Pro bowlers on fans at Bayside Bowl: ‘I love this environment’

Fans watch as Kyle Troup competes in the Professional Bowlers Association’s Strike Derby at Portland’s Bayside Bowl on Friday. Troup earned $25,000 for winning the event. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Kyle Troup is part athlete, part PT Barnum.

The 31-year old bowler pointed to the trophy he had just received on Friday for winning the Professional Bowlers Association’s Strike Derby event, then he pointed to the crowd at Portland’s Bayside Bowl. Troup picked up his prize and started high-fiving as many fans as possible while raising the trophy over the Richard Simmons perm that makes him stand out in a crowd.

All afternoon, the fans cheered him on, chanting his name in a “Troup, there it is!” serenade.

“I love this environment. I thrive off of it,” Troup said a few minutes later.

The PBA Tour has made annual stops at Bayside Bowl since 2015, with the exception of the pandemic season of 2020. The Portland crowds are loud and the most enthusiastic on the tour, Troup said, a sentiment echoed by many of the pro bowlers over the years who have competed in the party-like atmosphere at Bayside.

Friday’s Strike Derby was held as part of the PBA’s final tour stop of the 2022 season. Wednesday and Thursday featured the league’s division finals, while the PBA All-Star Clash will be held Saturday. On Sunday, Bayside Bowl hosts the Elias Cup finals, a team competition that features the Dallas Strikers against Troup and the hometown Portland Lumberjacks. The Elias Cup championship will air live on FS1 at 1 pm Sunday.

Despite the spoiler posted in the second paragraph, if you’d like to watch the Strike Derby, it will air on FS1 on July 16 at 1 pm

The Strike Derby is exactly what it sounds like. Bowlers try to get as many strikes as they can in two minutes. In that regard, it’s like the 3-point shooting contest at the NBA All-Star Game or the Home Run Derby at the MLB All-Star Game. The difference is, an NBA basketball weighs 22 ounces. The bowling ball used by these pros weighs 15 pounds.

Friday’s competitors were taking about nine seconds between throws. Throw a 15-pound ball 15 times in two minutes. Your shoulder will feel it. Your wrist will feel it. Your entire body will feel it.

Fans congregate close to the pro bowlers during the PBA Tour’s Strike Derby at Bayside Bowl on Friday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

“My arm is fine. My hips are a little sore and my heart rate is still up,” said Matt Ogle, 37, who lost to Troup in the championship round via tiebreaker. Both nailed 12 strikes, but Troup did it in 15 shots to Ogle’s 17.

“You get trained when you bowl, you want to watch the ball down the lane and hit the pins. In the Strike Derby, you can’t do that. This is my first Strike Derby and I saw that right away,” said Ogle, of Louisville, Kentucky. “You’ve just got to throw, turn around, and get the next ball and get it down the lane. You can’t take your time. You’ve just got to get it down the lane.”

For his feat of bowling stamina, Troup won $25,000.

Friday’s competition began at 1 pm, but fans started taking their spots along the rail near the lanes shortly after the doors opened two hours earlier. In all, a few hundred gathered to cheer on the 12 bowlers participating in the Strike Derby. It was a Hawaiian Day theme, with many wearing flowered shirts and leis. One fan wore a costume to look like the Boston Bruins mascot.

Their cheers came in waves, rising as bowlers strung together consecutive strikes. There were loud cheers for strikes, and loud groans when a bowler’s shot left one stubborn pin standing defiantly. The loudest cheer of the afternoon came when Troup’s last shot of the finals was a strike, and he turned to the wall of sound and raised his arms in appreciation.

Fans cheer during the PBA Tour’s Strike Derby at Bayside Bowl on Friday. “They just love bowling. They love a good time,” says Kyle Troup, winner of the event. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Those fans are what make Portland Troup’s favorite PBA Tour stop of the season.

“They just love bowling. They love a good time. I mean, we’ve got a friggin’ rooftop bar with a taco truck (at Bayside Bowl). We’ve got great tasting beer. Good food, lobster all around. We’re all happy to be here. You see the pros hanging out here. You don’t see that everywhere,” said Troup, a native of Taylorsville, North Carolina, who joined the PBA Tour in 2008.

On the inside of his right forearm, Troup has “Never Give Up” tattooed. He can’t help but see it every time he throws a ball. He sees it when he raises his arm to high five a fan, which he often did throughout Friday’s competition.

“It’s about bowling, but life in general,” he said. “These are the moments we bowl for, live for, to throw a strike there at the end and just yell at the crowd.”

Last year, Troup reached the second round of the Strike Derby, where he threw a three and was eliminated. He considered this win redemption.

“With the TV lights, it’s hot. Rarely do we bowl for two minutes as fast as we can during practices or anything like that. During the speed bowling, you’ve still got to lock in on your physical game a little bit, make little adjustments,” Troup said. “Thank God I’m a two-hander and I don’t use my thumb. It makes it a lot more difficult for the guys that use their thumb to put that in and get going.”

The hand that threw so many bowling balls Friday afternoon then reached for a beer and went to chat with fans.

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