Bowling: Mike Kozy, Olympia Lanes ready for another PBA tournament
By Anthony Nasella Post-Tribune correspondent July 30, 2013 6:00PM
Olympia Lanes manager Mike Kozy has a busy week coming up when the PBA senior tour arrives on Monday. | Steve T. Gorches~Post-Tribune
Updated: July 30, 2013 7:23PM
When Olympia Lanes hosts next week’s PBA50 South Shore Open, it will be 14th straight year that the Hammond center has provided a venue for some of the most recognizable and beloved senior professional bowlers in the sport to compete in.
And while many of the functions that go into preparing and hosting a tournament of this scope after so many years are, as Olympia Lanes manager Mike Kozy said, “Like old hat,” there is still a partnership that exists between sponsors and the community in order to make the tournament an ultimate success.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to go out and get our own sponsors,” Kozy said. “It’s been the Lake County Convention and Visitors Bureau, and now one its branches, South Shore Sports Promotions, is our sponsor. You have to hustle your sponsors to help promote the event. You get cooperation from other bowling centers in the area, so you can leave your fliers there for event promotion.”
Kozy said support from the city of Hammond and even promoting the event on radio shows proves valuable, but he’s especially grateful for one benefit that sets Olympia apart from many other centers that host PBA tourneys.
“I think what also makes the tournament unique for our center from other stops is other centers charge admission fees,” he said. “With the relationship we have with our sponsors, we’re able to waive our admission. It’s free to come anytime during the week with the exception of finals.”
Kozy said that cooperation is also needed from league bowlers, whose league play conflicts with the tournament schedule and outside volunteers, whose efforts help the center offset some costs by not having to hire more staff for the event.
“Due to the event, some leagues can’t start early or have to take a week off,” he said. “So they’re very accommodating and understanding. We also receive a lot of strong support from the community in regards to working the tournament — like the members of the Calumet College bowling team.
“They help for spotters. It takes a lot of manpower to put on a tournament. You don’t want to have to hire extra staff for that one week, so you look for volunteers and you give them perks — like free games and lunch.”
Another benefit of the PBA tournament at Olympia is the center’s ability to even keep the price of the always-popular pro-am tournament down, which draws even more bowlers to the center.
“We’re to keep the price down because we eliminate the bowling ball requirement,” Kozy said. “By doing that, the price is affordable. I don’t how many pro-ams only cost you $25 for an adult and $10 for kids. The kids get trophies and plaques, the adults get the money and everybody gets to bowl with their favorite pro bowlers. That’s part of the tournament experience and it’s a popular draw for us.
“It’s not just promoting the PBA; it’s promoting the bowling industry in our area,” Kozy added. “Wherever in our area people are bowling — whether Camelot (in Portage), Stardust (II in Hobart or II in Dyer), Olympia or Plaza (Lanes in Highland) — they get the idea. It’s good for bowing in our region and bringing more people to the sport.”
Having spent almost a decade and half hosting the Senior Tour — as well as Olympia hosting a pair of senior stops in 1990 and 1991 — Kozy can truly see the transition of the PBA50 Tour from the bowlers who once were fixtures on ABC Sports in the 1970s and 80s to the current legends who have just, in recent years, started competed on the senior circuit.
“To see bowlers for so many years like Johnny Petragila, Dave Soutar, Dave Davis, Gary Dickinson and that group to now watching guys like Pete Weber, Amletto Monacelli, Bob Learn Jr., and Walter Ray Williams Jr. is pretty amazing,” he said. “It’s hard to believe they’re on the senior tour.”
Kozy, now 55 and whose relationship with Olympia Lanes has now reached 20 years, has thought about competing on the senior tour. He just won the prestigious Pepsi Individual Classic in the spring, but he admits that if he were to venture out that it wouldn’t be at his home house.
“I’d love to be able to go out there and compete, but It would be too much work to put on the event and try to bowl in it at the same time,” he said. “It would be too difficult: I could see myself ready to bowl and then be paged right to the bar.
“I could have bowled on the senior tour five years ago, but something always seems to come up. The first year, at age 50, I had knee surgery. The following year I had reconstructive shoulder surgery. I’m not going to invest $500 just to say I bowled in a PBA event. I’d have to really practice in order prepare and be ready.”