As a kid growing up in Canada, Zach Wilkins bowled on lanes that didn’t have oil and only had five pins. In fact, before taking up tenpin bowling, he didn’t even realize lanes were supposed to have oil on them.
Wilkins, 26, one of the rising two-handed stars on the PBA Tour, spent his time growing up playing five-pin bowling, a variation of the sport in Canada, using a two-handed back-up ball in a center where his parents worked.
When he made the switch to tenpin at age 14, it was a rough transition.
“I knew I wanted to be a professional bowler and had to convert at some point because five-pin is only a Canadian sport,” said Wilkins, who will compete in the PBA World Series of Bowling next week live on FloBowling. “I converted at the age of 14, and I didn’t see anyone throwing two-handed in the sport of tenpin, so at that time I thought I had to go one-handed.”
The transition to a one-handed style with a much heavier ball proved to be difficult for Wilkins. So, he decided to chart his own path, like many other two-handers.
“My first year the ball was so heavy compared to the five-pin bowling ball that my forearm would hurt and my wrist would hurt,” Wilkins said. “I decided to just throw it like I wanted to throw it, so that’s how I developed my two-handed style.”
Wilkins quickly developed and perfected his two-handed style and went on to compete collegiately at Urbana University before returning home to work as a full-time house painter for several years.
After bowling part time on the PBA Tour, Wilkins made the decision to leave his job as a painter and give professional bowling a try as a full-time job.
“It’s 100 percent tough because everyone’s goal is the same,” Wilkins said. “Everyone wants to win out here, and the raw talent out here is just crazy. I think the tour is heading in the right direction where we can all make a living out here now. I’m hopeful that whatever they are doing it’s going to benefit us bowlers in the long run.”
Wilkins already achieved one milestone in his first full year on the PBA Tour, advancing to his first championship round appearance earlier this season in the Mark Roth-Marshall Holman PBA Doubles Championship with fellow Canadian Patrick Girard. The pair finished in fourth place.
He hopes to make his second show in the coming weeks at the World Series of Bowling in Allen Park, Michigan, but realizes the challenges ahead.
“You have to be mentally strong, and if you had one bad tournament there’s always the next one right after it,” Wilkins said. “One bad tournament is one bad tournament. We all have them. You just have to get back out there and do your thing.”
Live coverage of the World Series of Bowling begins Tuesday on FloBowling with the first round of qualifying for the Cheetah Championship.