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Touring pro bowler is used to switching lanes

"I do it because I enjoy it,'' Senior PBA member Steve Neff says of life on the road.

By KRISTEN LEIGH PORTER
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 18, 2002


"I do it because I enjoy it," Senior PBA member Steve Neff says of life on the road.

Being a professional bowler has taken Steve Neff on many long, sometimes strange trips.

The 54-year-old recently embarked on a road expedition that will lead to the last two tour stops of the Senior PBA season. Neff, who always is accompanied by his chocolate Labrador, Bosco, is traveling in a 40-foot beige RV on this Midwestern jaunt from their Homosassa Springs home. The adventure started Aug. 11, and the two won't return until the end of the month.

"I won't be done until the 29th, but it's fun," said Neff, who estimated that he has been on the road 11 weeks this year competing in events across the country. "I do it because I enjoy it."

Neff hopes his final PBA tournament this year is as good as the first, which resulted in his fifth career Senior Tour title at the Chillicothe Open in April.

Not all goes as planned on such journeys. Earlier in the week, Neff encountered a clogged fuel filter en route to an event in Chicago that started Wednesday. From there, he and his dog headed to Hammond, Ind., where Neff is playing today in the Senior Lake County Open. When the tourney concludes Wednesday, he will get back in the motor home and truck to Jackson, Mich. for the Senior Jackson Open. Then comes a long 1,150-mile journey home.

PBA publicist Russ Twoey said most bowlers on the tour drive to events and stay in hotels, but approximately 10-12 travel by motor home. The PBA attempts to schedule its stops with travel logistics in mind, as bowlers do not receive a transportation stipend.

The past couple summers, Neff's wife, Jeremy, and their sons, Spencer, 15, and Travis, 12, as well as Bosco, accompanied Neff on trips in their old 22-foot trailer.

The Neffs tailored their routes to take in the sights, including national landmarks such as Mount Rushmore. Jeremy recalled the family's experience in the Rocky Mountains last summer.

"This is the middle of July and we're expecting summer and we were in five feet of snow," she said.

"When we went into Glacier National Park, we were caught in the biggest blizzard in history and, in fact, they closed the park," Jeremy said. "Being from Florida, you never expect to have things like that happen."

Although the Neffs flew to Tokyo in April and to the rest of Steve's tournament stops this year, Jeremy said going the motor-home route is the best way. With school back in session, she and the boys stayed behind. But they will keep in contact by phone and e-mail, and Jeremy will check the PBA website to see the results.

"We're pretty used to it because this has been what he does for a living, so it works for us," Jeremy said. "Any professional sports family would have to put up with this."

Neff is sixth on the Senior earnings list this season with $20,075 and sixth on the career money chart with $454,252.

The owner/operator of Neffer's Bowling wished he would have performed better in Las Vegas and Portland, but is happy with the season.

"In Vegas, I kind of got mentally tired and missed a couple of spares that cost me bowling for the title there," said Neff, whose average is 217. "In Portland, I didn't stay focused for the last block and dropped from first to ninth."

Neff said he's starting to feel his knees the older he gets, but will continue to compete as long as it's enjoyable.

Bosco probably will be along for the ride, although last Sunday he laid down at Jeremy's feet and acted like he didn't want to go when Neff was leaving.

It could be because the dog has showcased his pin-retrieving talents on Animal Planet and Maury Povich, and neither of the last two PBA events are being televised.

"One of the professional bowlers commented that if Steve kept bowling good, he might get as famous as the dog," Jeremy joked.

-- Kristen Leigh Porter can be reached at 564-3628 or porter@sptimes.com.

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