For former Ohio Valley resident Jeff Schrum, it's been a long time coming.
After 13 years of professional bowling, this 53-year old Cherryville, N.C. resident finally broke through and got his first victory.
"I've been chasing it for 13 years," Schrum said during a phone interview. "It actually came three days before my birthday, so it was definitely one of the best birthday gifts I've ever gotten."
ST. CLAIRSVILLE native Jeff Schrum poses for a picture prior to an event last year. Schrum picked up his first PBA?victory a few weeks ago in North Carolina as a member of the Senior Tour.
Schrum won the PBA South Region Fayetteville, N.C. Senior Open after he qualified for the single-elimination portion of the tournament as the 12th seed.
He earned his seed and spot in the championship bracket of the tournament after rolling a 1609 over an eight-game series.
In the tournament portion of the competition, it becomes a best-of -five match. Schrum swept his way to the quarterfinals, which are best-of-three. There, Schrum posted another sweep to reach the semifinals against Michael Henry of Brunswick, Ohio.
"Bowling is different than a lot of sports because it's not always who you're bowling against, but probably moreso the lanes," Schrum said. "
Schrum prevailed over the 16th seed by a 247-195 count. In the finals, he met fellow Tar Heel State resident William Banks and prevailed by a 278-139 score.
"As a kid growing up around bowling, you always dream about competing and you watched it on ABC (Wide World of Sports) and then to be able to do it is just a dream come true," Schrum said. "To fulfill that dream and be called a champion is gratifying, but don't get me wrong, I want to do it again."
Schrum, who owns his own business in North Carolina, takes part in about 20 tournaments a year.
"If it's within a tank of gas, I usually go," Schrum said. "As I get a little bit older, I don't bowl as much because it's tough on the knees, but I try to get in six games a week. Experience is the key."
Schrum started bowling at the age of 9 at the now defunct Riveria Lanes in Bellaire because his grandmother worked there.
Four years later, he and his family moved to Martins Ferry and his bowling hobby went to Park Legion Lanes.
"I actually got a job at the Park Legion Lanes and I basically bowled every day until I was a senior in high school," Schrum said.
During his senior year, his father's job took his family to Tennessee where he graduated high school. The family returned to St. Clairsville the next fall and balance of his brothers and sisters graduated from St. C.
Schrum left the sport for six years after a divorce, but on a random Saturday night, a friend, John May, who was bowling professionaly at the time, invited him to play and he's been hooked again ever since.
"It was 1995 when I started back up bowling and I bowled three years before I bowled my first professional event," Schrum said. "I was definitely rusty when I came back because like all sports, the game and equipment and had changed so much and I had missed the transition."
In his first year back in the sport almost fulltime, he averaged 202, but since then, he's consistently been in the 220s.
When Schrum decided to pursue becoming a professional, a bowler had to average 200 for an entire year and then have two bowlers, who were on the tour, sign a letter of intent on an application.
"There are regional levels of the PBA," Schrum pointed out. "There are some perks to being professional like discounts on tournaments and things like that."
Schrum's aforementioned average has been greatly enchanced by the 32 300 games he's rolled. He rolled his first one in Bellaire in 1979 and his latest came in Huntersville, N.C. during a league competition.
"I still get excited about it," Schrum said. "If you don't get excited about throwing strikes (in bowling), you probably don't need to be doing it."
Schrum and his wife Sheri (Conaway), who Jeff thought was more excited than him about his victory, make it back to the Ohio Valley quite frequently as much of their family still lives in the area. Sheri is a 1979 Bellaire High School graduate.
"I've not been back since Christmas, but whenever I do come back I do bowl while I am up there," Schrum said. "Gary Holubeck and I have been friends for a long time, so I try to get a couple of games in at St. Clairsville Lanes when I am up there."
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org