#CasoPost – Anthony Caso and His First PBA Title

Today, I got the chance to sit down with one of the hardest working players in the entire country to talk about his first career PBA title. He’s an excellent player, an outstanding human being, a colleague of mine, and, most importantly, a dear friend. His name is Anthony Caso, and this is his #CasoPost.

The emotions that flooded my body when I threw that last shot were more overwhelming than anything I was prepared for.

Everything I had built up in my mind fell short of what being in that moment actually felt like.

To become a PBA champion and have a dream be realized after starting bowling when I was 10 years old is simply incredible to me.

My Nana (my dad’s mother) signed me up for my first learn to bowl class when I was 10 years old.

She had been an avid bowler her whole life and loved the sport and loved spending time with me. So, naturally, I wanted to be around her growing up and bowling was a great way to do that and have fun as well.

As a kid, I played every possible sport I was able to, but bowling always seemed the be the one I was best at right off the bat.

Shortly after starting bowling, I had to undergo minor knee surgery when I was 11, which kept me from doing anything for about 6 weeks.

When I was able to play sports again, I had quit everything and just stayed with bowling to be able to see my Nana more.

Also, I was home schooled growing up, which allotted me plenty of time to practice. I was in a bowling center almost everyday just bowling because I just genuinely enjoyed it. I didn’t have any aspirations of going pro or anything like that, I just knew I loved to bowl.

When I turned 14, I bowled my first 300, then 6 weeks later I followed it up with my first 800 series, which was a Hernando county record for youngest ever to achieve that.

That’s when I really wanted to start to get better, and I had people start to come to me and offer their help.

I took everyone’s criticisms growing up, because I honestly didn’t know any better at the time.

Up to this point I had no formal coaching, just the volunteers in youth leagues and anything I could figure out from watching old PBA shows.

I attended a Kegel summer camp and that’s when I really saw the proper way to do things.

Having to work hard was always fun for me and still is. I love that aspect of bowling; you can never be perfect even though we all try so hard to get there. That aspect of bowling is what has kept me so involved for so many years.

I started to bowl local youth tourneys and fared pretty well but never won a whole lot. This also drove me to get better because I was pretty good in my home center, but venturing out seeing kids more talented than me and they were the same age if not younger was eye opening.

I then started to practice with my best friend Chris Polizzi, who was a big deal back home. He’s 4 years older than me and immensely talented and would challenge me growing up.

He was the first really good player I got to interact with and start to learn from and see how complicated the game was.

When I was 16, I began working in a pro shop, and that accelerated my learning process and further cemented my love for this sport.

From that point on, I began to travel to more and more youth tournaments, where I would make more and more connections and gain experience.

I got to be pretty good around the state by the time I was 18 or so, but I never had the opportunity to bowl Jr Gold or anything nationally due to my financial situation.

So I decided to move up when I was 18 and start bowling against the adults in order to get better and earn some money.

Around this time is when I was very fortunate to befriend PBA player, Rhino Page.

We met at Bowl Expo and he coached me a little bit and offered his help as long as I was willing to put in the hard work to get better.

That had it’s growing pains, but I’d go through streaks where I’d bowl well then I’d go months without cashing.

At first, I didn’t understand that the game changes and you need to change with it. This is again where Chris comes in, because even though he was older he was chasing what I wanted just as hard and we really started to help each other get through the bad tournaments and celebrate the good ones.

We started traveling to tournaments together and even out of state to some PBA events.

That was a totally different environment, but I loved how nervous I would get bowling them, because it’s something I just didn’t feel bowling anything back home.

When I got my first check in the PBA, I was 19 and I remember how amazing that felt and I was hooked. I knew if cashing felt that great then winning would feel even better, and it was that day that I set my sights on winning a title no matter what I had to change or how hard I had to work.

The next 4 years saw some successes and a lot of failures, and a lot of frying out, if we’re being honest.

The conditions we were seeing week in and week out were getting harder and exposing every flaw in my game.

It was very tough to build any kind of confidence, but having good people around me helping me through the bad weeks was very important.

I continued to work on my game and my strategy because I was obviously missing something, but I never lost that feeling of what it would be like to be the best one on the lanes even if it was just for that day.

That brings us to just a few months ago. I was in the biggest slump of my life thus far. On video everything looked the best it ever had, I had the biggest arsenal of bowling balls and all the tools I thought I needed to be successful.

But the results weren’t there, and for the first time in 13 years I doubted my ability to be able to actually compete at the level necessary to win a title.

Not to sound arrogant, but when you hear people talk about you and they say how they wish they threw it as good as you, but you don’t have the accomplishments to back it up you start to go insane, at least I did.

I lost a lot of money and didn’t wanna give up, but you can’t win if you don’t believe you can win.

After a long talk with Chris I went back to the drawing board and just went for 100% comfort. I had gotten so far away from where I was that I lost the ability to just bowl and do what I knew how to do. This, paired with looking at the game on the other side of the foul line rather than internalizing everything, really helped clear up the puzzle I was trying to solve in my head.

The bowling turned around and I even began to feel confident again, even though I wasn’t necessarily winning.

The week before winning my title I bowled another PBA regional in Albany, Georgia. I bowled well and made it to matchplay on Sunday, but I didn’t stay mentally strong and old physical game flaws came through and I didn’t bowl well that day.

That Monday I came home and saw our very own Shawn Ryan for a bit of a tune up, just to help me understand why I was feeling what I was feeling with my game.

He told me after we were done to just go bowl and always believe you’re the best. I felt this was semi-cocky advice, but he explained by showing Michael Jordan’s hall of fame acceptance speech.

He explained that Michael never thought there was ever anyone better than him and this wasn’t arrogance, it was hunger to be the very best at what he did. I carried this mentality with me to Springhill along with some minor physical tweaks he made.

This was a brand new way of thinking for me, because I would focus so hard on the physical part of the game that the mental part would escape me. To win at that level, it takes more than being physically good; you have to be just as good mentally and believe you can win.

From the first shot of the tournament, I was fortunate enough to have the support of the local people, because I grew up there. To them, I was the best bowler in the building. They were there to watch me perform and that really helped my mental outlook that weekend.

The qualifying Sunday went very well compared to the event the previous weekend, because I just felt overall better.

The stepladder was the most intensely scary and exciting experience of my entire life. I had to win 3 matches to win my first title and this was my first ever time making the stepladder, so I had no previous experiences to draw on.

I just remember telling myself that no one wants this more than I do. No one.

The center was dead quiet and the only thing I could hear was my heartbeat and my footsteps leading to the foul line.

I know I’ve thanked him a lot so far, but if it weren’t for Chris Polizzi being there with me every shot, I wouldn’t have been able to keep as focused as I did.

When the tenth frame of the title match came up and I only needed 3 pins, I almost didn’t believe it was possible. I couldn’t believe all the hard work and countless hours in a bowling center had paid off. Everything I had done in bowling was to prepare myself for that moment and I was still thrown back.

I could barley give my speech when the match was over, that’s how much adrenaline was running through my body. What winning meant to me personally was to quiet down those thoughts I had put in my head that I could never do it and I’d never be good enough.

I had put my competitors on a pedestal and tried to chase them rather than having them as my equals and trying to surpass therm. How was I ever supposed to gain respect if I didn’t even respect my own abilities as a bowler.

Now that I’ve been able to win, I want to win more and not just in my hometown, but all over.

I want to be in the conversation every week and be as fierce of a competitor as I can be in any environment.

So my practice will continue as usual as I continue to make myself sharper and smarter in order to compete with the best in the world.

As long as I have the ability to bowl, I will be. In any and everything I can. Because it truly is everything to me. And I never have and never will take it, the achievements, or the experiences, for granted.

#CasoPost

2 thoughts on “#CasoPost – Anthony Caso and His First PBA Title

  1. Jimmy Brehm says:

    Great story, Anthony. I’m sorry that I couldn’t be there to root you on. Keep on winning, but even if you don’t you will always be my friend. Miss you in Spring Hill.

    Jimmy Brehm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

<