A conclusion of the PBA World Series of Bowling (WSOB) signified a halfway point of the PBA Tour season. Eight EBT Tour titles winner, Martin Larsen of Sweden, was among 25 bowlers participating in the event, but he decided to withdraw from the competition with ten qualification games remaining.
A six-time world championship medalist expressed disappointment with his performance in the current PBA Tour season, considering it to be the worst season of his successful career. Nevertheless, Larsen is excited and happy as his mind is currently occupied with joyful business, arranging one of Europe's largest bowling tournaments, which will be included in the 2023 PBA Tour - The Storm Lucky Larsen Masters. Top bowling professionals of the world, vying for another PBA Tour title will fill the Olympia Bowling venue from September 1st to September 10th in Helsingborg, Sweden.
Martin Larsen sat down to chat with BowlingLife about his performance on the PBA Tour, an unexpected halt of the Weber Cup, challenges faced by the organizing team in putting together the Storm Lucky Larsen Masters, and why this event is sure to be thrilling for participants and fans of European bowling.
We are currently in a midseason of the PBA Tour. Can you share your self-evaluation of your performance up to this point?
Every athlete has seasons that are far away from what they want. Unfortunately, one season has to be the worst one. This one is mine. I've been dealing with some problems with my body, and my bowling has been terrible.
Twenty-five bowlers of the Old Continent participated in most previous PBA Tour event - PBA World Championships. Which European players surprised you the most?
Have to say Santtu Tahvanainen - he had an impressive WSOB. He and Tomas Käyhkö have adapted quickly to the PBA Tour.
Ten bowlers and a large contention of coaches and ball reps from Sweden participated in the PBA World Championships. How valuable is it for Sweden's National Team?
The national team captain, Robert Andersson, and the Swedish bowling federation understand that bowling on the PBA tour is the best way to improve. But it is also challenging and expensive, so they're now trying to help as much as possible, and WSOB was one of those projects. It is very valuable for the Swedish bowlers, especially now, when we don't have enough bowling tournaments in Europe.
Swedes are frequent medalists at the European and World Championships, the first non-American to win on the PBA Tour was from Sweden, and most international players on the PBA Tour are also from Sweden. You have been bowling professionally for over 25 years now - what is Sweden's secret of being in a leading role in European bowling? Is it an outcome of an excellent work by the Swedish Bowling Association or something else?
Tradition plays a significant role. Sweden has a big league heritage. All of us bowl in a team environment, so instead of constantly competing against each other (that we also do), we compete with each other in a team and then try to help our teammates get better.
Sweden won 13 medals at the European Youth Championships this year. How would you evaluate the performance of Sweden's next generation?
Sweden was lucky not to get shot down during Covid-19. Bowling centers were still open, and our young players could still go bowl. That was a big thing, in my opinion. We were also early on having great 2-handers in Sweden. Both Jason and Osku have been bowling frequently here, and then Jesper on top of that. That could have been a big thing. Most up-and-coming young players are using the 2-handed technique now, and we got some great idols and role models that the youngsters could look up to and learn from.
What happened to the Weber Cup? This annual bowling event between Team Europe and Team USA started in 2000 but suddenly stopped in 2022. Do you know the reasons behind this sudden stoppage?
Unfortunately, I don't have any information about the Weber Cup. I hope it will get back. Some of my most precious bowling memories are from the Weber Cup.
The Storm Lucky Larsen Masters, one of Europe's largest bowling tournaments, will be included in the 2023 PBA Tour. It is the first time since 2019 that SLLM will be part of the Tour, and it is the only PBA Tour event taking place outside of the United States this year. Can you share how this achievement was accomplished?
When we started the SLLM 2017, PBA was a part of the World Tour, making our event a part of the PBA Tour. Unfortunately, the IBF hasn't been able to get the WBT up-and-running. Therefore no direct connection with the PBA Tour. I have been a part of the PBA Tour for quite some time now and got to know people behind the PBA, including Commissioner Tom Clark, to see that they appreciate the international flavor of the Tour. So I did talk to them about the chance to get the SLLM back on the PBA schedule, with pros and cons. We both agreed that there are more pros than cons. I love the fact that young bowlers in Europe can get a chance to watch the pros or even compete against them. It is also good for the PBA to get seen in Europe, which hopefully gets more young great players interested in trying life on Tour.
Arranging such an event can be quite a testing experience. What challenges do you and your organizing team face assembling this big event?
Luckily we're a group of dedicated bowling freaks (Daniel Rönnbäck, Patrick Backe, and myself) willing to work a lot without getting paid for it all because money is the most complex challenge. We have the drive and will. Yet, it is super tough to get enough money into the event, but thanks to our sponsors, the city of Helsingborg and Olympia Bowling, we made it possible. Last year we took a brutal hit economically, but our bowling hearts were still beating. That is why we tried again this year, and it looks like the players will support us so far. Hopefully, we can connect with another sponsor or two to keep the SLLM alive.
Having the world's bowling stars (e.g., Jason Belmonte, EJ Tackett, or Anthony Simonsen) in Helsingborg, Storm Lucky Larsen Masters can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the youth and less skilled players. What does it bring to them, competing side by side with their idols?
This question is easy to answer. Having idols means everything to up-and-coming players. You can't find a great player that has yet to have a bowling hero. I genuinely hope we are making a difference in bowling by running the SLLM.
The Storm Lucky Larsen Masters tournament promises to be an exciting event for European bowling fans. Are there any additional activities planned for spectators to enjoy?
I can't reveal too much because it is not set in stone, but we're working on possible golf outings, seminars, dinners, special deals on Storm equipment, etc. We will have live scoring and streaming platforms for the unlucky ones who can't come and see us in Helsingborg. Coming to Helsingborg is for sure worth it, even if you don't plan on bowling yourself. It is a beautiful city with great surroundings.
The winner of Storm Lucky Larsen Masters will be awarded with 150,000 SEK cash prize and the PBA Tour title. More than 300 bowling players have already booked a spot in SLLM squads. Grab yours by registering for the event here.