Retiree competes in pro bowling

Freedom New Mexico: Clarence Plank Retired Tech. Sgt. Doug Kirkman practices at Mainline Bowl in Clovis. Kirkman is a member of the Senior Professional Bowling Association.

By Clarence Plank: Freedom New Mexico

For Doug Kirkman the road to becoming a professional bowler has been full of holes, but he is making the best of the journey.

Kirkman was in the military for 20 years before retiring as a technical sergeant in food service.

When he retired from Cannon Air Force Base he was in charge of food services.

Kirkman, 50, works at the Cannon bowling alley.

Kirkman is a senior bowler and in May he participated in Professional Bowling Association Senior U.S. Open in Las Vegas, Nev.

“There’s a lot of self-doubt,” Kirkman said about his decision in turning pro. “I didn’t think I was good enough. A lot of people have that cynicism. So you fight with those things and you have to get prodded into getting in to scratch tournaments.”

Kirkman said once he started to enter a couple of tournaments he began seeing himself as a big fish in a little pond in Clovis.

“Then I go somewhere else, like down to Albuquerque,” Kirkman said. “Then you’re a big fish in a pond with bigger fish and you realize that you don’t know everything that you should know. However, I still know enough that I can take at least half the field.

“There’s a lot of people (who) bowl in the local area here and throughout the country who feel they don’t measure up. Where they can’t compete with higher caliber bowlers,” Kirkman said.

Kirkman said in the Clovis area there are a lot of people that hear his name and say they are not going to try because he’s good.

“That is not the case. I know their skill level and I know they can compete,” Kirkman said. “I bowl against them all the time and I know they can compete against me.”

Kirkman said it took a friend that was a professional bowler to get him to turn pro.

Kirkman’s road to being a professional bowler started at 19. A couple of friends from work got him in a league.

Kirkman started spending his money on practicing to learn the sport.

“A gentleman named Richard Blue was sitting at the bar one morning while I was practicing,” Kirkman said. “Blue had the bartender to come out and talk to me. Now, I had only known this guy from rumors. I had heard bad things about Blue.”

Blue was a retired Marine.

Kirkman said he went to meet Blue and once he did, Kirkman thought Blue was arrogant.

“So, I go back and say yes sir what can I do for ya?” Kirkman said. “Blue said ‘Now you want to learn how to bowl?’ I thought that was pretty arrogant at the time. The first thought in my head was this guys being a jerk.”

Kirkman said yes. From that moment he spent six hours day, five days a week with Blue teaching him how to bowl.

“He got me about 20 pins higher on my average. Then, I joined the Air Force and took it from there,” Kirkman said.

In 2002, he cashed out in the World Championships placing 113th out of 300 people in his first national tournament.

“That, I thought was a stepping stone in where I thought I wanted to go,” Kirkman said. “But some bad luck hit me. My wife had a stroke, so we had to stop doing tournaments for a while.”

He’s been getting back into competing in tournaments.

In 2006-2007, he bowled in a Boulder, Colo., PBA tournament — his first since his wife got sick.

Kirkman said he managed to cash out because he did well bowling on a shark pattern, which means you play in the middle of the aisle.

“I was pretty pleased with the cashing part and what my hopes were with the U.S. Open didn’t pan out,” Kirkman said. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up. There’s a couple of tournaments I want to hit coming up in August.”

In the U.S. Open, he missed, by 17 pins, out of cashing out or advancing through qualifying into the tournament.

It can be difficult trying to work around two schedules — the PBA and his day job at the Cannon alley.

Today, he can walk into any tournament confident enough he has at least half of the field.

And he’s working on that other half that still sometimes gets him.