PBA Bowler of the decade Walter Ray Williams visits Greenville

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PBA Bowler of the Decade Walter Ray Williams (R) and Greenville Mayor Jeff Whitaker (L) share some time at the Ringer Classic at the Greenville City Park horseshoe courts. (Gaylen Blosser photo)

GREENVILLE—A well-known name in the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA), Walter Ray Williams, seven-time PBA Player of the Year, was in Greenville this past Sunday to take in the prestigious Ringer Classic Horseshoe Tournament.

“My first Player of the Year was 1986, and my last Player of the Year was 2010, so I had 25 pretty good years,” Williams said. “That is something most people can’t boast about, but I was player of the decade in the 1990s and the 2000s, so definitely can’t complain about my bowling career.”

Williams holds the record for the most All-Time Standard PBA records (47) and the most PBA earnings over $5 million through the 2019 season. He was the first player in history to reach 100 PBA titles, including PBA Tour, PBA Regional Tour, PBA50 Regional, and 123 combined at the close of the 2022 PBA50 season.

“Averages are dependent on lane conditions, but I think on the national tour at one time I had the record of 228 for a full season, and one year I bowled 1300 games in competition; that’s just games on the national tour, so that doesn’t include all the games I practiced.”

Williams noted he does not keep track of his perfect 300 games but stated, “I don’t keep track, but the PBA, I have over 110, so I think I’m second on that list. Parker Bohn has a couple more than I do.”

Little known to many, Williams is a world-recognized two-sport champion, including a six-time World Horseshoe Champion, having competed in Greenville, Ohio, the Horseshoe Capitol of the World.

“Horseshoes was my first love; I did that first,” Williams stated. “I was Junior World Champion at 11, played here in Greenville in 1972, and won my second Junior Championship averaging 89 percent when I was 12. Later on, I ended up winning six (World) men’s championships, but in the meantime, I also bowled professionally and still do, but that’s where most people know me from.”

A week before Greenville’s nationally known Ringer Classic, Williams was competing in a BPA60 (60 and older) tournament in Columbus, OH, and this past weekend was in the Senior Regionals for bowlers 50 and up in Bowling Green, OH.

“It’s only 16 lanes, but the prize is $50,000 for that tournament,” Williams said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t get any of it. I bowled badly last night, I’m not sure why, but that happens. I had the option of playing in this or bowling in the tournament, and I’m like, my horseshoe game is not as good as it used to be, so I thought I would go to the bowling tournament.”

“I looked at the horseshoe schedule and saw they were playing here in Greenville,” he continued. “I’m driving to West Virginia, and it’s a little out of the way, but I thought I would come by and watch some of my friends play horseshoes. I would have liked to play out there, but my game is just not as good as I would like it to be, so I get frustrated when I don’t play well, like many people.”

On his list of good friends of horseshoe pitchers competing in Greenville was 27-time World Champion Alan Francis.

“Alan is very good,” Williams said. “He’s the best horseshoe player ever. When I was really good, I was about as good as he is, but he’s been that way for 30 years. The last time I won was in 1994, and since then, he’s won the World Tournament every year except three times, and he finished second in those three times. It’s pretty impressive what he does; he is consistent year after year. I had a bunch of good tournaments back then, but he does it consistently, which is really impressive.”

Alan Francis, 27-time World Champion Horseshoe pitcher, wins 64th Ringer Classic at Greenville City Park. (Gaylen Blosser photo)

Williams won the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association (NHPA) World Titles in 1978, 1980, 1981, 1985, 1991, and 1994. Ohio’s Alan Francis is the reigning NHPA World Champion with 27 World Titles including 1989, 1993, 1995-1999, 2001, 2003-2010, 2012-2023.

“We have one of the best BPA bowlers, Walter Ray Williams, here today having a good time,” said Greenville Mayor Jeff Whitaker. “I had the honor to meet him, and he was somebody I watched play in his first tournament that was televised in 1983, and to get to meet him here in Greenville is very special.”