In today’s throwback article, we are going to take a look back at one of my favorite tournaments ever: World Team Challenge (WTC).
Admittedly, I am too young to remember the tournament; what I know of the event is from watching YouTube, researching the tournament, and talking to players that bowled the events, themselves.
And, let me tell you, WOW! The stories are unbelievable. The side pots, the camaraderie, the prestige, and the experiences — by all accounts — are virtually unmatched by other tournaments within our sport.
Some of our game’s best players bowled these events. Guys like Chris Barnes, Mika Koivunemi, Tim Mack, Pat Healy, John Gaines, John Janawicz, Mike Neumann, Robert Smith, and many, many other players. I am sure I forgot some very, very big names, but it wasn’t intentional. There were just too many terrific players that bowled to remember all of them in the moment.
For those of you that don’t know what WTC was, it was essentially an ultra-competitive team event, that saw all of the best amateurs in the country (and even World) competing for the ultimate team prize bowling has ever seen.
And there were some absolute SUPER TEAMS competing. I am talking teams made up of future USBC and PBA Hall of Famers; the very best that the sport had to offer were competing alongside one another in this event.
The talent wasn’t the only thing that made these tournaments challenging, though. The conditions were incredibly demanding.
Anytime I talk to players that competed in these events, the conditions are almost always the first thing they bring up. If you take a look back at the telecasts, you can see what I am talking about. Guys that would later become Hall of Fame players were, in some cases, averaging under 200 for the week. They were that hard.
In addition to the strength of field and the challenging conditions, you also had a demanding and unique format for a sport that is generally seen as a singles competition; you bowled as a traditional team and as a Baker team.
For those of you that haven’t competed at a high level in a team event, it is impossible to adequately and accurately explain just how amazing it is. For those of you that have, you know exactly what I am talking about.
Bowling is hard enough when you’re relying on yourself every single shot. It is both stressful and rewarding, depending how it is going. But in a team event — more specifically a Baker event — the peaks and valleys are even higher.
In bowling, most of the time, we have our destiny in our own hands. In a Baker event, such as WTC, if you bowl well, it doesn’t guarantee you success. But, conversely, if you bowl poorly, it doesn’t necessarily condemn you, either; your teammates can pick you up when you’re down. And that is a really cool thing. And seeing how often teams picked up their teammate in that event when he/she was down was neat to see.
I remember as a kid, I watched the old telecasts on YouTube all the time. I would venture to guess that I have seen every single telecast at least two-three times each. There was a time in my life that I could give you a play-by-play of any episode on YouTube — I could literally tell you what was going to come next; to say I was obsessed was an understatement.
And I am surprised more weren’t the same way. Well, maybe not the same way. I probably went off the deep end, but I am surprised more people didn’t at least watch the tournaments to some degree.
It really amazes me that when I talk about the tournament to people, that so many are ignorant to its existence.
It truly is a big part of our sport’s history. It was, in many ways, the face — or one of the faces, at least — of late 20th century amateur bowling. If you were a good amateur at that period of time, you were bowling these events. Virtually without exception.
I you haven’t watched these shows, watch them. There are tons of telecasts on YouTube for you to enjoy. And, even though I tried, this article doesn’t do the tournament true justice. It just doesn’t. It just isn’t possible. This tournament was that important and that awesome. So do yourself a favor when you’re done reading this: Youtube World Team Challenge. I promise you, you will not be disappointed. Enjoy!