Next to the tens of thousands of miles he logs each year driving to tournaments, the boredom of spare time in strange citiesbothers Kevin Gillette the most.
"About the only thing you can do out here is lie on your bed in your motel room and watch television or go out and do something that will cost money," said Gillette, 30, who quit selling cars in Florence, Ky., two years ago to join the Professional Bowling Association tour.
Sleeping three to a motel room and sharing travel costs with friends, Gillette has barely been able to make expenses in the two years he's been on the PBA tour.
By contrast, Earl Anthony, at 43, is the top bowler in PBA history, having just passed the million-dollar mark in winnings with $66,530 gained so far this year. Unlike Gillette, Anthony tours the country in a comfortably-appointed Apollo trailer with his wife Susie. He estimates he'll travel approximately 35,000 this year to bowling tournaments.
"I enjoy the competition, but I don't like travel," said Anthony, who took up bowling after an ankle injury at age 21 cut short a pitching career with the Vancouver Mounties in the Baltimore Orioles' farm system.
"I'd much rather stay home and play golf."
Paul Masor, 34, of Brockton, Mass., tours the PGA circuit in a house trailer, but he's had two breakdowns this winter, one of which left him stranded in Toledo when he was supposed to be bowling in Miami.
"I'll tell you this," said Masor, who figures he's about $3,000 in debt this winter, "this travel stinks."
Gillette, Anthony and Masor are among 160 bowlers competing this week in the Fair Lanes Open at Fair Lanes Capital Plaza in Hyattsville. After each bowler has rolled 18 qualifying games yesterday and today, the field will be cut to 24 for match competition tonight and Friday. Friday night, the field will be reduced to the top five. They will compete on national television Saturday for the $15,000 first prize.
For Masor and Gillette, winning is a matter of survival. For Anthony, any money won simply will augment the $1,012,586 he has taken in in 13 years on the tour.
"I wish they had the tournament in the same city each week so I could just stay there," said Anthony, signing autographs at Fair Lanes. "I never get time to myself."
Anthony set a PBA one-year earnings record last year, winning $164,735 and finishing first in such tournaments as the Rolaids Open in St. Louis, the AMF Magic Score Open in Peoria, the Long Island Open in Garden City and the PBA National Championship in Toledo. But he had a heart attack four years ago, and insists he is going to retire in three years when his contract with a bowling ball manufacturer expires.
"You lose your finesse as you get older," said Anthony, who says he's fully recovered from his heart attack and runs regularly every day. "Your shots still look like they're good but you find you can't make the real fine adjustments."
When he's not scheduled to bowl, Anthony spends most of his time in his trailer reading and watching television. "I'm not much of a sightseer," he said.
Gillette, who says he's won $13,000 in the last three weeks, is in the midst of one of his better streaks. He splurged for the Fair Lanes Open by flying here from Cincinnati instead of driving as he normally would have.
"I've been home a total of three days since the week after Christmas," said Gillette, who has a wife and two children in Kentucky. "When there is no money in this tour it really gets to be a grind. You get down on yourself and that affects your play. You have to be able to go out and start fresh each week."
For Gillette and others like him, the bottom line is finishing at least 48th in this tournament. That slot will pay $740, and Gillette figures his expenses--meals, travel and the motel room he shares with two other bowlers--at $600 a week.
"I figure I'm about $4,000 or $5,000 ahead this year," said Gillette. "Last year, I won $18,000 in 28 tournaments but I didn't make any money. The year before that I won $15,000 in 12 tournaments."
For Paul Masor, who's been crisscrossing the country on the PBA tour for four years in his Airstream trailer, "this has been the world's worst winter for me. It's just hard to have a good attitude."
In January, the car he used to pull his trailer died in the California desert. The car was towed to Los Angeles and repaired, but it gave out again in Toledo two weeks ago.
"It was on a warranty so it didn't cost anything to replace it, but it meant I had to miss the tournament in Miami," said Masor.
Masor, who earned about $47,000 last year, says he's won only about $5,000 this year, $3,000 less than his expenses. "Things like that affect you," he said. "This is a very intense game. You have to apply yourself and there is no one to help you. You have to execute everything yourself. It's bad for your game when your mind is on something else."
Masor always travels with at least 50 bowling balls in his trailer. He says he spends his spare time designing new grips and resurfacing old balls. "You use different kinds of balls on different surfaces," he said. CAPTION: Picture, Earl Anthony, practicing at Fair LAnes Open at Hyattsville has won $66,530 this season but still dislikes the travel. By Joel Richardson -- The Washington Post