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Mantecan has chance to live PBA Tour dreams
Rick Bates
To say that bowling came natural to Rick Bates would be an understatement.

His parents owned a bowling alley in the Southern California community of Tarzana, and Bates spent more than his fair share of time rolling the lanes, imagining that one day he’d hear his name called on the Professional Bowlers Tour.

Now, more than two decades later, Bates — who has trimmed back his trip to the lanes from everyday to once or twice a week — could finally have his chance to go heads up against some of the best bowlers in the world.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to be on the PBA Tour, but that was a dream that I had many years ago,” said the 43-year-old Manteca resident. “This is something that I’m facing with no expectations, but I’m definitely looking forward to the possibility. It would truly be a pleasure to bowl against some of those guys.”

Bates was among 18 league bowlers at Manteca Bowl and Family Fun Center who participated in the PBA Experience Showdown that is reserved for United States Bowling Congress sport bowling members, with each of the participants using the same lane conditions that are featured on the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour.

For a period of six months, individual bowling alleys tracked the performances of the professional hopefuls and placed the top bowler (with the highest scratch series) each week into a drawing that would determine the 18 that would be selected.

“It was definitely a surprise to get selected, especially against some of the other guys that I was bowling against,” Bates said. “That’s an awful lot of entries to get drawn from, and now I’m just hoping that I make the next cut and get a chance to show what I can do.”

Between now and March 1, bowling fans are encouraged to visit to vote for their favorite bowler from one of the six lane patterns — chameleon, cheetah, scorpion, shark, viper, and other sport patterns.

The top vote-getter from each pattern will advance to the PBA Experience Showdown Finals, which will be held on April 6 and 7 at the International Training and Research Center in Arlington, Texas. The finals will be taped and are scheduled to be aired on ESPN on April 11.

The six finalists will compete in a six-game qualifier which each being contested on a different PBA pattern, and the finalist with the high score earns a spot to compete again on television against the five winners of the 2009-10 PBA Tour Versatility Swing events — Norm Duke, Rhino Page, Bill O’Neill, Mike DeVaney, and Jack Jurek.

“Some of those guys that are on tour I already know and have bowled with before, but it’s something that I’m looking forward to doing again,” Bates said. “It’s not a dream come true for me, but it’s part of the overall good times that come with bowling and it’s definitely something that I’m looking forward to be a part of.”