PBA champs

Oak Hill native Charlie Toney, second from left, teamed with John May, second from right, to win the PBA/PBA50 Decker Appraisal Services Bristol Baker Doubles Tournament in Bristol, Va. It was Toney’s first PBA victory. Also pictured are Shawn Lavender, left, and Dave Lambert, right, with Interstate Lanes in Bristol, Va.

Winning bowling tournaments is nothing new to Oak Hill native Charlie Toney.

However, among his long list of accomplishments, one very important thing was missing — a Professional Bowlers Association title.

That all changed Nov. 8 at the PBA/PBA50 Decker Appraisal Services Bristol Baker Doubles Tournament in Bristol, Va.

Combining with PBA professional John May, the twosome outdueled the powerhouse team of Walter Ray Williams and Dick "Richie" Allen in a thrilling finish.

"I have won a lot of tournaments, but I have been searching for that PBA win for many years," Toney told The Register-Herald. "The feeling of winning that first PBA tournament is so surreal, especially when it has been your lifelong dream."

In the unique baker style format in the opening round, Toney and May started quick with back-to-back perfect games.

"I bowled all of the odd frames of the game and he bowled the even frames," Toney explained. "We led from the beginning through all 12 games of qualifying."

Round two featured an eight-game match play format with the winners of each game earning a crucial 30-pin bonus for the victory.

The top four teams after round two would advance to the stepladder finals, with the top team drawing a bye into the championship game.

Toney’s love for bowling started at an early age — a very early age.

"My mom and dad managed TV Lanes (in Oak Hill) back in the '60s and '70s. People tell me I threw my first bowling ball at the age of 3," Toney said. "I grew up in that place and they couldn't hardly get me out of there. I started working the counter at TV Lanes when I was 12 years old and owned Toney's White Oak Lanes for 30 years. I stayed in bowling centers and I love the sport. It's in my blood and all I ever wanted to do."

The all-important bye into the championship game looked like it was Toney's and May's for the taking before everything changed in the final game.

"Walter and Richie came back and beat us in the position round to claim the No. 1 spot and knocked us down to third," Toney said. "Bonus pins allowed another team (Eddie Graham and Matt Staninger) to pass us for second."

Just when the dream of his first PBA title seemed one win away, Toney and May would now have to win three games in a row to be the champions.

In the opening game of the championship round, the Toney-May combo was red hot with a convincing 259-206 win. Game number two was another easy win over Graham and Stringer, 213-168.

"We had to work our way back up the ladder," Toney said. "It came down to us bowling the greatest bowler of all time, Walter Ray, and right now Richie is in the top 10 on the regular (PBA) tour."

Not only did Toney's love for the game start at an early age, so did his familiarity with the PBA Tour environment.

"My dad, Adam Toney, bowled professionally. So at an early age I was out there around some of the greatest players in the world," Toney said. "I would go to the tournaments and watch him compete. I remember as a kid, he told me that he and I were both going to be PBA champions one day. It was something that I aspired to do. He won a national PBA senior title on ESPN in 1991. I have been chasing that dream for a long time trying to make it come true."

The Bristol Baker Doubles Tournament was the first time Toney and May had joined forces in a double event. The twosome bowled the event in honor of a friend who passed away back in June.

"I met a guy back about seven or eight years ago by the name of Jeff Schrum. We became very good friends and our wives became very good friends through the PBA50 Tour," Toney said. "Jeff and I traveled everywhere together. He always told me that I was going to win some tournaments. I was beginning to not believe that because I just turned 60 and all these other players were in their 50s."

"Jeff passed a few months ago from cancer," Toney explained. "At his funeral, John came up to me and said he thought we should bowl the doubles in Jeff's memory this year. I think we kinda had a threesome bowling a twosome because Jeff was with us. It meant a lot."

In the final showdown, Toney and May started hot again with three strikes in a row. Coupled with Allen's split in the second frame, Toney and May looked to be in the driver's seat for a win.

"I kinda let up on the speed and went up and left a big split," Toney lamented. "John came right behind me and left another split and they doubled. Coming down the stretch we were down one pin."

In the key seventh frame, a strike from Toney was the first of five in a row, leading to a 229-200 win over the two-time defending champs.

"We were fortunate enough to throw strikes the rest of the way and close them out," Toney said. "That was something I had always wanted to accomplish and finally got done."

While crediting fellow local professionals like Steve Lickliter and Summer Jasmine for their help, Toney's win has had a big impact on area youth bowlers.

"I have had so many collegiate players and young bowlers come up and tell me how the win has inspired them," Toney said. "I have a good relationship with the young bowlers that are really interested in the sport. They have told how it has made them want to work harder and reach their dreams."

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