The three-day South Region tournament will begin Friday at Cherokee Lanes on Marietta Highway, just south of Cherokee High School. It will consist of a pro-am Friday, followed by a two-day professional tournament Saturday and Sunday.
Walter Ray Williams Jr., the PBA’s all-time leader in tournament wins, leads a group of pros slated to attend the event, along with Dick Allen, Jason Sterner and Rhino Page. Canton’s Stoney Baker, winner of 22 regional titles and the owner of Cherokee Lanes, will also compete.
The pro-am will begin at 6 p.m. Friday, with another round at 8 p.m., and will have junior, adult and senior divisions. It will consist of three games of bowling in a no-tap format, which means that knocking down nine pins on the first bowl counts as a strike.
In each game, the amateur will be paired with a different pro, and the team with the highest combined total at the end of Friday night will be crowned the winners.
The senior and adult divisions, which cost $40 to enter, will pay out $300 to the winners. The junior division, which costs $25 to enter, will provide a $250 scholarship to the top male and female finishers.
The pro-am, according to Cherokee Lanes manager Daniel West, usually sees a large turnout, and he expects this year to be no different.
“There are so many people that come out,” West said. “We have people come from Macon, Athens and all over Georgia. It can get a bit hectic at points (since) it’s so crowded, but everyone has a lot of fun.”
“It’s always special for the locals to get to bowl with the pros,” Baker added. “It’s not something that happens very often.”
After the pro-am is complete, the regional tournament will begin at around 9 a.m. Saturday, with the pros split into two squads and bowling eight games a piece.
The highest scoring half of the field will advance and play five games Sunday morning. The top 16 scorers of Sunday’s group will then enter into match play until a winner is crowned.
For Baker, who is entering his 24th year as a pro, having the tournament take place at the bowling alley he owns makes the difficult task of winning the tournament even tougher.
“There is a lot going on, and, as the owner, you want it to work,” Baker said. “It makes it harder to focus. Also, playing in front of the local fans adds a bit more pressure as well.”
Whether or not Baker wins, he knows that the fans in attendance will be entertained, especially with Williams as a part of the field.
“It’s going to be special having him here,” Baker said of Williams, a seven-time PBA player of the year between 1986 and 2010. “The fans love him being here. In my opinion, he is the greatest bowler of all time.”
Fans will have a chance to learn from Williams after the tournament’s conclusion, when the PBA great hosts a bowling clinic Sunday at 4 p.m. The clinic comes with a $50 entry fee.