Bowling is a popular leisure activity for people of all ages. However, much like basketball, football and baseball, bowling is also played competitively. Organizations such as the Professional Bowlers Association oversees the PBA tour, which takes place across the country. Unlike the aforementioned sports, pro bowlers must pay money -- travel expenses, living expenses and entry fees -- to earn prize money.
According to the website Simply Hired, the average annual salary for professional bowlers is $25,000, as of 2011. Bowler Brad Angelo, in a 2003 article for The Los Angeles Times, said he started bowling at an early age and bowls because he loves it as opposed to making money. Salaries for professional bowlers are dependent upon winning and placement. As such, bowlers can earn six-figure salaries from tournaments or walk away without a paycheck.
The first bowler to earn a million dollars was Earl Anthony, a six-time PBA player of the year, according to an article by Steve Kallas for Sports Plus. Top bowlers such as Walter Ray have earned more than $4 million since joining the tour in 1980. He also has the record for the highest bowling earnings in a year with $419,700 in 2002-03. In an article titled "Gender Bias in Sports: Separate But Not Equal" in Sports Digest, the average yearly salary of the top 10 bowlers was $130,000 for men and $92,000 for women from 1996-2000. Top earners in the field still earn six-figure salaries yearly.
How They Are Paid?
Professional bowlers must win to earn a decent living. In The Los Angeles Times article from 2003, bowler Angelo said he earned a paycheck in 12 of 13 tournaments he entered, totaling about $36,000. Generally, the higher a bowler places in the tournament, the more she wins. Several championships are held under the PBA tour. Players pay entry fees and pay their own traveling expenses to compete in tournaments, unless the players are sponsored. Championships such as the Lucas Oil Regional Championship offers $50,000 to the winner. Entry fees are as follows: $500 for PBA tour events for members and $525 for nonmembers, more than $200 for the regional tour and more than $400 for the senior tour.
To offset their expenses and add to their salaries, top professional bowlers often seek out and obtain sponsorships. According to Walter Ray, one of the highest-earning and top professional bowlers, sponsorships are obtained by bowlers who have a history of performing well at tournaments. In exchange for attaching their name to and physically displaying or using their product, sponsors will pay bowlers several thousand dollars. Professional bowler Kelly Kulick is sponsored by Supreme Protein Bar.