Pete Weber, son of legendary bowler Dick Weber, couldn't control himself. Sitting off in a corner of a Fairlawn, Ohio, hotel bar last Saturday evening, he burst out laughing, clapped his hands and raised his arms in glee. "This tournament has made me the best," he said. "I don't have to beat anybody. They all have to beat me. I have nothing to prove anymore. They all have to prove they are better than me." Which was reason enough, in his judgment, to order up another Jack Daniel's.
Weber had every right to be giddy. Two and a half hours earlier he had outperformed 51 other pros to win bowling's most prestigious event, the Fire stone Tournament of Champions. It wasn't just that on the final day he beat, in order, Mike Aulby, Mark Roth, Art Trask and Jim Murtishaw; he destroyed them. This was the first time in the tournament's 23-year history that a player positioned fifth in Saturday's five-man stepladder final round had moved through (in the playoff format No. 5 faces No. 4 for the right to face No. 3, and so on) to become champ.
Aulby gave Weber his toughest match, and he lost by 26 pins. Roth, who has won 32 tournaments, was lucky to escape before the blood flowed. He lost by 30 pins and made only one strike.
For some time now the sport has been fretting over its lack of new stars who can take over for the old guard. Murtishaw? Trask? Please. The sun is setting on Dick Weber, Earl Anthony and Carmen Salvino; it's past midday for Roth, Nelson Burton Jr. and, maybe, Marshall Holman. On whom is the sun rising? The answer is clearly Pete Weber.
Consider that Anthony, who has won more money ($1,273,286) and titles (41) than anyone in PBA history, didn't win his first tournament until he was 31. At 24, Weber has won 10, more than anyone ever has at that age. Consider that by collecting the $50,000 winner's check at the Firestone, Weber brought his career earnings to $733,331, thereby surpassing his father, who has earned $731,003 in his 29-year career. Consider that Dick never won the Firestone. "It's another era," Dick says. "It's a youthful game."
Indeed, so far this year 12 of the PBA's 16 tournaments have been won by players who aren't yet 30. So, says Dick Weber. "You have to make way for the youngsters." Even if one is your own. "I hope he triples what I made," says Dick. "And he might. He has no idea how much talent he has."
How much? you say. Anthony and Burton believe that Pete is the most gifted bowler the tour has ever seen.
And herein lies a potential problem. Could it be that Pete will self-destruct on wild living en route to reaching bowling immortality?
"Nope," he says. "I already self-destructed once, and I won't do it again." That was in 1984, when he spent four weeks in a Lonedell, Mo., drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in an attempt to unhook himself from booze, cocaine and marijuana.
Although Pete insists his druggie days are history, he says, "Pete will always be Pete, and Pete likes to drink." He has never met a good time he didn't like or a 4 a.m. he didn't love, and bowling officialdom is worried. Waste your worry on other things, says Pete. "I don't stay out all night drinking when I have to bowl the next day. And what I do on my off time is my time. People shouldn't judge me in bars. They should judge me on performance."