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Getting by on the PBA Tour

Bothell's Mitch Beasley, who is in his second season on the pro bowlers tour, isn't making the big money -- yet -- but he's having fun criss-crossing the country and making a living taking down pins

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By Rich Myhre
Herald Writer
  • Professional bowler Mitch Beasley, of Bothell, puts in three to four hours of practice a day on his off days.

    Photo Courtesy of PBA

    Professional bowler Mitch Beasley, of Bothell, puts in three to four hours of practice a day on his off days.

Being a professional athlete usually means living the good life. For many it means a prodigious income, celebrity status and all the other glitz associated with success and stardom.
But for Mitch Beasley of Bothell, who's starting his second full season on the PBA Tour, it's not quite like that.
Although he has a degree of fame in bowling circles, Beasley can walk unrecognized almost anywhere. He doesn't own a garage full of sports cars and various vacation properties around the world. And he doesn't travel from tournament to tournament in a posh chartered jet.
No, Beasley travels by car with Craig Tuholski, a fellow bowler, during the tour's six-month schedule, which allows them to share expenses. When they can, they stay with friends on the road to save hotel costs. And they check menu prices before choosing a restaurant.
"If you're a professional bowler, you're not making the kind of money that a professional golfer and (other athletes) do," said Beasley, who had $39,748 in official tour earnings last season. "So you're not staying at a five-star hotel every weekend and eating huge luxurious meals of steak and lobster unless you want to go broke in a hurry."
Top tour players might make a few hundred thousand dollars a year, plus another $100,000 or so in endorsements, but the money tapers off quickly from there. Beasley was 33rd in earnings as a PBA Tour rookie, and that finish allowed him to keep his exempt status this season but certainly didn't bring prosperity.
"If you're winning, it can be lucrative," said Beasley, who has two sponsors this year, which helps pad his income. "If you're winning $50,000 or $100,000 two or three weeks a year, then you're making a good living. But if you're not winning and if you're just grinding from week to week, it's not lucrative."
Beasley, who turns 40 on Nov. 25, grew up in Mississippi and then spent the 20 years after high school in the Air Force. He was assigned to Seattle for his last two years in the service and has called Bothell home for three years, even though he rents his house because he's on the road so much.
"I'm a little fortunate because I have my military retirement check," he said, "so it's not hurting me as much as some of the other people. But if you're barely making a living and trying to stay on tour, it's tough."
He took up bowling while stationed in Germany early in his Air Force career because "it rained for six months straight. I was used to being outside, playing tennis and fishing and stuff, but it was cold and drizzly, and I didn't know what to do. So I started bowling because you could do that all the time in Germany."
Beasley was always a good athlete -- he was once a scratch golfer, but rarely plays anymore -- and he took to bowling right away. After returning to the United States in his early 20s, he started entering regional pro tournaments and won on his third try.
Though he was in and out of the country over the next several years because of his military assignments, he continued to play and compete. A few years ago he won a regional tour in the southwest United States, which gave him exempt status on the PBA Tour, although his exemption was deferred for one year so he could complete his Air Force career.
Beasley was discharged in October of 2007, and a week later started on the PBA Tour.
"I'm enjoying it," he said. "Last year was a good learning experience for me, and now I need to take that experience and use it this year. I need to try to get into the top 15 and win some titles, and get in a position to start making some real money instead of just barely making a living."
While living in Bothell, Beasley got to know Matt Surina, who runs the pro shop at Everett's Evergreen Lanes and is a former PBA Tour bowler himself.
Beasley "is just a great bowler," Surina said. "He rolls the ball so smooth. Every shot is the same, one shot to the next."
Bowlers, like golfers, need to be able to execute various shots and Beasley has a full arsenal. He has a terrific hook -- a right-to-left shot by a right-handed bowler -- "and he's accurate when he does it," Surina said. "And he can also go straight. … He might be weak in something, but I don't know what it would be."
Beasley is trying to build on the success of his first pro season by continuing to improve his game. Though some tour players skip practice on their off days, he usually puts in three or four hours "because I want to win. I don't want to be a guy who's struggling to stay on tour," he said.
"My biggest thing is staying healthy because I plan on doing this until my body says no. And if I stay healthy and keep working and keep getting better, I feel like I'm going to win several titles. I wouldn't have left the Air Force if I didn't think I could compete with these guys and that I could win."
Beasley says he has two goals in bowling. The first is to win at least one PBA Tour Player of the Year award. The other is to get into the tour's Hall of Fame, which happens when a player wins 10 tournaments.
"There will be hiccups along the way where sometimes you're bowling really bad," he said. "But there are other times you're bowling really good. And for me it's just a matter of getting better, and of learning and doing what I need to do to win."
Story tags » Bowling

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