Column: There's A Different Feel At 2021 PBA Tournament Of Champions

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JUPITER, Fla. – Walking through Bowlero Jupiter you recognize nearly every face you see – well maybe every pair of eyes you see – at the 2021 PBA Tournament of Champions. Some are old. Some are new. All are talented.

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In the waning months (hopefully) of the coronavirus pandemic, the TOC has a vastly different yet familiar feel. There are no fans. Everyone is wearing masks. But the goal remains the same – to win the title and $100,000 first-place prize.

The small 64-player field is filled with players with something still to prove. Whether it’s winning their first national title like AJ Johnson or Brad Miller or trying to miraculously win a fourth TOC title at age 51 like Jason Couch, hoping to show he can still compete at this level.

It’s the first time this group of players have all been in once place to compete in a national PBA Tour event since this pandemic moved into high gear.

During the World Series of Bowling in March, the world seemingly came to a screeching halt mid-event and sent the players scattering for the safety of their homes. Now, they are simply ready to get back to normal, whatever that is.

Although the 2021 PBA Players Championship offered us an opportunity to watch some of the sport’s brightest stars over the past month, qualifying took place across the country. That felt good but it also felt different.

The TOC offers the unique opportunity for bowling fans at home to watch legends of the game competing with players in their prime and those aspiring to reach the next level.

The field is full of PBA Hall of Famers who will no doubt be dominating the PBA50 Tour in short order this year. Chris Barnes, Parker Bohn III, Couch, Norm Duke, Pete Weber and Walter Ray Williams Jr. are all hoping to add just one more major to their resume.

Then there are the players who we almost expect to make the show at a major like this – Jason Belmonte, Bill O’Neill, EJ Tackett, Sean Rash, Jesper Svensson and Anthony Simonsen to name a few.

In all 47 of the 64 players in the field hold at least one national title. The other 17 players, all of whom advanced through the PTQ on Monday, hold at least one regional or PBA50 title.

Among them is Tim Mack, who for a long time was one of the best bowlers in the entire world as he chose to be a globetrotting amateur instead of joining the PBA Tour. Now, he wants to prove he can win on the PBA Tour. He’ll have his chance this week.

There are so many players with such different reasons for wanting to win. Some are old. Some are new. All are hungry.

Lucas Wiseman is the senior editor of FloBowling. He has covered bowling around the world for more than two decades. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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