Top 10 Amateurs Never to Get a PBA Card

by Mike Valanzano

In my 26 years of bowling, I have been fortunate enough to see and bowl against some of the best bowlers in the world. Whether it is on the local and state level, bowling for Morehead State in college, mega buck amateur events, or even bowling some PBA Tour events. I have bowled against the best, and I have beat the best. A lot of people would always say to me, “Hey Mike, if you are having success as an amateur, why don’t you go bowl on the PBA Tour?” That has been the question for many top level amateur bowlers in the past 20 years. So I have compiled a list of 10 bowlers that I feel are the best amateurs of all time that NEVER got a PBA card. Here is my list:

10) Brian Boghosian: Better known as Brian B on the lanes, Brian has one of the simplest games on the planet, but has one of the fiercest strike balls as well. He really came onto the scene in 1999, when he defeated Parker Bohn III to win the ABC Masters. Brian B comes from that same mold of quality players in the New England area, like Chris Viale, Mike Lichstein, and Alex Aguiar. Brian is a 4 time New England Bowlers Association (NEBA) player of the year, and is 6th on the all-time NEBA titles list with 9. Brian has had much success at the mega buck events with several sweeper titles. I know one thing, when you would bowl the High Roller, you would pray you didn’t draw the lane Brian B was on. He also made the telecast at the 2004 USBC Masters and lost in the opening match. Brian today still bowls competitively in the New England area and is enshrined in the Connecticut State Hall of Fame. When you don’t find him on the lanes, you can find him at his office, where he is the head of an accounting firm, Brian is a CPA.

9) Bryan O’Keefe: Bryan got his start at the University of Nebraska under Bill Straub. In 1996, he helped lead Nebraska to a national championship. He was a 1st team All American and runner up bowler of the year. He is a 9 time World Team Challenge champion, and 3 time World Team Challenge Grand Champion in 2000, 2003, and 2004. He is the holder of 3 mega buck sweeper titles along with the Bowlers Journal Singles Championship, he also holds the record for the highest 4 game set in that tournament. He is a Texas State Tournament All Events Champion with an amazing nine game total of 2313. He also is the singles champion at the Greater Ozarks Tournament with a 3 game set of 878 and a 4 game total of 1167, WOW!!! He even has had success at the USBC Open Championships. He has a 3rd place finish in doubles in 2009, and a 5th place finish in team in 2011.  With a resume like Bryan has, he’ll have an eagle very, very soon!! Currently, Bryan is the facility manager at the International Training and Research Center, pro shop manager, and assistant coach to Team USA.

8) Don Scudder: Don Scudder: A USBC Hall of Famer. Scudder won the first of three USBC Open Championships titles in 1982. His other Open Championships victories were in 1992 in Team All-Events and in singles. In 1998, captured the Brunswick/USBC World Team Challenge Grand Championships. He also has won three Petersen Classic, two Hoinke Classic team titles, a Bowler’s Journal and International Eliminator singles crowns. Don also won the Peterson Classic, to win that tournament, you have to have some game. This man was like a rabid dog on the lanes, Mr. Intensity best describes Don Scudder.

7) Tim Mack: Now I know what you’re all going to say, Tim was on tour, yes true, but he was never on tour in his prime. When Tim got his card, he was battling a nasty shoulder injury and other physical injuries.  How does this resume sound for an amateur 66 career titles on 5 different continents. 39 of those titles were televised. He was a 5 time amateur bowler of the year, and a 3 time world amateur bowler of the year. He has a best finish of 2nd at the High Roller and Mini Eliminator. A 2 time captain of the Weber Cup, Tim would lead a team of USA professionals to do battle against a team of European stars, to have an amateur as your captain speaks volumes of what Tim can do with a bowling ball. As I said earlier, due to injuries, Tim never had a chance to shine on the PBA Tour. Since obtaining his card, he has 1 regional title to his credit. I do wish him all the success in his future of bowling on the PBA Tour.

6) Paeng Nepomuceno: Now I know most of you are probably saying to yourself, who is this guy? Well allow me to introduce you to Paeng. He is a 6 time world champion and is said to be the greatest international bowler in the history of bowling. He won the 1st of his record setting 124 worldwide titles as a junior in 1972, and won his 124th title in March of 2012. He is also the holder of 3 Guinness World Records: youngest world bowling champion (age 19), winning the most world titles in three different decades, and winning the most worldwide titles (124). The world FIQ has named him the “International Bowling Athlete of the Millennium.” If you are to walk into the International Bowling Hall of Fame in Texas, a life size picture of Paeng greets you along with his memorabilia. Residing in the Philippines, the man is simply a God there. He is the only athlete in the Philippines who has been honored by five Philippine presidents and was given the highest award to a Filipino. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Merit in 1984. The Philippine Senate and Congress have named Paeng the greatest athlete of all time in the Philippines.

5) Vernon Petersen: A three-time member of Team USA (1997-1999), Peterson was the 1996 U.S. Amateur champion. At the 1997 Pan American Bowling Confederation Championships in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, he helped Team USA to gold medals in the trios and team events. Vernon also has a High Roller Red Hot title to his credit in 2002, and is always a fixture at the megabuck events. He even eliminated me in the 2005 Super Bowl High Roller. Thanks Vernon!!

4) Mike Mullin: Mr. Cool Mike Mullin, a personal friend of mine. Mike is truly one of the nicest guys in the world. A former All American at St. John’s University, Mike started making a name for himself bowling in college. A champion at the high roller, Mike has a sweeper title under his belt worth $10,000, and a 3 time High Roller Red Hot champion. Mike has also had lots of success on the international level with Team USA. A member of Team USA 4 times, he was the 1998 US Amateur title. That same year, Mike finished 4th at the ABC Masters, losing in the shootout round to Chris Sand and PBA Hall of Famer Parker Bohn III, who shot 300 in that match. Mike has several Old School tournament wins on Long Island, a 3 time NEBA champion; Mike knows how to get it done. If he was to bowl on tour, this smooth lefty would have made a name for himself real quick!

3) Bill Hoffman: Hoffman, also known as “The Joker” has had success all around the globe. A former college bowling rookie of the year, and 1st team All American for Ohio State University, Hoffman got his start there. He then went on to be a 9 time member of Team USA. He also has been the US Amateur champion two time in his career. Hoffman has won titles in Europe, Australia, and Asia. He is a 5 time world champion and a member of the International Bowling Hall of Fame. Bill has worked hand in hand with former Team USA coach Fred Borden and has become one of the top coaches in the world. Bill has taken his knowledge and started coaching in Europe and South America.

2) Mike Lichstein: Litchy hoss!! The bowler with the most memorable form in the world. Litch IMO is the best lefty amateur in the country. The holder of 27 New England Bowling Association titles (NEBA), which is the all time record. He is also a 4 time NEBA bowler of the year. Litch finished 2nd at the High Roller in Atlantic City in 1987, then the next year he won the High Roller in 1988 for $200,000!! Litch has had much success at the mega buck tournaments over the years, winning over $500,000 in his career at those events.  He even made a PBA telecast in 1992 with then amateur Patrick Allen in a doubles event, that team finished 4th. Mike is also a former Brunswick World Team Challenge Grand Champion. In 2010, he teamed with his legendary PBA Hall of Fame father, Larry, to bowl in the USBC Open Championships. Mike shot a 300 game in doubles. Litch comes from bowling royality, it is in his DNA. Mike is the example of it doesn’t matter how you throw the rock, as long as you can do it the same everytime you will have success in this game!!

And last but not least. My #1 all time best bowler to NEVER get a PBA Card…. Drum roll please….

1)      Mike Neuman: The man was a godlike figure around the world. Holder of 4 ABC Championship Eagles, and winning all 4 in one year (1990), the 1990 Super Bowl High Roller Champion, 2 time best ball challenge winner at the High Roller. Mini Eliminator champion. Not to mention, a former member of Team USA. Mike has bowled in a couple of PBA events over the years as an amateur and has had success in them. The one that sticks out the most was the 1997 Johnny Petraglia Open. I was a caddy that year, and witnessed this. He was bowling the 23rd game of match play against tournament leader Amleto Monacelli. They were bowling downstairs at Carolier on lanes 47/48 and Neuman had a huge cheering section. Mike finished the match first, and left a ring 10 for 299. Amleto proceeded to get up, flush the next 3 shots for 300 and won the match 300-299, and won the 30 bonus pins for winning the match. He ended up finishing the tournament 6th, and missing the TV show by 11 pins. It was one of the sickest things I ever saw in the bowling world. Neuman was probably the toughest bowler both mentally and physically there was that didn’t bowl on tour. My favorite Mike Neuman story is this. He was bowling a tournament overseas in the 90s. The lane pattern was impossible, so tough the sponsor of the tournament put up a bonus of $100,000 to anyone that would shoot 300 during the tournament. Only 1 guy averaged 200 for the tournament, that guy won the tournament, he also shot 300 and walked away with a cool $100K, that man was Mike Neuman.

This was a very interesting article to write. And the debate on this topic will probably go on forever. I want to thank Shannon O’ Keefe, Mike Miseno, and Robert Smith for giving me some info and notes for this piece. Stay tuned, with this being the top 10 that never bowled on tour, my next article will be the top 10 amateurs that turned pro. Let the debate begin!

Editors Note:  We have been made aware that Tim Mack does have his PBA Card, we regret this oversight.

Mike Valanzano, 29 from NJ. Bowled for Morehead State University and has competed and had success at all levels of this game, he is the holder of 21 300 games, 10 800 series, with a  high of 856 (with an open frame).   Mike is married to his wonderful wife Lynda and have a baby girl, Daniella.  Some of Mike’s interests, he’s a HUGE New York Mets fan, he loves poker, traveling, and fine dining.  He is also a big advocate of zumba classes.  Mike has one of the largest video collections of old bowling shows anywhere.  He has every amateur bowling show ever aired and has a wide collection of numerous PBA, Sr PBA, LPBT shows from the 1950’s thru today.