In June of 1999, his rookie season on the PBA Tour, Tony Reyes was bowling in Lakewood in Southern California and having his first national television experience.
The 26-year-old recent San Jose State University graduate had climbed the ladder to the tournament final by defeating six opponents, four of them Hall of Famers. His first roll of that title match was a gutter ball, and he went on to lose the final. But that event proved to Reyes that he had made it; he was among the elite of his sport.
Reyes, a San Bruno resident, switched from baseball to bowling at the age of 12. His parents, immigrants from Mexico who owned a small concrete business in Cupertino, made sacrifices as young Tony’s hobby became his passion.
Reyes’ father supported his son’s decision to forego the family business in order to bowl collegiately after watching him win $500 in his first adult tournament.
At SJSU, Reyes was in no hurry to finish his studies.
“I took seven years to get my degrees,” Reyes said. “One degree in radio/television/film and one in bowling.”
He continued to compete in regional PBA tournaments while bowling for the SJSU team. In addition, the “pot bowling” winnings from late night “hustling” at alleys throughout the Bay Area allowed Reyes to buy his first house at the age of 20.
“I was a bowling shark for about a good eight months,” Reyes said. “Until everyone caught on to what I was doing.”
The most lucrative season on the PBA tour for Reyes was 2006-07.
His 12th television appearance certainly stands out as the most memorable. Reyes bowled a 300 game in the semifinal of the Motor City Classic, pocketing $10,000 for the perfect game in addition to a $25,000 winner’s check.
“My closest friends say that I’m one of the more famous one-title winners in bowling,” said Reyes, although he has won a number of regional championships. Reyes relishes the years that he spent on the tour, but he’s decided to stay close to his roots as he and fiancée Nicole, a San Francisco floral designer, plan their September wedding.
He does continue to hit the road as the bowling coach at his alma mater.
“The greatest thing for all athletes is amnesia,” Reyes professes to the Spartan team. “The ability to forget something that happened a minute ago and focus on the moment.”
Sage advice from a guy who’s had more perfect games than gutter balls.
CAREER: Is currently semiretired and competes in only the PBA’s major events.
CHARITABLE WORK: At Brentwood Bowl in South San Francisco and Sea Bowl in Pacifica, Reyes co-organized an annual benefit to raise money and awareness for juvenile diabetes; the event has been adopted on the national scale by the PBA.
BEHIND THE SCENES: When he failed to qualify for events, Reyes applied his SJSU degree to serve as the statistician for the televised weekend bowling coverage.
TRICK SHOT: Reyes’ favorite trick shot involves knocking down three pins on two lanes is called the “Flying Eagle” and can be seen on YouTube.