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PBA Hall of Famer Walter Ray Williams Jr. visits Lion Bowl

Barry Sparks
For The York Dispatch
Walter Ray Williams Jr. demonstrates a bowling tip to a crowd at Lion Bowl.

Walter Ray Williams Jr., arguably the greatest bowler of all time, shared some bowling tips and rolled a pro-am with 30 bowlers at Lion Bowl on Saturday.

Williams appeared at the 12-lane Red Lion facility en route to Portland, Maine, where he will compete in the Professional Bowlers Association  League. The 47-time PBA Tour champ is a member of the Brooklyn Styles team.

“People in a small town like Red Lion don’t usually get to see professional bowlers,” said the 6-foot-2 right-hander, who is a friend of Mike, Dave and Tim Zelger, proprietors of Lion Bowl. “It’s why I like doing events like this. The fans have been great to me, and I like giving back to them.”

Hitting the road: Instead of flying from Odessa, Texas, where he won his 16th PBA50 Tour at the end of June, Williams chose to drive his van the 2,200 miles. He scheduled stops at bowling centers in Missouri, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New Hampshire.

The appearances, along with sales of his merchandise — pennants, DVDs, T-shirts and bowling jerseys — help finance his trip. He signed autographs for free and graciously posed for photos with fans.

Walter Ray Williams Jr.

Williams, a veteran of more than 1,000 PBA Tour tournaments, has built an unmatched career based on excellence, accuracy and longevity.

His list of achievements is longer than a weekly grocery list for a family of seven.

Unique distinction: What’s his greatest accomplishment?

“Being named PBA Player of the Decade twice,” he replied. “No one has done that. I’m proud of maintaining such a high level for 20 years.”

Williams received the honor for the 1990s and 2000s.

 In 2009, he was named PBA’s Player of the Year for the seventh time. At age 50, he was the oldest player ever to receive the award.

The PBA Hall of Famer seemed to get better with age. He chalked up 17 PBA Tour titles after turning 40. He credits his ability to figure things out and competitive nature for his late success.

Walter Ray Williams Jr. signs a bowling jersey for Matthew Cochran at Lion Bowl.

Among the other achievements Williams could have selected as his most notable are winning at least one PBA Tour title for 17 consecutive years, becoming the first bowler to win 100 PBA titles (combined PBA Tour, PBA50 Tour, PBA Regional Tour and PBA50 Regional Tour) and making a record 182 career television appearances.

'My time is gone': In March 2021, Williams retired from the PBA Tour. He continues to compete on the PBA50 Tour and in regional tournaments.

“I wasn’t very impressive the last 10 years on the PBA Tour,” admitted the 62-year-old.  “My time is gone. I have to bowl my best just to get a check. The young guys on the PBA Tour are very good. I don’t think they receive enough credit.

“They can do things with a bowling ball that I can’t. They have more power and accuracy than I do. I’m not able to do what I used to do. It didn’t make any sense for me to keep bowling on the PBA Tour. I didn’t have anything to prove.”

Senior titles: Williams, however, has made a mark on the PBA50 Tour the past 12 years, competing against the likes of Parker Bohn III, Norm Duke, Amleto Monacelli and Pete Weber. He has won a record 16 senior titles and been named PBA50 Tour Player of the Year three times.

He said he’s disappointed the PBA50 Tour doesn’t have a television contract.  But he understands the PBA’s main focus is on the PBA Tour, which is televised on Fox.

Williams’ intense competitive nature continues to drive him. And, he said winning never gets old. He described his recent win at the PBA50 Odessa Open as “awesome.”

Although he may be in the twilight of his career, Williams envisions competing on the PBA50 Tour as long as he can.

 But, he added, “Nothing lasts forever.”