When Wayne Webb won the Senior Masters bowling tournament last year, he brought the trophy and title of PBA Senior Player of the Year back home to Columbus.
He brought home the tournament, too.
Webb will try to defend his title at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl, which he recently purchased. The United States Bowling Congress-sanctioned tournament will return to the Midwest for the first time in 14 years. Multiple locations in Nevada and Arizona have taken turns playing host to the event since then.
The Senior Masters is a major tournament on the senior bowling circuit, which is open to bowlers 50 and older. Competition begins today with a junior pro-am; action gets serious on Monday and continues through Friday night.
“We had been getting quite a bit of negative publicity saying, ‘How come you never run anything east of the Mississippi?’ ” he said.
Looking down the entry list, Hagen said plenty of big West Coast names are missing but Eastern newcomers are taking their places. The tournament expects up to 260 entries — slightly down from last year — but hitting a new demographic is more important.
“We’ve changed the population mix, which maybe in the long run will help,” he said.
The idea for the relocation came during a chat Hagen had with Webb’s wife, Elaine, at last year’s tournament. The Webbs’ recent investment in a bowling center in central Ohio came up, and they discussed the possibility of hosting a USBC tournament.
“She put the bug in his ear,” said Wayne Webb, 53.
Webb, a USBC and PBA Hall of Famer who owns 20 titles on the PBA Tour and five more on the Senior Tour, bought Rainbow Lanes at 3224 S. High St. in April 2010. Since then, he has pumped about $1 million into renovations to get the 48-lane center up to speed for the tournament.
“For the people who remember the Rainbow, it doesn’t look anything like it now,” Webb said. “We couldn’t have hosted anything here without all the changes. It needed some love and attention.”
Finishing the face-lift meant working right up to the beginning of the Senior Masters for Webb. Though all the major jobs — such as replacing the bar and installing new carpet — were finished, dozens of smaller tasks still needed attention.
Finding time to roll the ball for himself became nearly impossible between re-sanding and coating lanes.
“Hosting it and trying to bowl, it doesn’t work,” Webb said. “With everything I’ve been trying to do to make the tournament as perfect as it can be, practice is out of the picture.”
For most bowlers, three games over the course of a month could leave worrisome rust, but Webb said he thinks he’ll do fine. He’s excited to get a chance to stop playing remodeler and get back to playing the game.
“I haven’t even been able to think about that yet,” he said. “When the pro-am starts (today), we’re not going to be worrying anymore. It’s going to become relax time.”