Some top bowling talent converged on South Florida from July 28 through Aug. 3 for the 51st Lee Evans Tournament of The Americas at Strikers Lanes in Sunrise.
The week-long event featured national teams from the Americas (North, South and Central and the Caribbean). Approximately 140 bowlers — adults, seniors, super seniors and juniors age 12-15 and 16-19 — represented Aruba, the Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Curacao, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, the United States and Venezuela.
The draw included national and international stars like Colombia’s Manuel Otalora and Andres Gomez (both on the PBA Tour) and Team USA’s Dana Mackie-Miller, Paula Vidad, Char Hammel, Steve Smith and Eddie Vandaniker. Junior bowlers, who medaled at the prestigious American Zone Junior Tournament the previous week in Puerto Rico, also participated.
Competition involved singles, doubles, mixed doubles and team (two men and two women).
The tournament was the brainchild of the late Lee Evans, who was the news-bureau director for the City of Miami. He wanted to unite the Americas (North, South and Central and the Caribbean) through an amateur bowling tournament.
“It was an impossible dream as no one thought this tournament would start at all, because bowling was a recreational sport in Central and South America back then,” said Paulette Watson, the third director in the tournament’s history. “Bowling is now a major sport in Central and South America, and they keep coming here.”
The inaugural Tournament of The Americas started with 16 players from 10 countries, counting a Miami man and woman who represented “Free Cuba.” Canada, Peru and Nicaragua were represented by one male bowler each. Guatemala, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, the United States and Chile each had one man and one woman, with Honduras represented by one female bowler.
That historic debut tournament occurred at Cloverleaf Lanes in North Dade County, where it continued to grow until those lanes closed in 2004. The tournament moved to Fort Lauderdale for three years, then Orlando the next three and returned to South Florida in 2011.
“I never thought it would go 51 years. No one did,” Watson said, “but it’s the oldest tournament of its kind, and we continue to bring in the best of the best.”
There were various divisions (juniors, adults, seniors, super seniors) with bowlers rolling individual and team competitions.
Team USA’s Pete Thomas of Oklahoma City bowled a 300 in the first game of the tournament. What a way to start. He became the second senior to bowl a perfect game in the tournament’s history en route to winning multiple gold medals in the Senior Division.
Pete Thomas YouTube interview on the Jim Varsallone (the jimmyv3 channel)
Brittni Hamilton, also of Team USA, was outstanding winning six medals (four gold, one silver, one bronze) in the Adult Division.
Brittni Hamilton YouTube interview on the Jim Varsallone (the jimmyv3 channel)
Josie Earnest, Ed Roberts and Steve Smith also won multiple medals to help lead Team USA.
Earnest and Hamilton were highly-decorated teammates on the Vanderbilt University women’s bowling team. Bowling is a scholarship sport for women at various colleges throughout the United States.