You’ve watched the PBA Tour on television. You’ve seen advertisements for regional tournaments that have piqued your interest. Heck, you were the start of your most recent league season, dominating the competition in USBC-sanctioned league play.

You’re a great bowler and you’re ready to take the next step, turning turkeys and high scores into big money on the professional bowling scene. But, how do you make the jump from league bowling standout to PBA membership? How does a player join the PBA and participate in big-money PBA events?

It takes more than a few bowling tips for amateur players to become PBA bowlers. Becoming a professional bowler isn’t guaranteed just because you’ve bowled good games in the past. Full membership for PBA members and access to the best professional tournaments requires you to set yourself apart. And the difference between playing for good cash prizes and contending for a PBA Tour title is the difference between being good at what you do and being great.

So, how exactly does one gain entry into PBA Regional events or a top-tier PBA tour event? We’ll show how many tournaments it takes, the difference between a regular average and a pro-worthy scoring average, and how to turn an investment in bowling balls and other equipment into high-level PBA competition fun!

What does it take to become a pro bowler?

The country you live in will likely determine your path to professional bowling glory. If you’re in Southeast Asia, the Asian Bowling Federation is your best chance to earn money playing the sport you love. If you live in Scotland, the European Tenpin Bowling Federation holds plenty of small tournaments and bigger showcases where the prize money is pretty dang legit.

Yet, the real standard-bearer of professional bowling right now is the Professional Bowling Association. In concert with the United States Bowling Congress, the PBA International imprint brings the very best bowlers from around the world to PBA Regional Tour events and PBA tournaments around the globe.

How does one get accepted into an open PBA Tour event or get invited onto PBA Tours for regular chances at big money? There are a few ways to go about this.

How do you become a PBA member?

Per the official PBA website, there are three routes to joining the PBA. There are as follows:

  • Playing in a PBA Regional tournament and cashing.
  • Posting a 190 average or better in a USBC-certified bowling league, USBC-sanctioned sport league, or PBA Experience League. These leagues use PBA oil patterns and are tougher to consistently post high scoring averages.
  • Posting a 200 average or better in your recent bowling league season with a minimum of 36 games played.

If you’re unfamiliar with the PBA Regional tournament process, you’re not alone! Simply put, it’s the best way for a non-member to go from inconsistent payouts in scratch tournaments to the big time!

Do I have to join the PBA to participate in a PBA tournament?

No! PBA Regional events are full of non-members participating for the opportunity to make money and make the PBA Tour! They come with an entry fee and usually consist of the best non-PBA bowlers in a certain area. The bowlers at the top of the standings are offered the perks of becoming a standard member and plying their trade in the PBA Tour qualifying rounds of upcoming tournaments.

However, you don’t even have to be a PBA member to play in a normal PBA tournament. If you’re invited to play in a PBA Tour event as a non-member, you can cash once per calendar year before you’re required to join the organization. Standard membership is costly and the membership fee coupled with tournament buy-ins will zap the finances of a player who doesn’t cash regularly.

Unless you’re a star like Walter Ray Williams Jr. or Chris Barnes, consider looking for financial backing before you become a full member. Even if a backer is only able to help with a portion of your entry fees, this support will keep you from having to look for odd jobs while you push for your spot at the top of the PBA Tour leaderboard.

What is the average score for professional bowlers?

Professional bowlers bowl on the toughest lane conditions in the bowling world. The complex patterns common in tourneys like the USBC Masters and PBA Tournament of Champions are a real chore to diagnose and approach with confidence.

The best league bowlers would see major drops in their scores on such patterns. However, pro bowlers are the best at what they do. Professional bowlers average 230-240 out of 300 in normal tournament play, give or take a few points based on conditions.

You need good luck and some help from your favorite pro shop to make such an average happen in PBA play. If you can, you’re well on your way to making some serious cash on the lanes.

How much does a pro bowler make?

It depends on the professional bowling league that you’re a part of. Different professional organizations around the world offer different payouts based on everything from entry fees to the notoriety of a particular bowling tournament.

As it is, the top money is different on something like the PBA Senior Tour as it is on the actual PBA Tour itself. Rather than going through each professional organization and looking at the earnings of the members involved, we’ve decided to highlight the PBA Tour. That way, you can know what to expect salary-wise if you’re lucky and good enough to join the best pro bowling organization in the world!

How much money do members of the Professional Bowlers Association make?

The very best bowlers on the PBA Tour clear six figures a year on event earnings alone. However, the entire cache of top earners within the PBA earn an average of $78,500 per year.

PBA bowlers in the 75th percentile of overall earnings earn around $52,000 a year. Bowlers closer to the 25th percentile of total earnings make about $25,000 a calendar year.

All in all, the average PBA bowler makes $42,450 a year. Compared to the average salary of other sports, that may seem a bit low. However, pro bowlers often have multiple sources of income that help them make up for the boom/bust potential of tourney play.

Do pro bowlers have other jobs?

While it’s not exactly covered in the latest PBA newsletter, most pro bowlers have to supplement their PBA Tour income with other jobs.

That might not be the case for the big names who pull in winning and sponsorship deals that total well into six figures, but it’s the reality for most pros who are just starting or are trying to make their mark.

Some combine minor sponsorship deals with side jobs or stakes in a local pro shop. Others seek out scratch tournaments and heads-up cash play to add to their earnings. Becoming a professional bowler doesn’t translate to instant riches, especially in this current climate. Joining the PBA gives you a chance to realize your potential and fight for major money, but it doesn’t guarantee you a comfortable living. If you’re looking to become a PBA bowler, make sure you have contingency plans in places such as financial backing and alternate employment just in case.

Final thoughts on how to become a professional bowler

Are you ready to make a move towards Professional Bowlers Association membership? Becoming a PBA member requires hard work, a financial investment, and a healthy dose of good luck. Now that you have the facts, it’s time to get rolling. PBA Tour success is hard to come by, but it’s worth it once you travel the challenging, bumpy road to get there!