The West Coast Senior Tour may not have returned to its Golden Age, but it’s experiencing a Renaissance of sorts.
Struggling at times for entries last year, the tour is having a strong season attracting bowlers in 2014. Its rebirth was punctuated Aug. 16 when its eighth tournament of the year – at Buena Lanes in Ventura – filled up the 36-player field more than a week before the event.
Bowlers cited the attraction of double-elimination finals in the tournament – the first time the tour has used that format in its 22-year history.
Dick Sanders, the owner and director of the tour, noted the popularity of the double-elimination finals and will now incorporate that format for the tour’s next three tournaments.
The WCST’s eight tournaments in 2014 have drawn 249 entries, an average of more than 30 players per event. Last year the tour lured 390 entrants for 15 events, an average of 26 bowlers.
Sanders (shown in photo) isn’t ready to proclaim the double-elimination a smash success – yet. “You’ve got to give it a chance,” he said.
Sanders also cited his controversial eligibility rule change as a beneficiary for the tour’s number of participants. Now, 60-and-older players are eligible.
Before, bowlers in their 50s were allowed to participate. But last year some of the more senior bowlers balked at bowling against younger colleagues, who often were dominant in tournaments.
The WCST’s apparent rebirth still doesn’t compare with its Golden Age in the mid-1990s. For three straight years (1994-96), the tour averaged more than 100 bowlers a tournament. Sanders said the tour attracted a staggering 233 players to Ventura for one tournament in 1995.
Sanders said his tournaments were two-day affairs in those years, unlike the primarily one-day events now. He also said the tournaments attracted bowlers from Northern and Southern California and Nevada those years. Now, the tour basically gets its players from the Southland and Nevada. “It’s a big difference,” Sanders said.
This month’s Ventura event brought out some noteworthy bowlers, such as Vaughn Doody of Las Vegas. Doody is second all-time in WCST victories with 35 and the second-leading money winner ($92,396), trailing Kevin Gannon of Lakewood in both categories.
Doody is 79.
And Doody, who will turn 80 next month, showed in Ventura that he remains in top form. He averaged 216.5 during his eight-game qualifying round, which placed him 15th. (The top eight qualified for the finals.) He averaged a sterling 233 in his last four games.
“He’s the best bowler in the country for his age [group],” said Sanders of Doody. “He’s in great physical shape.”
The Ventura tournament also lured Woodland Hills’ Rick Auerbach, a former major league baseball player who was competing in his first WCST event. The 64-year-old Auerbach created a stir when he ran off strikes in the first six frames of his sixth game before settling for a powerful 246.
The tour’s strong participation rate this year raises the question: Will the tournament run another 22 years?
Said Sanders: “Absolutely. I’ll be 192 then.”