Perry Crowell IV '14, Places Fourth at U.S. Open

Perry Crowell IV '14, Places Fourth at U.S. Open

Friday, February 28, 2020

In the days following the crowning achievement of his bowling career, reality had yet to sink in for Perry Crowell IV. A 2014 Midland University graduate and three-year member of the Warrior bowling team, Crowell was still riding high after his fourth-place finish at the U.S. Open on February 23 at Sun Valley Lanes in Lincoln, Nebraska.

“I’ve been on Cloud Nine and haven’t come down yet,” Crowell said. “I had someone ask me a few weeks ago what would be the highlight for my career. I told them I’d love to have a chance to bowl on television and compete for a major.”

Crowell accomplished both during his magical run through the U.S. Open. In the field of 108 bowlers, Crowell was in 20th position after the first two days of qualifying, with the top 36 advancing to the next round. But tough conditions during the third round of qualifying had Crowell believing he would get an early start home. “It was a difficult pattern that day and I didn’t bowl very well, so I figured I was out of it,” he said.

Crowell’s 24-game total of 5,003 left him in a tie for the 36th and final position. All that stood between Crowell, and advancement to the next round, was the legendary Walter Ray Williams. The PBA’s all-time winner with 47 victories would be Crowell’s competitor in a one-game roll-off to see who advanced, and who went home. “He’s got more wins than anyone who’s ever shoed-up and is considered the greatest of all time,” Crowell said. “I grew up watching him bowl, now I’m bowling against him. It was going to be great, win or lose.”

Crowell was hardly starstruck as he outdueled Williams 184-151 to clinch the final spot. That victory served as a springboard for Crowell, as he was one of 24 bowlers to advance to the match play round the following day. He kept the ball, and his momentum, rolling by posting a 14-9-1 record in match play, including a 6-1-1 mark over his final eight games, to claim his spot in the final five. “Once I got into the final 36, I knew I was playing with house money,” he said. “Getting into the top 24 was beyond my expectations and at that point, I just told myself to cut it loose and see what happens. Getting on TV was never the goal, but I kept slowly creeping up there and the check kept getting a little bigger. Those last eight games were pretty cool. I got to bowl against Norm Duke, who was my favorite growing up, so that really got my adrenaline pumping.”

Crowell left Sun Valley on the evening of February 22 knowing the biggest day of his career awaited. It would be his first time bowling on national television since the Intercollegiate Championships in 2014. “I don’t think it started to sink in until I left the center that night,” he said. “That’s when it started to feel real.”

His first match in the finals came against Chris Via, a competitor he was familiar with from his days as a collegiate bowler. After a spare in his opening frame, Crowell settled in with six consecutive strikes on his way to a 241-203 victory. “They don’t normally take a commercial break until the fifth frame, but they were having some audio issues, so they took it after the first frame and I think that helped me settle down. I had bowled against Chris before on television, so that made it a little more relaxing.”

Crowell’s run ended in the next game when two early splits were too much to overcome in a 205-181 loss to Dick Allen. Crowell’s fourth-place finish earned him $10,000, his biggest payday on the tour. The 2014 NAIA Bowler of the Year, Crowell has a very small sample size on the pro tour. He earned his Professional Bowlers Association card in 2016, but dropped it a year later. “It was difficult to make a living on the tour and there weren’t many tournaments in the area, so it just wasn’t feasible for me to keep my card,” he said.

A native of Hoquiam, Washington, Crowell relocated to St. Clair Shores, Michigan, in 2017 and began working at the Detroit Athletic Club, organizing leagues and providing lessons. He bowls in a league on Friday nights and will compete in a handful of local tournaments throughout the year to stay sharp. Even with his recent success, Crowell doesn’t anticipate regaining his PBA card anytime soon. “I’m happy with my job and they are great about supporting me to chase my dream every so often,” he said. “If the opportunity presented itself down the road, maybe.”

Crowell quickly became a crowd favorite during the tournament, buoyed by support from several of his former teammates, his former coach (JJ Mastny), and his younger brother, Kolby, a senior at Midland and a former member of the bowling team. “I had support from my time at Midland, but the local people at the tournament really embraced me as well,” he said. “I gained a lot of momentum and fan support and that got me across the finish line.”

Midland’s bowling program was in its early stages when Crowell arrived on campus in 2011. He bowled for a year at a junior college in Washington before getting a call from Mastny that would provide a life-changing moment for him. “I remember searching for Fremont, Nebraska on a Google map,” he joked. “But I came from a small town, so I didn’t think coming here was going to be a shock to my system. I loved it here and I met so many great people. Midland, and the Fremont community, shaped me into the person I am today.”

Crowell won’t soon forget his five days in the sun. “I’ve sat down to watch parts of it (on TV) and it’s very surreal and strange to hear the commentators talking about you on national television,” he said. “I’ve had hundreds of people reach out to me and my phone and Facebook have both been blowing up, so it’s been pretty crazy. But honestly, it’s one of the coolest experiences of my life.”