As pro bowler Walter Ray Williams Jr. attempts to win probably the senior tour’s top tournament, he enters this week with plenty on his mind.
His stature is secure as one of the greatest players ever on the PBA Tour, and at age 53 he is building a similar resume on the renamed PBA50 Tour.
Though Williams is one of two current bowlers to compete full time on both tours — Pete Weber is the other — he soon might be pursuing titles only on the AARP-eligible circuit.
Williams’ game has slipped on the main tour, and he knows age is no friend in his efforts to return to being competitive.
“I realize that the young players are very good,” he said. “I’m just not doing what I need to do. I need to get my game up to where I can be competitive on the regular tour, because if I’m not able to be competitive, I really don’t want to bowl on the national tour.”
Williams is playing in the Suncoast PBA Senior U.S. Open, which begins today. The stepladder finals are Friday.
Weber, a rookie on the senior tour and a PBA Hall of Famer, will not compete at the Suncoast because of a hand injury. His absence creates more of an opportunity for Williams, a member of the PBA and U.S. Bowling Congress halls of fame.
Williams, the senior tour’s reigning player of the year, is leading the season points standings, boosted by his victory April 23 at The Villages, Fla.
Despite his success against fellow seniors, the same can’t be said for the man known as “Deadeye” on the younger circuit.
It didn’t used to be this way, of course. Some consider Williams to be bowling’s best ever, and his accuracy has seldom been questioned.
Williams — also a member of the horseshoes Hall of Fame and a 3-handicap golfer — holds 47 career titles with more than $4 million in earnings. He has been Player of the Year a record seven times.
But the past two years haven’t been as kind. Williams’ 17-year streak of recording at least one PBA Tour victory ended in the 2010-11 season. Then the following season, he failed to make the final of a TV show for the first time in 26 years.
He at least broke through to make the TV final at the World Series of Bowling Chameleon Championship on Nov. 11 at the South Point, finishing third, but isn’t under any illusions the player-of-the-year glory days are one tournament victory away from returning.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever be where I want to be on the national tour because of all the success I’ve had in the past, realizing that those days are probably gone,” Williams said. “There’s no reason I can’t be a lot more competitive than I have been. It’s been really disappointing the last few years. It’s hard to say exactly what it is.”
Maybe this week, though, Williams will show he’s still the player to beat on the senior tour. But even there, he believes he has something to prove, if even to himself.
“Even though I’ve had some success on the senior tour this year, I don’t feel I’m bowling as well as I’m capable of,” Williams said. “I’ve had quite a few moments where it’s just not where I want to be. I probably need to step it up a little bit these next couple of weeks.”
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.