FORT WAYNE – Walter Ray Williams Jr. and Johnny Petraglia are legends of the Professional Bowlers Association.
They are continuing their remarkably successful careers on the PBA50 Tour, the senior circuit of the PBA, because they adore the thrill of competition.
“I still love to bowl, so I don't look at practice as a hardship,” said Petraglia, 67. “It's a labor of love.”
Williams, 54, continues to make a living off bowling, so the senior tour offers a two-for-one benefit.
“As long as I still have the desire to compete, making more money doesn't hurt,” he said.
Both Hall of Famers are appearing in Fort Wayne during the PBA50 Tour's stop at Pro Bowl West on Goshen Road.
Williams will be in the Pro Bowl West Classic, which will be from Monday through Wednesday. It is open to ages 50 and older.
Petraglia will take part in that tournament as well as the Dick Weber Super Senior Classic, the first event on the tour for bowlers 60 or older. The event starts today and runs through Sunday. It's the first time the events will be held back to back.
“It's two new things at one time,” Petraglia said. “Going by the amount of entries in the 60-and-up tournament, I think that's a terrific draw.”
And these PBA events could be a draw for the community.
They certainly don't lack for star power.
Williams is first on the PBA's all-time wins list with 47.
“That's where everybody wants to be, I think,” he said. “I'm very fortunate I got to that position. I was never really expecting that to happen, even when I got to second on that list.”
Williams, who lives in Ocala, Florida, said accuracy has always been one of his big strengths.
“However, in the last two years it isn't quite what it used to be,” he said. “It's still pretty decent, but that makes it a little frustrating.”
Petraglia has also sensed that phase of decline that bowlers dread.
“It's starting to slip a little bit, as expected,” he said. “Every now and then, things are still going well. Travel's getting to me a little bit after 50 years on the road. I think I will bowl as long as I'm not embarrassing myself.”
Hard to imagine, since Petraglia won 14 PBA tour titles. And as an eight-time PBA50 Tour titlist, he's adjusted to the senior circuit quite well.
“Trying to stay in decent shape and constant practice has made it competitive,” Petraglia said. “I'm having good tournaments. I'm making money in every one of them.”
His secret is simple.
“My first coach was very big into fundamentals,” Petraglia said. “When I was 13 years old, he said, ‘Constantly practice the fundamentals because they'll never go away.' He was right. There's different styles that work better today, but the solid fundamentals are still there.”
Which brings these decorated bowlers to Fort Wayne, still knocking down pins despite having nothing to prove and despite the inevitable pull of Father Time.
“Every year that goes by, you tend to lose a tiny bit, and every year it accumulates,” Williams said. “There is a difference between 50 and 55 and 60 and 65. Not having to worry about all the young kids out there, I have a little better chance against the older guys.”