Zach Wilkins bowling at the local Bowlerama is a familiar sight for anyone who plays the game, but he may end up being familiar face at the top of the North American bowling standings come year’s end.
Wilkins is off to a great start for his first season on the Professional Bowling Association (PBA) Tour, sitting 28th out of the top 50 bowlers and having competed in seven events so far.
This past weekend, Wilkins became the first Canadian to win the Super Bud Bowl in Oswego County, N.Y., earning him the big cheque of $5,500.
The 26-year-old told BarrieToday the payouts are a big part of the game now as he has reached his dream of playing the sport he loves for a living.
“Having a full-time painting job for the last few years, I really had to limit my schedule on how much I could bowl,” said Wilkins. “But I really wanted bowling to be my full-time job and this year I dedicated my time to making that happen and have now done that.”
Touring with the PBA is the goal of every professional bowler and it is comparable to the more talked about PGA tour for golfers.
The PBA season is made up of tournaments in which points are awarded depending on where one finishes in that event.
There can also be big money won on the tour with bigger events paying between $40,000 to $60,000 and those on the smaller scale paying $20,000 to $30,000.
But the grind of it can be exhausting as well.
“There is a schedule and I’ll enter all of the tournaments, so I’ve been on the road since Feb. 10 and I just got back this past Saturday morning and will be heading back out this coming Saturday for Las Vegas,” said Wilkins. “When there is a break in the schedule, I head to cities close by for some smaller tournaments and try to earn there.
"It can be very tiring and you have to be in good shape mentally and physically to do this.”
Wilkins grew up bowling in Barrie, attending Barrie North Collegiate and being a staple of the Bowlerama in the Bayfield Mall. His love of representing his hometown and his country has driven him to compete on the international stage as well, which will see Wilkins head to South America in April for the Pan American Bowling Confederation.
“Six of us representing Team Canada will be travelling to Lima, Peru in PABCON, which is a competition for all the Americas,” said Wilkins. “I love competing for Canada and just played in the men’s world championships last year in Hong Kong where I won bronze.”
A perfect game is throwing strikes 12 times during a game, a feat that Wilkins has done 30 or 40 times in his life, and that he aims to do every tournament he enters.
“On tour our job is to strike and all these players have the same goals so that is what you aim to do,” said Wilkins. “If you want to win a title you do have to strike a lot but of course you have to have a complete game too, so you want to fill frames as best you can.”
With so many goals reached already in his young career, Wilkins admits he has one big dream that he really wants to reach, and one he feels he is close to.
“The long-term goal is to win a title; that’s everyone’s ultimate goal,” said Wilkins. “I was on my first PBA telecast, which was really cool for me to get on TV since they have the bigger events on there and it made me realize that maybe I am getting close to something bigger.”