HOT SPRINGS VILLAGE -- The Professional Bowlers Association comes to north Garland County this weekend for the Southwest Open.
Liberty Lanes, owned by Larry Rhodes, is hosting the Southwest Open, featuring bowlers from across the region and some familiar local faces.
Jeff Atkins is a hometown guy who is in the Arkansas Bowlers Hall of Fame.
"Jeff Atkins is a local bowler in our center," Rhodes said. "Jeff has been a PBA bowler for 10 years. He has been a member of Arkansas Hall of Fame for 14 years. Jeff has bowled several 800s. He has bowled somewhere in the 80s of 300 games, perfect games. He has bowled one to two perfect games since we have owned it.
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"He bowled several before we owned it. He bowls in Las Vegas, Reno, Loxahatchee and he bowled in Florida last weekend. He is going to bowl this tournament this weekend. He bowls most of the PBA 50 stops and he bowls a few of these what he calls, 'with the kids.'"
Some PBA superstars and local talent will be in Hot Springs Village for the Southwest Open.
"Shawn Maldonado is bowling," Rhodes said. "He is a televised bowler. A.J. Chapman, Sean and Anthony Lavery-Spahr, which are well known bowlers, especially in the regional area. Mike Burroughs is another local. Curtis Dorrell is a local. Brandon Johnson is from Little Rock. I had a local qualifier tournament and the winners of that, the top eight, got paid entry. We had eight entries from that. Chandler Tisdale won it and he carried a high average all day, which is on the same pattern that they will bowl on. I expect to see Chandler do well this weekend."
Rhodes described how Liberty came to host the event.
"When we purchased the center, that was my goal to be a PBA Tour stop," he said. "There is only one other one in the state, which is Jonesboro. After we upgraded lanes and started on the upgrade of the other equipment, PBA contacted us. One of my bowlers had been at another PBA event. They contacted us and asked us if we were interested. I said 'yes.' I did not know we could get on this soon. PBA is here this weekend and PBA 50 will be here the weekend of Oct. 15."
Rhodes highlighted the tournament formatting.
"This tournament, the field was limited to 80, because of the size of our center," Rhodes said. "We have a full field. We have a couple on the waiting list. This tournament started practice Friday at 2 p.m. The A squad will start at 8:30 a.m. (t0day). The A squad will bowl until 1:30 p.m. Then we will re-oil the lanes and the B squad will start at 2:30 p.m., and they will bowl until they finish."
Liberty is selling passes to the Southwest Open and is expecting 80-100 fans, Rhodes said.
"We will have $5 a day entry fee," Rhodes said. "We will have a $10 weekend pass."
Rhodes talked about qualifying and the real big deal, the prizes.
"Since this is an Open, you can either be a PBA member or non-PBA member," he said. "To be eligible to be a PBA member, you have to carry a 200 plus average in a local league and pay your $300 a year PBA membership. Non-members can get in, but they do not have preference. PBA members have first preference. Their entry fee is also $100 for this tournament. All of the entry fees from the participants go under the prize boat. First prize is $2,800 cash and a champion trophy that we supply."
The Southwest Open will boost the reputation of Liberty Lanes.
"For us, it is a double-edged sword," Rhodes said. "It costs us money to host it that we do not get paid back. It gives us some notoriety in the bowling world that we have a center that is capable of hosting an event like that and that we have the ability to let anybody bowl in a center that the PBA also bowls in."
The finals of the PBA Southwest Open will be Sunday, and they will start with 32 bowlers and go until a champion is crowned.