
Television coverage of the sport has also dramatically declined, and the days when bowling tournaments were shown on stations like ABC, have now stopped.
The Future Of Bowling Salaries
In order for professional bowling salaries to return to what they used to be, several things need to happen.
The PBA needs to build popularity, especially among the younger generations. This would then increase the chances of more sponsorship deals becoming available, and the return of television exposure.
The rise of social media could also help increase exposure of professional bowling. Certain bowling personalities who have a large following on social media could give more exposure to the sport, acting as social media ‘influencers’ as there are many available nowadays.
These personalities could influence their large following into supporting professional bowling.
There is still a large interest in playing the sport recreationally, as surveys have shown that a large percentage of Americans visit bowling alleys at least once a year.
It is also a very popular activity for children, so encouraging support from these generations would do wonders for the sport, and may even be a step towards getting those large salaries back for professional players.
While it’s unlikely that we’ll see a repeat of the ‘golden age’, there’s still room and time for the support for professional bowling to grow, which could lead to higher salaries for those who take part in the sport professionally.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who Is The Highest-Paid Bowler?
The highest-paid bowler is currently Walter Ray Williams Jr. He is an American professional bowler who has won PBA Player of the Year 7 times, as well as being the holder of many other records when it comes to the PBA.
His total PBA earnings in 2019 amounted to 4.9 million dollars.
Is It Hard To Become A Pro Bowler?
Becoming a professional bowler is more difficult than many people think. You must excel at a very high level to become professional, and then remaining a professional bowler is also very difficult.
However, if you have the skill, motivation, and determination, it is totally possible to get to a professional level and remain at this level for as long as you wish.
To conclude, while professional bowling was at its peak in the 60s and 70s, that is no longer the case.
Top names in the sport still have the potential to earn a lot of money, but it is less common than it used to be, due to the decline of TV ratings, and overall interest.
As a recreational sport, bowling is enjoyed all over the United States, as well as in other places in the world, so there is the potential for an increase in popularity as a professional sport.
This, in turn, will increase the salaries of those who take part in it professionally.
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