Clearwater's Cindy Hall called it a "mini issue," but Monday the Professional Bowlers Association made it a huge issue, announcing it would allow women to compete on the all-male pro tour for the first time, beginning immediately.
"We have had requests from women (including Hall) over the past year to participate in our regional tournaments," PBA commissioner Fred Schreyer said. "We thought about it for a long time and concluded, "Why not.' We currently allow nonmembers to participate in our tournaments on a regular basis, and we felt that if a woman can meet the same criteria, she should be allowed to compete and become a member."
Hall said: "I'm excited to hear that the PBA is giving women the same shot that men currently have. I don't have delusions of becoming a professional bowler, but I'm glad to hear that I'll be able to compete in the regional event. It's a good (public relations) move for the PBA, particularly considering what has occurred with men's golf the past year."
The Professional Women's Bowling Association folded in August after 22 years.
Since Hall's appearance in the regional is a week and half away (April9-11 at Tampa), it is likely another woman will break the barrier in one of the PBA's seven region events this weekend.
Hall requested entry into a regional event via e-mails to PBA CEO-president Steve Miller, ESPN (which airs the PBA tour shows) and southern region director Harry O'Neale.
"I'm not a crusader, an activist or an agitator and I don't want to start a big issue, but I'd like to bowl on the PBA men's tour, if only in a regional," said Hall, who has a 230 average. "Let's just call it my mini issue."
Women who join the PBA may participate in any regional event and in the weekly PBA tour pretournament qualifier for a spot in that week's event. The tour trials are open to any PBA member who has participated in five PBA events (PBA tour, PBA regional tour or PBA senior tour).
If a woman has participated in at least five events before the June1 start, she may enter and compete for one of the eight remaining seasonlong exempt spots on the national tour. The 2004-05 PBA tour has 50 exempt players for its 64-person fields, based on winners and points earned over the past season, which ended last week.
"I want to make it clear that this in no way means we will create or run a women's tour," Schreyer said. "We just wanted to expand our membership to anyone who meets the requirements and give them an opportunity to compete at the highest level."