In Their Words is a weekly feature appearing Sundays in The Blade's sports section. Blade sports reporter Mark Monroe talked with former professional bowler Don Genalo, who won six Professional Bowlers Association national titles. Genalo, who has lived in Perrysburg for 21 years, won 12 total PBA titles. He competed against and became friends with legends such as Earl Anthony and Marshall Holman during the booming years of bowling.
The bowling trophies were always nice, but PBA veteran Don Genalo is most pleased with his very own trading card complete with stats on the back.
"I thought that was just great," Genalo said. "I wish it would have caught on."
Genalo, 48, has not bowled full time on the PBA tour in 15 years, but is always eager to talk about the sport he was born into and parlayed into a 10-year pro career.
Genalo was born into a bowling family in 1958 in Long Island, N.Y. His father, Joe, was a high-end bowler who toured New York state, but died when Genalo was just 5.
Genalo, who is ranked among the top 50 pros on the all-time PBA money list, won six national PBA titles while bowling full time on the tour from 1981-
1991. He also rolled eight perfect games on the national tour.
Genalo made 23 appearances on national television and had a record of 21-17. He averaged 220.9 while bowing on TV. Genalo's highest average on tour was 211.12 in 1982.
The right-hander bowled four years for Robert Morris College in Pittsburgh. He won his first PBA title in 1983 and his last came in 1986.
Genalo met his wife, Mary, at Imperial Lanes during the PBA National Championship in 1983. Don married the Bowling Green native in 1985. They reside in Perrysburg and have two daughters. Anne Genalo is a freshman at Xavier University and Laura is a sophomore at Perrysburg High School.
Genalo opened a pro shop at Southwyck Lanes in 1989 and later moved it to Ottawa Lanes. He is now an insurance salesman.
Genalo no longer competes in PBA events, but continues to be one of the top bowlers in the area's most competitive league, the Men's Traveling Classic.
"THE BEST BOWLER I EVER SAW was Earl Anthony. Earl and I talked a lot. I beat him the first time we bowled against each other, but then he beat me every time after that.
"MARSHALL HOLMAN had a bad reputation among the people because they thought he had an attitude problem. He had a temper on the lanes. But he was one of the nicest people out there. We got to be good friends and played a lot of golf together. When I made my first show at Buckeye Lanes in North Olmstead, he was a big star and I was a kid starting out. But he congratulated me and we struck up a conversation. He told me to have a glass of wine or two to relax the night before the show. He told me that there was a Three Stooges marathon on that night and told me to watch it to relax. The next day we were talking about the Three Stooges on the show. He befriended me and took time to help some unknown kid.
"I DON'T THINK THERE is such a thing as a natural-born bowler. I've just always been around it and I've loved doing it. I grew up in a little six-lane alley. My parents [Joe and Lorraine] were both good bowlers. My dad traveled all around New York. I still have a bunch of clippings and an old trophy. They both died when I was young. But my mom taught me a lot. My two older brothers [Joe and Larry] both were very good and they taught me a lot, too. I won my first tournament when I was 7 or 8 years old. It was a junior doubles tournament. I just remember the trophy had two bowlers on it. When it was handed to me, I wanted to get another one.
"THERE WAS A TOURNAMENT in Long Island where the winner earned a spot in the pro stop. That was 1981 and I hadn't turned 23 yet. I was not bowling well at the time, but a local gentleman thought I was the best guy in the area and even paid the entry fee for me. I was immature at the time and was drinking a lot. I had a long beard and I was looking a little raggedy. His only condition was to stay away from the beer. So I took it seriously and I went out and cleaned up and I buried them. Then I cashed in the PBA event. I finished 42nd out of a field of 192. That's when I decided I really wanted to be a pro. I had always dreamed of it, watching the guys on TV. That convinced me to send in my application and to give it a try.
"I GOT TO BOWL with a lot of my idols like Dave Davis, Earl Anthony and Johnny Petraglia. I made my first TV show at North Olmstead, Ohio in April of '82. That was nerve-racking. I remember my brother Joe said my eyes were as big as pie plates. He didn't think I had a chance. But I actually bowled really well. I almost had to bowl against Earl Anthony, but Art Trask beat me. I started off with a double and I thought 'Wow, I just started with a double on national TV.' But the nerves got the best of me. I think I bowled 210. I won about $31,000 that first year. That was good money.
"IN 1983, I MET MY WIFE at Imperial Lanes. I was bowling in the PBA National. I had made the show in Vegas the week before and Mary [Whitacre] recognized me. She just came up to me and said 'Hey, Don.' I asked her out and we ended up having a long-distance relationship. I won the very next week, so she was obviously good luck. But I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer and it took me two years to finally marry her.
"MY BEST BOWLING MEMORY would be a tie - making my first show and my first victory. My first win was in Kansas in 1983. I hadn't bowled that well all week. I got off to a terrible start during the show and I thought maybe next time I make TV, I'll bowl better. But as the show went on I got better and somehow I ended up winning.
"WHEN I WAS BOWLING WELL, I use to always wear a navy blue shirt with gray pants. That's what I wore during most of my shows. If I was having trouble, I'd wear black on black. I think it was an anger thing.
"I WOULD SAY I was a stroker. I did not have that big powerful hook. My balls were always straight, end over end.
"THE LANE CONDITIONS are too easy right now. There's less emphasis on ability and more emphasis on scoring. The PBA is doing it also. Not to take away from these guys, they are great bowlers. But they're not that much better than guys like Mark Roth. I think the high scores are why bowling has declined. There are a lot centers that are struggling now because of it.
"I THINK THE PEOPLE OF TOLEDO got the short end of the stick from the PBA. It's a shame this area had to lose the PBA. This was always one of the biggest draws and the biggest pro-am. I made the telecast twice at Imperial Lanes at the National Championship in 1988 and 1990. It was fun to bowl in front of the home crowd. The support was incredible.''
Contact Mark Monroe at: email@example.com or 419-724-6110.