Bowler likes guiding ball more than jets

Standing on the approach with 11 strikes behind you and a perfect game just 60 feet away is a pressure-packed situation.

It’s nothing for Kerry Painter.

For him, pressure was having 40 commercial jets in line waiting to take off, with scores more inbound.

It isn’t often when someone finds relaxation as a professional athlete.

Painter, 54, can smile today when he drives from his home in Henderson and sees planes approaching and departing McCarran International Airport.

He worked at McCarran as an air traffic controller for seven years before retiring in August. He’d already logged 18 stressful years directing aircraft before moving to Las Vegas in 2000.

“I’d rather deal with getting that 12th strike than what I was handling at the airport,” said Painter, who joined the Professional Bowlers Association earlier this year.

“Trust me, you’re in a pressure-cooker all day long, especially at (McCarran),” he said Monday before his opening qualifying round of the PBA Senior Open at the Suncoast.

“Bowling is much more relaxing.”

A lifelong bowler, the right-hander moved to Southern Nevada partially to live in the hub of the country’s major “big money” amateur tournaments.

“This is a dream come true for me,” he said of bowling with some of the sport’s greatest names.

“Johnny Petraglia was one pair (of lanes) over from me (on Monday). Tom Baker, Mark Roth, Dave Ozio …. these guys were my childhood heros, even though I’m close to their ages. Now I compete against them.

“I love those guys to death.”

Painter has competed in five of this year’s six PBA Senior events and led the first two after early qualifying rounds. He’s cashed in each tournament he’s played to post season earnings of $4,400, 16th in the standings.

“You want to make money out here, and so far I’m ahead,” he said. “I’d go play golf if I wasn’t making money.

“It’s like a job, but it’s fun.”

Painter ranks 31st with a 218 average over 73 games on challenging PBA lane conditions.

Painter totaled 1,329 pins in six games Monday to stand 37th among 290 bowlers. Kevin Croucher of Grants Pass, Ore., was in first at 1,421.

The second round of qualifying is from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. today. The tournament continues through Friday.

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