Sonnenfeld Soars to 900
On February 2, 1997, University of Nebraska sophomore Jeremy Sonnenfeld had as good a day as you can have in a bowling alley. The 20–year old Sonnenfeld bowled three consecutive 300 games over six lanes in the Junior Husker Tournament at Sun Valley Lanes in Lincoln, Neb. Sonnenfeld had rolled four previous 300 games and had a previous series high of 826. The previous three game mark was held by three different bowlers at 899. Two other bowlers had ripped off three 300 games in a row but those games did not count as 900 series because they were rolled in separate squads during tournament play.
So, on February 8 in a special ceremony in Huntsville, Alabama, American Bowling Congress president Walt Roberson presented the first-ever 900 series award to Sonnenfeld, a native of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Sonnenfeld, a collegiate all-American bowler, has set a new standard for everyone. Unlike other college athletes, there was no controversy over whether or not Sonnenfeld would leave school early and turn pro.
On the pro circuit, 1997 was marked by the outstanding play of three bowlers: Parker Bohn, Walter Ray Williams Jr., and Pete Weber. In the end, Williams, with three victories and over $300,000 in winnings seemed like the player of the year. Bohn and Weber each won more than a quarter of a million dollars and two tournaments.
Despite the excellent seasons enjoyed by these three players, the three major bowling tournaments played in 1997 were won by three other bowlers. The PBA National Championship was won by Rick Steelsmith. John Gant took the Brunswick World Tournament of Champions and Jason Queen was victorious in the ABC Masters Torunament. Because of scheduling conflicts and other unexplained phenomena, the fourth major bowling championship, the BPAA U.S. Open, was not held in 1997. Try to imagine a golf season with no British Open and you will see where bowling fits in with the other major sports. On the bright side, ESPN and CBS came through with major television contracts for the PBA after ABC chose to end its 36-year relationship with professional bowling.
On the Ladies Professional Bowler's Tour, the BPAA U.S. Open also fell victim to the small-time atmosphere that bowling must some day address. In the majors that were played, Sandra Jo Odom won the WIBC Queens, Carol Gianotii-Block took the Sam's Town Invitational and Donna Adamek won the WBPA National Championship.
And while she did not win one of the big tournaments, the outstanding LBPT player in 1997 was Wendy Macpherson who won more than $130,000 in prize money to set a new earnings standard. Macpherson won 4 tournaments and bowled two 300 games. Liz Johnson also had a fine year, winning three tournaments.