REUTERS: Ten-pin bowling will join PGA golf, NASCAR and UFC in bringing competition back to a sports-starved nation this weekend when the professional league holds its virtual draft.
Over 50 elite, draft-eligible professional bowlers will vie for 26 spots on 10 teams across the country, including two new Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) teams in Las Vegas and Milwaukee. Bowling fans will be able to watch a livestream of the draft on Sunday.
"The PBA League Draft will be a great diversion for our fans hungry for bowling action," PBA commissioner Tom Clark told Reuters.
"Many PBA players that are drafted on Sunday will be getting their chance to live out a dream, to hear their name selected to be part of the most prestigious bowling league in the world."
The coronavirus pandemic had delayed the draft, originally scheduled for March, and forced it to take on a virtual format similar to the ones already carried out by the WNBA and the NFL, with league officials, managers and players participating via video conference on Sunday.
The pandemic also forced the postponement of the 2020 PBA League Elias Cup tournament, originally scheduled for July 20-23 at Bayside Bowl in Portland.
The team event will be rescheduled for the fall at the same location, which has hosted the finals annually since 2015.
This year was primed to be a big one for ten-pin bowling, with a new broadcast deal between PBA and FOX Sports aimed at expanding the sport's reach to its biggest audience in decades.
The PBA last year awarded its first six-figure winner's purse since 2011 and a record US$2.1 million combined prize fund was planned for this year's competitions.
Despite the setback, Clark said bowling is still primed to surge in popularity as it seeks to recapture its heyday of the 1960s and 70s, when its best players earned more than top baseball and football players.
"Bowling and the PBA are part of the American fabric," he said.
"Familiar, safe, and on the PBA level, a symbol of the highest level of sports competition."
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Sam Holmes)