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Remembering bowler Barry Gurney one year later: a special, unforgettable man

Barry Gurney was one of the best bowlers to come out of the San Fernando Valley.
Barry Gurney was one of the best bowlers to come out of the San Fernando Valley.
Barry Gurney family

Barry Gurney passed away a year ago – on July 2, 2013. His contributions to the bowling world are immeasurable. This story ran July 3, 2013 and is being re-run in his honor.

Bowling Evolved website host Dustin Markowitz recalls the time he sat down for an interview with talented bowler Barry Gurney two years ago.

“What was supposed to be a 20-minute sit-down turned into an almost three-hour discussion and one that cemented friendship between the two of us,” wrote Markowitz on his Facebook page.

That was typical of Barry Gurney, a man deeply passionate about his sport, of which he was one of the starring performers on the senior professional circuit.

Gurney, one of the preeminent bowlers to come out of the San Fernando Valley, died late Tuesday after a battle with cancer. He was 71.

Gurney, a West Hills resident, was a four-time Professional Bowlers Assn. PBA50 Tour champion who joined the PBA Senior Tour in 1991.

Previously, Gurney worked as a heavy equipment operator for the city of Glendale.

Many of his friends doubted he would succeed in the professional ranks and he often said those skeptics motivated him to undergo lengthy practice sessions.

“They all asked, ‘Why? What are you going to do with the Senior Tour? You’re a good bowler, but you’re not that good,’ ” recounted Gurney a couple of years ago. “I wanted to prove them wrong.

“They pushed me to work on my game and that’s what I did – morning and afternoon – for a solid year and a half. I did really well my first year, winning in Lansing [Michigan] and I had several TV shows [appearances] in which I was in the top five.

“And when I got home, the guys said, ‘I knew you could do it.’ ”

Gurney, a left-hander, won his first Senior Tour title in 1992 in the Lansing (Mich.) PBA Senior Open. He also won the Naples Senior Open in 1994, the Rocky Mountain Open in 1995 and the Boise Open in 1999.

Gurney won three PBA50 Regional titles and one regular PBA Regional title.

He was a longtime competitor on the West Coast Senior Tour, winning 18 titles, which ranks sixth on the all-time list, one fewer than his good friend, Eric Forkel.

“I’ve known him for over 20 years and he was always a great competitor,” said Dick Sanders, the WCST owner and director. “He loved the game and had a great sense of humor. He loved to go to tournaments – just loved to get in the car and travel. That was his cup of tea.”

Sanders added that Gurney bowled back-to-back 300 games in one of his tournaments and had “one of the highest qualifying blocks when he averaged 260.”

That, recalled Sanders, was about two years ago. Gurney competed on the PBA50 Tour as recently as the 2012 season when he bowled in seven tournaments and enjoyed a best finish of 16th in the PBA Senior Northern California Classic, according to the PBA.

Gurney also was a dedicated coach who provided guidance to Valley-area bowlers for 13 years. He once estimated that he had given lessons to more than 1,000 bowlers.

“He loved the game and all the things that went with being a pro,” said Forkel, a co-host of Bowling Evolved. “I have lost a great friend and the bowling world has lost someone who loved to give back with his teachings.”

In the past year, Gurney hooked up with Bowling Evolved and tried to help the fledgling website gain steam as it expanded into organizing bowling tournaments.

Wrote Markowitz: “Barry was really one of those people who just managed to put a smile on your face with his personality and passion for bowling and life. I was a fan of his from his TV appearances and considered it one of the biggest honors of my life to have him not only be willing to bowl under the banner but also for him to publicly support what we were trying to do with the show.

“More importantly, however, I sincerely cherished Barry as a true friend.”

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