Top bowling professional Eric Forkel on Sunday had some parting shots at the West Coast Senior Tour’ s new age restrictions on its bowling tournaments for 2014.
Forkel, a resident of Henderson, Nev., and a Van Nuys High graduate, had lashed out last week about the WCST’s decision to limit its tournament players next year to ages 60 and over. This year, players as young as 50 were allowed to compete in most WCST tournaments.
The outspoken Forkel, who turns 53 on Monday, will thus be locked out of 2014 WCST tournaments. The left-handed Forkel has won 19 WCST tournament titles, ranking fifth all time.
Dick Sanders, the owner and tournament director of the WCST, said Saturday that the decision to ban the 50-to-59-year-old group wasn’t “done to punish them. It was just because we didn’t get their support.”
Bill Stempke of Burbank, in his 70s, readily applauded Sanders’ decision, saying he didn’t want to compete against players in their 50s like Forkel and Ron Mohr, a two-time PBA50 player of the year who recently competed in his first WCST tournament.
Mohr was the top qualifier en route to finishing second in Henderson. Stempke, who has won a WCST tournament title, finished a close ninth out of 25 entrants during the qualifying in Henderson. The top eight qualifiers advanced to the finals.
Said Forkel on Sunday: “Every good bowler I know loved the challenge of competing against better players in hopes of raising their game to the next level so they could be better bowlers overall.
“It’s what drove me back in the day in Southern California and pushed me out onto the pro tour. And when I was fortunate enough to be able to compete at that level, it felt great.
“In this club, where a lot of these 60-and-over bowlers are trying to do is by eliminating the 50-59 players is to lower the talent level of the organization so they don’t have to improve their games or accept what level of a bowler they truly are.
“By saying that if guys like Ron Mohr, Eric Forkel or Darron Peters bowl, it’s not fair and ‘I won’t bowl because I can’t compete,’ they are expecting Dick Sanders to ruin the respectability of the WCST!”
In any event, Forkel said he would take part in the WCST’s final event of the season – on Dec. 7-8 in Laughlin, Nev. That tournament will be open to bowlers 50 and over and will have an increased payoff for top finishers. The entry fee is $200.
More than 60 bowlers have already indicated their interest to take part in the Laughlin tournament. Last year Don Blatchford of Santa Monica bowled a perfect game in the finals en route to winning the Super Senior championship of the WCST event in Laughlin, pocketing $1,500. Forty-seven bowlers took part in the tournament.
Said Forkel: “I will bowl my last WCST in December and do my best to go out like a champion and just win the darn thing. That would be a fitting way to end my WCST career . . . or I should say my WCST-taken-away-from-me career!”
Forkel made it clear that while he’s vocal about his displeasure about the WCST’s age change, he’s not bitter.
“I have known Dick for almost 10 years now,” Forkel said, “and although I totally disagree with his latest move, I do wish him and the rest of the bowlers all the best.”