Loa Boxberger would be nearly ideal for the television credit-card commercial that focuses on people whose names are better known than their faces. And yet, even if her name magically appeared on the card, a viewer probably still would wonder, "Who?"
"I'm as good in my sport as anybody is in any other, but I am not known nationally," said Boxberger, one of the perennial leading money winners on the women's pro bowling tour.
Boxberger was in town doing promotion work for the "Bowl-Your-Way-to-Europe" tournament final at the Brunswick River Bowl Lanes in Bethesda today.
Working for Brunswick and another bowling equipment company, plus managing her own wholesale equipment shop in her hometown of Russell, Kan., helps supplement earnings from the pro tour. Pro payoff money to tournament leaders is what Boxberger is up in arms over.
"In 1974, I was the leading money winner on the tour," Boxberger said. "I won $24,000 that year, so you can imagine what the 10th-leading winner made. It costs about $500 in expenses to make a tour stop and, if you finish 10th in the tournament, you'll probably earn $500.
"You find yourself beating two-thirds of the field and just breaking even for your effort. In addition to more money for the tournament winner, I'd like to see more money for the lower finishers."
Boxberger said that what the women's tour needs desperately is the sponsorship of large companies such as bowling equipment manufacturers and bowling center chains.
The 12-year pro complained about the lack of television coverage for women's events - the men's winter tour is televised weekly. With the small spectator-capacity of many bowling centers on the 16-stop annual tour, gate receipts are miniscule. Sponsors of the tournaments make no money on nontelevised events.
When a tournament is televised, promotors stack most of the pot money at the top for the winner to make the event more attractive for television. Even then the average prize - which ranges around $8-10,000 - is far below what the men make.
Boxberger has even tried to enlist the backing of individuals like Atlanta sports entrepreneur Ted Turner, but without a great deal of success.
"We have some very talented bowlers on the ladies tour," said Boxberger. "I feel that the public would respond to televised tournaments if given the chance. I like to think somebody will listen to our needs."