Tom Smallwood beat the competition and the assumptions that his name arises in upsetting the reigning Professional Bowlers Association player of the Year, Wes Malott, 244-228 in the PBA World Championships on Sunday. The former assembly-line worker for General Motors who was laid off nearly a year ago took home his first PBA Tour title, his first “major” title, a $50,000 first prize, a two-year exemption to continue his PBA Tour career and his first chance to bowl in January’s PBA Tournament of Champions.
“It’s surreal,” Smallwood, 32, said. “It has been a wild ride.”
“I was already so nervous in the 10th frame, I told myself I couldn’t possibly get any more nervous,” he added. “The right lane was my good lane anyway, so I figured if I threw a decent shot, I’d be OK.”
Always sure of his skill, Smallwood never attempted to get on the tour until after he lost his job, so he competed in the PBA Tour Trial in suburban Detroit, finishing 3rd and starting his bowling career.
“I wouldn’t be here otherwise,” he said. “Getting an exemption is so hard to do.”
Ironically, Smallwood recently got a call from the General Motors jobs bank, offering him a chance to go back to work.
“The lady who called asked me if I wanted to come back to work, but I told her no,” he said. “She asked what I was doing. I told her I’m now a professional bowler and that I’d be on ESPN this weekend. At first she didn’t believe me, but the lady sitting next to her was a bowler, so I wound up talking to her for a while. Now I think the people at GM are fans.”