Daniel Reber, who's been knocking down pins for more than 50 years, won $25,000 in a national competition last month.
By the time he was old enough to "sit still and be quiet," Daniel Reber, was watching his parents bowl. By the time he was 10, he kept score for them. The next year, he joined a league himself.
To this day he loves the fact that, "You're your own boss in this sport," he said.
Last month, he had another reason to like the sport: He won $25,000 at a national tournament in Las Vegas.
Reber, 63, lives in Crystal but plays in bowling leagues at AMF Maple Lanes in Fridley; his personal best score is 289. He entered the AMF National In-League Tournament and wound up qualifying for championship play in Las Vegas. He beat out close to 14,000 people from across the country to get that far, said Kathy Hart, national tournament director for AMF.
Games leading up to the national tournament started last October in bowling alleys all over, she said.
In Las Vegas, Reber went up against 26 others in his division. Even though he says he was sleep-deprived and nervous, he finished second in Division A, good enough to earn the $25,000 prize. His average score was 212, he said.
The top prize of $50,000 went to Chad Dodson of Towanda, Ill. After the final game, Reber said, "I told him, 'you and me get to split $75,000.' I didn't do bad. I don't have any regrets."
Reber received a poster-sized version of the check, which he plans to frame and mount at home. "I went to Vegas with $2,700 in my pocket and I came back with $27,000," said Reber.
Preparing for nationals
Before he left for Las Vegas, Reber got himself ready. He tried to eat a balanced diet, and he lifted weights and did calisthenics. "I was trying to build my endurance," he said, explaining that throwing the ball for hours can be tiring.
He also bought a new ball, which is called the Frantic.
The lanes at Orleans Casino in Las Vegas were an adjustment, but by the second game he got into the groove. "It was just like music. Easy," he said. "It was so much fun."
"I picked my strategy and it worked," he said. "Everyone else tried to hook the ball hard. I tried to play much straighter and simplify the shot."
He hasn't decided how he'll use his prize money, though he's contemplating a new riding lawnmower, a weeklong fishing trip and replacing the windows on his home, he said.
At the top of his game
Reber's wife, Phyllis, who watched the Las Vegas competition from the sidelines, said it was fun but nerve-wracking: "I was so tense my stomach was in knots. I just kept saying, 'I can't watch. I can't watch.'"
In the end, "I was so happy to see him succeed in something he really enjoys," she said. "It was fun to see that."
Chris Martinson, a mechanic at AMF Maple Lanes, said Reber's success was well earned. "He worked really hard here at this level to do well in Vegas, which paid off," he said. "He was probably at the top of his game when he left here and he carried it on to Vegas."
"It couldn't happen to a nicer guy," he said. "He deserves some kudos. It's a pretty big accomplishment."
It's good for the center too. "We were ecstatic," said Martinson. "To us, that's a little pat on our back."
Anna Pratt is a Minneapolis freelance writer.