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THE PROFESSIONAL Bowlers Association is returning to Western New York with a $25,000 regional tournament at Tonawanda Bowling Center on June 23-25.

Tonawanda proprietor Len Pimm hopes to have a field of about 250 on what will be an open date for PBA regulars and members of the East and Headquarters (Midwest) regions.

The tournament will include a Pro-Am on Friday, a qualifying round on Saturday and most likely a 16-man, round-robin final on Sunday. There is no stepladder final scheduled at this time, but that is subject to change.

Due to the lack of a sponsor, there has not been a PBA event on the Niagara Frontier since the last of three Senior/Touring Pros Doubles events in 1991 at Thruway Lanes.

"We've been working on this for over a year," Pimm said. "Having it early in the summer will be good for us because there isn't a lot of activity at that time.

"I think the solution is to have a lot of sponsors and I have some tentative commitments. I'm not looking for a main sponsor at this time. Our goal is to promote bowling and I'll be meeting with other proprietors. We want to expose pro bowing to the Buffalo community again and we want (the pro tour) to come back. Absolutely, we want this area to be a regular stop."

While the minimum first place payout is $3,500, PBA East Region director Chuck Pezzano said he hoped the TBC event will pay $4,000 or more. "We are the largest region with over 700 members," Pezzano said. "We expect to have a good tournament at Tonawanda. We've been to Syracuse and Rochester before but not to Buffalo. If a PBA member wants to bowl that weekend, Buffalo will be the place.

"One reason we haven't been in your area before is because the regular tour was there for so many years (dating from 1962). We didn't want to compete against ourselves."

Pimm said he hopes his marketing background will help the venture.

"Our experience with TV (he produces two bowling shows for area cable TV) should help us," he said. "This will be a really good test for us. We hope it shows Western New York is a viable spot for the national tour."

The Pro-Am will play a big part in promoting the weekend. Pimm sees it as an opportunity for average bowlers to have a good time and rub elbows with the pros.

"Bowling and golf (pro-ams) are really the best opportunities for the fans to get close to the action, to have some fun," he said.

Pezzano said the quality of regional pros is very high but many of the names are unfamiliar simply because they haven't made national telecasts. There are many regional members "who want to be weekend pros and make just two or three national stops," he said. "Some don't like to do a lot of traveling or be away from home that much. The regional program is right for them."

Healey, Johnson strike

The dynamic duo from Niagara Falls, Pat Healey Jr. and Liz Johnson, the reigning U.S. Amateur champions, returned from the Pan Am Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina, as Masters champions.

Healey won three gold medals (doubles, team and Masters) and a silver (singles) and Johnson earned a gold (Masters) and silver (team).

The Masters field included the top 16 in all-events scoring from singles, doubles and team in a round-robin format. Healey surged from fifth after eight games to first after four games of the second eight-game block. He was first entering the position round and won by more than 50 pins. Having won the event in 1991 in Havana, Healey is the first to successfully defend the Masters title.

"I'm extremely pleased and thrilled," Healey said. "I averaged about 216-217 and the next high was about 206. I was happy with my execution and reaction to the conditions."

Palumbo presides over ABC

Buffalo Bowling Association executive director Ben Palumbo will assume the presidency of the American Bowling Congress on May 1 after being confirmed to the post at the ABC Convention in Reno, Nev., last week.

The installation of Palumbo as the ABC's 82nd president will be held June 10 at the Radisson Hotel in Cheektowaga.

Palumbo is the fifth ABC president from Buffalo, following John T. Smith (1920-22), H. William Pollack, ('30-32), George A. Obenauer ('52-53) and Charles Roesch ('79-80). He has been active on nearly every ABC committee, an ABC board member for 20 years.

BBA's Wybieracki mourned

The BBA lost a valued associate and longtime volunteer in Vince Wybieracki, who died at age 76 on March 12.

A member of the BBA's Hall of Fame, Wybieracki was a member of the BBA's board of directors since 1973, holding virtually every office including vice president in 1980-81 and president in 1983-84. He was to be honorary chairman of Palumbo's installation celebration.

Wybieracki supervised bowling for the Youth Department of the Diocese of Buffalo for three decades and was the Buffalo Area Bowling Council's man of the year in 1986.

Manor takes the lead

With two weeks left, Manor Lanes has taken a 3 1/2 -point lead over first-half champion Allie Brandt in the Bowling Proprietors Association All-Star League.

The All-Stars are off today because the World Team Challenge is at Thruway. When they resume April 1 at 3 p.m. at Abbott, Manor will meet Tonawanda and Brandt faces South Transit. April 8 is the position round at Brandt Lanes with the roll-off between the first half and second-half champions to follow.

Binghamton cashes

Now there are two big money tournaments in the Binghamton area.

Jack Rosencrance is tournament director for the Ideal Open at Ideal Lanes in Endicott. Dates are today, Sunday and March 31-April 2. First place is $12,000. Call 607-754-6337 9 a.m. to noon and 607-748-3546 noon to 9 p.m.

Former Ideal Open director Rich Bennett now is running the Bowlers Network Open at Mid-Way Lanes in Vestal, April 1, 8 and 9. Bennett is offering $15,000 first prize. Call 607-785-3798 before 10 p.m. Some Buffalo area centers have forms for the two events.

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