By Gary R. Rasberry
Seven years after coming back from bowling burnout, Doug Davidson is heading to a professional major tournament.
The Versailles native is competing at the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) United States Open, which started Monday in North Brunswick, New Jersey.
Davidson got the berth into the tournament by placing second in a qualifying tournament and earning one of the two automatic spots for the 62nd annual tournament.
"This is the first time I ever tried to qualify for the open. I usually had something else going on or went on vacation," said Davidson in a conversation before heading to New Jersey. "It's kind of a dream to bowl a major, especially when the entry fee is paid and you qualified for it. It's definitely an honor."
Nearly 100 bowlers went to Dayton to bowl in the qualifier, a process that started with six three-game series at three different centers. "The lanes were a PBA-style pattern," said Davidson. "It was very demanding lane conditions."
After the six rounds, the top 12 bowlers moved on for another 12 games, this time in head-to-head match play. Bonus pins were given for results and Davidson was in the fifth spot early but went down to eighth.
"I was pretty much out of it," said Davidson knowing that only the top two individuals earned U.S. Open qualifying berths.
With a change of ball and a better alignment up on the lane, Davidson rebounded and nearly took the lead before finishing second by about 30 pins and moving on.
"It was a tough field in Dayton," said Davidson. "It wasn't easy to get there. Definitely a good feeling."
The joy of making it to New Jersey is compounded by the fact that after joining the PBA and touring for several years in the early 1990s, Davidson, in his words, "quit cold turkey."
"I gave bowling up for four years," said Davidson. "I got burned out on the sport and wasn't having fun. Then seven years ago I got back in it."
After bowling in leagues for a while, he decided to go back to the PBA and entered regional qualfiers.
Davidson still bowls in the league once a week at McBo's Lanes in Versailles. He also stays in the sport by owning pro shops at McBo's and at Treaty Lanes in Greenville.
The format for the U.S. Open is just slightly different than the qualifier. Four-hundred bowlers will start with six series. The top 100 will move on after the first round to play in nine more games. The top 24 then move on for match play in three, eight-game, head-to-head contests. The top four players move on to the finals, televised on ESPN, for the $100,000 grand prize and a three-year expemption from qualifying on the tour.
"It's a grueling week," said Davidson. "There's a lot more to it (than what is shown on TV). Generally when it gets to Sunday, the cream definitely is at the top, especially at a major."
Davidson's goals are modest. He's not looking to make the ESPN finals.
"I would love to make it to the top 100," said Davidson. "I'm not going to set (my expectations) up so high to set me up to fail. My expectation is to make the first cut."