From unemployment to bowling champ

One great thing about bowling, at least to the casual fan, is that even if you only bowl a 100-game, hitting a few strikes can leave you believing that maybe someday you'll be good enough to be a pro bowler.

I've seen guys with beer guts put such sweet spin on a bowling ball that you thought it was going to slip into the gutter before hitting for a strike. It's a sport where many can dream of bowling with the pros.

I know it's not as easy as it looks, and for the newest winner of the Professional Bowlers Association World Championship, he sure makes it look easy in a Cinderella story that's going to give hope to the unemployed everywhere.

Tom Smallwood, 32, of Saginaw, Mich., won the championship on Dec. 13, earning him the top prize of $50,000. Smallwood was laid off a year ago by General Motors, making his victory that much sweeter.

He searched for work after losing his job, but didn't find any. The recreational player finished third at a qualifying tournament in May, earning a spot on the pro tour for one year. He's since made about $30,000, according to a Detroit News story.

Unlike poker, where winning a national tournament can make you a millionaire, bowling champs have it a lot harder. Smallwood drives to tournaments, and plans to drive 34 hours to California in January to play in more tournaments. Poker champs, I'd guess, fly.

I imagine Smallwood is just happy to have a paying gig. So much the better it's in his favorite hobby.

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