Walter Ray Williams Jr.
Williams in 2016
|Born||October 6, 1959|
San Jose, California
|Height||6 ft 2 in (188 cm)|
|Sport||Ten-pin bowling, Horseshoes|
|League||PBA, NHPA World Tournament|
|Turned pro||1970 (horseshoes)|
|Achievements and titles|
|National finals||47 PBA Tour (8 majors)|
12 PBA50 Tour (2 majors)
9 World Horseshoes
Walter Ray Williams Jr. (born October 6, 1959) is an American professional bowler and competitive horseshoes pitcher. He currently holds the record for all-time standard PBA Tour career titles (47) and total PBA earnings (over $4.5 million through the 2015 season). He is a seven-time PBA Player of the Year, and won at least one PBA Tour title in 17 consecutive seasons (1993 through 2009-10); both of these feats are also PBA records. He starred in the ten-pin bowling sports documentary A League of Ordinary Gentlemen. He is currently active on both the PBA Tour and the PBA50 Tour (formerly PBA Senior Tour), and has won 14 titles (three majors) on the PBA50 Tour. This ties Williams with John Handegard for the most career PBA50 titles, making him the all-time titles leader on both the PBA and PBA50 Tours.
On December 18, 2016, Williams became the first player in history to reach 100 total PBA titles (combined PBA Tour, PBA Regional Tour, PBA50 Tour, PBA50 Regional Tour). The total is now 112 as of May 2019.
Williams is a seven-time PBA Player of the Year (1986, '93, '96, '97, '98, 2003, 2010) which is one more than Earl Anthony for the most Player of the Year awards. He has won a record eight Bowling Writers Bowler of the Year awards and is also the all-time leading money winner on the PBA Tour. He has the most PBA money titles (seven). He was the first bowler in history to surpass $2 million in career earnings, achieving this in 1997. With his win in the 2003 U.S. Open, he also became the first $3 million career winner. He became the first (and so far only) $4 million career winner in 2008. Williams also has the highest monetary winnings in a single season, with $419,700 during the 2002–03 PBA season.
On September 24, 2006, Williams eclipsed Earl Anthony's then-recognized career record of 41 PBA regular tour titles with his 42nd win at the Dydo Japan Cup over Pete Weber in a 289–236 single game pinfall. [Note: Anthony's title count was amended to 43 in 2008, when the PBA chose to include ABC Masters titles earned by a PBA member as PBA Tour titles.] Williams has been known as "Deadeye" in PBA fan circles, but he actually first got the nickname in horseshoes, when he threw 45 ringers out of a possible 50 in a junior tournament when he was 10 years old. He is known for several PBA achievements:
- Record highest season spare percentage (88.16%, 655/743; 2004–05) and single-pin conversion percentage (100%, 475/475; 2005–06)
- Second-best strike (68.21) percentage and match play average (235.23).
- Record number of career television appearances (182 through 2012), most television appearances in a season (15 in 1993), most consecutive television appearances 5 (2x; 2000, 2001), and most consecutive seasons making at least one television appearance (26)
- Most final match appearances (92, through the 2009-10 season)
- Most games bowled in one season (1300 in 1993)
- Second-highest pinfall in a nine-game series (2,367 in Tucson, AZ, 2004; broken by Eugene McCune's 2,468 pins in 2010)
- Tied for most 300 games in one tournament (4; Mechanicsburg, PA, 1993)
- Eight-time winner of the George Young High Average Award and Harry Smith Points Leader Award (most all-time for each award)
- The only PBA player to convert the 4-6-7-10 split (also known as the "Big Four" or the "Double Pinochle") on television
- Oldest bowler (50) to be named PBA Player of the Year (2009-10 season)
- Bowled 299s on TV during his professional and senior career. One during the 1993 Leisure Long Island Open at AMF Sayville Lanes, a 60 lane bowling center in Sayville, NY on March 27, 1993. On the senior tour, he bowled 299 in 2011.
- Bowled 300 at the 2012 Etonic Senior Open.
- First player to reach 100 total PBA titles (47 PBA Tour, 32 PBA Regional Tour, 10 PBA50 Tour, 11 PBA50 Regional Tour).
- Only player in history to win the USBC Masters and USBC Senior Masters twice each.
In the 2007–08 season, at age 48, Williams established the second-highest average in PBA history for a single season — 228.34. Only Norm Duke's 2006–07 mark of 228.47 was higher at the time, though that has since been broken by Jason Belmonte's 228.81 in the 2012–13 season. Through the 2015 season, he has bowled 101 career 300 games in PBA competition. second only to the 105 perfect games tallied by Parker Bohn III.
Upon winning the 2009 Motor City Open championship, Williams extended his record of winning at least one PBA Tour title per season to 17 consecutive seasons, two years more than Earl Anthony's 1970–84 run. Williams' streak ended when he failed to win a title in the 2010-11 season.
In August 2008 Williams joined Team USA to participate in that year's FIQ World Men's Championships in Thailand. For the first time professionals were allowed to compete in this truly international event with over 330 participants from 56 countries. Williams was the most successful bowler, winning four medals: Gold in Masters, Gold in Singles, Gold in Team and a Bronze medal in Trios.
PBA Senior Tour
After turning 50, Williams announced that he would participate in the 2010 PBA Senior Tour (called the PBA50 Tour since 2013), but in limited events due to Team USA and other obligations.
Williams made his PBA Senior Tour debut on May 3, 2010, at the Miller High Life Senior Classic in Mooresville, NC. To the surprise of no one, he won the tournament three days later. On June 18, 2010, Williams had a chance to become just the second bowler to win the USBC Masters and USBC Senior Masters in a career (joining Dave Soutar), and the first to win both in the same year. Williams made the three-game final, but he was denied the title when he fell, 705-628, to fellow PBA Hall of Famer Wayne Webb.
Williams did bowl enough on the Senior Tour to earn 2010 PBA Senior Rookie of the Year honors.
In the 2011 PBA Senior season, Williams again had a chance to match Soutar as the only bowlers to win both the USBC Masters and Senior USBC Masters. But he again came in second, this time falling to Dale Traber in the finals, 707-695.
Williams won two Senior titles in 2012 and earned his first Senior PBA Player of the Year award.
Williams won three PBA50 titles in 2013 and earned his second PBA50 Player of the Year award.
Williams won the 2014 USBC Senior Masters to become only the second bowler to win both the USBC Masters and USBC Senior Masters (following Dave Soutar). On June 11, 2017, Williams won his second USBC Senior Masters, becoming the only player in history to win the USBC Masters and USBC Senior Masters twice each.
At age 59, Williams opened the 2019 PBA50 season with three consecutive victories, including the PBA50 National Championship, giving him three majors among his 14 PBA50 Tour titles. He is now tied with John Handegard for the most PBA50 Tour titles of all-time, making Williams the career titles leader on both the PBA Tour and PBA50 Tour.
Popularity and longevity
Although Pete Weber is frequently presented to the general public as the poster-boy of the PBA, Williams might be the most respected and popular player on tour. This is because of his cool, confident demeanor, and his unparalleled success over the last two decades. Williams's longevity is further evidenced by the fact that more than one-third of his 47 titles (17) and 6 of his 8 majors have come after he reached age 40. Williams' most recent title in the 2010 USBC Masters came after he reached age 50. In fact, Williams swept every major PBA statistical category in the 2009-10 season, leading the tour in earnings ($152,670), average (222.89), match play appearances (15), and overall competition points. (See PBA Bowling Tour: 2009-10 season.)
On his longevity and future plans, Williams said in 2009:
"As long as I feel good and stay competitive, I’ll keep on bowling. I don’t want to be out here if I’m not competitive; I’d be too frustrated. When I can’t compete, when it isn’t fun, I’ll retire. I have no issue with that. But I feel like I’m still doing pretty well."
Williams was named "Male Bowler of the Decade" (2000–2009) in the Winter, 2010 issue of U.S. Bowler—an incredible accomplishment considering he started the decade at age 40. He won his unprecedented seventh PBA Player of the Year award in 2010, becoming the oldest player in history (50) to earn that honor.
In the 2008–09 season, the PBA's 50th, the PBA commissioned a panel of bowling experts to recognize the "50 Greatest Players of the Last 50 Years." Williams finished second on the list, behind only Earl Anthony. On an ESPN telecast January 25, 2009, Nelson Burton Jr. noted that the voting was close, but Anthony reached the #1 spot primarily for having more major titles than Williams (10 to 7 at the time). Williams was gracious in accepting second-place honors:
"I feel Earl's record is better than mine because it was more condensed. Earl bowled 14 years and 400 or so events. I've bowled well over 600 by now, maybe 700. I feel very pleased to be No. 2."
On December 10, 2016, Williams made it to the final match of the PBA Shark Championship in Reno, NV. A victory would have made Williams the oldest player (57 years, 65 days) to ever win a regular PBA Tour event, but he was defeated in the finals by Canadian François Lavoie. John Handegard continues to hold the distinction as oldest PBA Tour champion at 57 years, 55 days.
As of 2019, Williams is still competing in the majority of events on the standard PBA Tour, as well as PBA50 Tour, PBA Regional Tour and PBA50 Regional Tour events. "As long as I still have my sponsors, I’m going to keep bowling," said Williams at an April 2018 PBA Tour event where he made it to the semifinal round.
Williams has also won six Men's World Horseshoe Pitching titles. He was invited to pitch horseshoes at the White House with President George H. W. Bush in 1989. He finished 2nd in the 2005 World Horseshoe Pitching Championships after switching from right handed to left handed.
Williams graduated from Cal Poly Pomona in 1984 with a Bachelor of Science degree in physics and a minor in mathematics. He has stated that if he wasn't a successful bowler, "I would have gone to work for NASA."
He was married to Paige Pennington. The couple lived in Oxford, FL, and adopted a daughter in 2007. Williams and Pennington divorced in 2017. He is currently married to Fancy Allen. The couple has residency in Oxford. In addition to being a champion in both bowling and horseshoes, Williams plays golf and at one time had a 1 handicap.
Williams' career PBA Tour titles
Among Williams' 47 career PBA Tour titles are eight majors (in bold type below). He is a three-time winner of the PBA World Championship, and has also won two U.S. Open crowns, two ABC/USBC Masters titles, and a Touring Players Championship. He needs only a Tournament of Champions title to complete a career "triple crown" and a career "super grand slam."
Standard PBA Tour Titles
- 1986 True Value Open, Peoria, Ill.
- 1986 Fair Lanes Open, Baltimore, Md.
- 1986 Hammer Open, Edmond, Okla.
- 1987 Miller Lite Classic, Miami, Fla.
- 1987 Hammer Open, Edmond, Okla.
- 1991 Oronamin C Japan Cup, Tokyo, Japan
- 1993 Flagship City Open, Erie, Pa.
- 1993 Columbia 300 Open, San Antonio, Texas
- 1993 Northwest Classic, Kennewick, Wash.
- 1993 Oregon Open, Portland, Ore.
- 1993 Tucson Open, Tucson, Ariz.
- 1993 Greater Grand Rapids Open, Grand Rapids, Mich.
- 1993 Paula Carter's Homestead Classic, Homestead, Fla.
- 1994 Showboat Invitational, Las Vegas, Nev.
- 1994 Touring Players Championship, Indianapolis, Ind.
- 1995 Rochester Open, Rochester, N.Y.
- 1996 Track Synergy Open, Kennewick, Wash.
- 1996 Showboat Invitational, Las Vegas, Nev.
- 1996 Brunswick Johnny Petraglia Open, North Brunswick, N.J.
- 1996 Rochester Open, Rochester, N.Y.
- 1996 Greater Harrisburg Open, Mechanicsburg, Pa.
- 1997 Columbia 300 Open, Austin, Texas
- 1997 Brunswick Johnny Petraglia Open, North Brunswick, N.J.
- 1997 St. Clair Classic, Fairview Heights, Ill.
- 1998 Storm Flagship Open, Erie, Pa.
- 1998 BPAA U.S. Open, Milford, Conn.
- 1998 Brunswick Long Island Open, Coram, N.Y.
- 1998 Bay City Classic, Bay City, Mich.
- 1998 National Finance Challenge, Indianapolis, Ind.
- 1999 Tucson Open, Tucson, Ariz.
- 2000 Track Canandaigua Open, Canandaigua, N.Y.
- 2000 Brunswick Johnny Petraglia Open, North Brunswick, N.J.
- 2001–02 PBA National Championship, Toledo, Ohio
- 2001–02 Greater Cincinnati Classic, Erlanger, Ky.
- 2002–03 Greater Detroit Open, Taylor, Mich.
- 2002–03 U.S. Open, Fountain Valley, Calif.
- 2002–03 PBA World Championship, Taylor, Mich.
- 2003–04 Earl Anthony Classic Presented by Storm, Tacoma, Wash.
- 2003–04 ABC Masters, Reno, Nev.
- 2004–05 Uniroyal Tire Classic, Wickliffe, Ohio
- 2005–06 Denny's PBA World Championship, Indianapolis, Ind.
- 2006–07 Dydo Japan Cup, Tokyo, Japan
- 2007–08 Motor City Classic, Taylor, Mich.
- 2007–08 Great Lakes Classic, Wyoming, Mich.
- 2008–09 Lake County Indiana Golden Anniversary Championship, Hammond, Ind.
- 2009-10 Motor City Open, Allen Park, Mich.
- 2009-10 USBC Masters, Reno, Nev.
PBA50 Tour Titles
- 2010 Miller High Life Senior Classic, Mooresville, NC.
- 2011 PBA Senior Mark Roth Allentown Open, Allentown, PA.
- 2012 PBA Senior Don Carter Memorial, Winter Garden, FL.
- 2012 PBA Senior Northern California Classic, Brentwood, CA.
- 2013 PBA50 Sun Bowl in The Villages, The Villages, FL.
- 2013 PBA50 Northern California Classic, Brentwood, CA.
- 2013 PBA50 South Shore Open, Hammond, IN.
- 2014 USBC Senior Masters, Las Vegas, NV.
- 2014 PBA50 Treasure Island Resort & Casino Open, Welch, MN.
- 2016 PBA50 Pasco County Florida Open, New Port Richey, FL.
- 2017 USBC Senior Masters, Las Vegas, NV.
- 2019 Johnny Petraglia BVL Open, Clearwater, FL.
- 2019 PBA50 National Championship, The Villages, FL.
- 2019 PBA50 Mooresville Open, Mooresville, NC.
- Westside News - Walter Ray Williams Jr. passes Earl Anthony with 42nd PBA title. 2006-09-27. Accessed 2007-08-22.
- Schneider, Jerry (May 1, 2019). "Walter Ray Williams Jr. Wins PBA50 Mooresville Open for Third Consecutive Title and Record-Tying 14th of His Career". pba.com. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
- Vint, Bill (December 18, 2016). "Walter Ray Williams Jr. First to Reach 100 PBA Titles with Win in PBA/PBA50/PBA60 Baker Trios Event". pba.com. Retrieved December 19, 2016.
- Vint, Bill (April 17, 2018). "HOFer Walter Ray Williams Jr. Among 16 Finalists in Port Property Management PBA Maine Shootout". pba.com. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
- Vint, Bill (April 26, 2019). "PBA Spare Shots: Every Tournament Means a New PBA Record for Walter Ray Williams Jr". pba.com. Retrieved April 26, 2019.
- Schneider, Jerry (April 26, 2019). "Walter Ray Williams Jr. Takes PBA50 National Championship Title to Start Season with Back-to-Back Wins". pba.com. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
- "www.hickoksports.com/history/worldhorseshoechamps.shtml". Archived from the original on 2011-12-23.
- "How to Pitch Horseshoes." "About the Actor" bio at www.amazon.com
- PBA.com - Records 2003-10-03. Accessed 2007-10-13.
- From PBA.com News
- PBA.com Profile
- "The Jordan of ... Bowling". Article in ESPN the Magazine on MArch 26, 2008. 
- Schneider, Jerry. "Chameleon Finals Sunday on ESPN Takes on International Flavor and Marks the Return of Walter Ray Williams Jr. to TV." www.pba.com on December 24, 2012. 
- TenpinBowling.org: All About Bowling
- Stats, Average at www.pba.com
- PBA.com News - "Williams Wins PBA Motor City Open for Record 46th Career Title." November 1, 2009.
- PBA.com - Williams Jr. Wins Gold 2008-08-29. Accessed 2008-10-04.
- "WTBA champions". Archived from the original on 2015-05-18.
- Schneider, Jerry. "Williams Record Seventh PBA Player of the Year Honor 'Unimaginable.'" Article at www.pba.com on April 5, 2010.
- Vint, Bill. "Walter Ray Williams Jr. Concludes Remarkable 2009-10 with Statistical Sweep." Article at www.pba.com on May 7, 2010. 
- Vint, Bill. "Webb Tops Williams to Win USBC Senior Masters for Third Career Senior Tour Major." Article at www.pba.com on June 18, 2010.
- Schneider, Jerry. "Walter Ray Williams Jr. Adds 2010 PBA Senior Rookie of the Year to Long List of Honors." Article at www.pba.com on September 21, 2010. 
- Schneider, Jerry. "Dale Traber Wins Second Career USBC Senior Masters Title." Article at www.pba.com on August 5, 2011. 
- Schneider, Jerry. "Walter Ray Wins PBA Senior Don Carter Memorial for Third Career Senior Tour Title." Article at www.pba.com on May 2, 2012. 
- Schneider, Jerry (June 11, 2017). "Walter Ray Williams Jr. Adds Another Milestone to Legendary Career With USBC Senior Masters Win". pba.com. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
- Cover story in U.S. Bowler, Winter, 2010.
- Vint, Bill. "Weber Re-Writes PBA History with Marathon Open Victory, Hands Williams Player of the Year Title." Article at www.pba.com on April 4, 2010.
- Four Inducted Into ABC Hall of Fame 2005-03-18. Accessed 2007-08-22.
- PBA.com Hall of Fame
- "PBA Announces the 50 Greatest Players in Association's History". pba.com. pba.com. Archived from the original on 24 June 2017. Retrieved 24 June 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
- "Experts Select Earl Anthony as Greatest Player in PBA History." Article at www.pba.com, January 26, 2009.
- Vint, Bill (December 25, 2016). "Canadian Rookie Francois Lavoie Wins PBA Shark Championship, Spoils Walter Ray's Bid for History". pba.com. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
- Walter Ray replies to questions 2004-03-20. Accessed 2007-08-22.
- Independent Lens recap of A League of Ordinary Gentlemen at www.pbs.org