Talk about baptism by fire. In his first tournament after
deciding to try his hand on the PBA tour, C.K. Moore, a
Presbyterian minister, competed on national television against
bowling superstar Parker Bohn III at the Columbia 300 Open in
Austin. In the opening frame of the match, Moore scored an
improbable strike when the headpin rolled around on the back of
the deck before finally clipping the last pin standing. After
that stroke of luck, Moore threw 11 more strikes to become the
first rookie to bowl a televised 300 game. In addition to
collecting $22,000 the next day for winning the tournament,
Moore earned a $25,000 bonus from the Highland Lanes in Austin
for bowling a perfect game on TV.
"I was in such disbelief that I really don't remember the 300
game that well, even when I watch it on tape," Moore says. After
the tournament he misplaced his wallet and had to use his
picture from the local newspaper as identification when he
boarded his flight for the next tour stop, in Reno.
Moore recovered his billfold and subsequently proved that his
initial success as a professional was not mere luck. At year's
end the Rev, as his colleagues on the tour call him, came within
one strike of winning a second tournament. His prize money for
the season totaled $67,945, a rookie record, and he qualified
for Brunswick's World Tournament of Champions. Moore was the
tour's 1996 rookie of the year.
Not bad for a 39-year-old late bloomer who had spent the
previous five years delivering sermons and working with youth
groups at the Westminster Presbyterian Church in sleepy
Chehalis, Wash. (pop. 7,000). "I had been bowling competitively
since junior high and had been thinking about turning pro for a
long time," says Moore, who also played baseball in high school,
in Sacramento. "In the end, I didn't want to always say,
'Woulda, shoulda, coulda.'"
He credits his wife, Rebecca Kirk, the daughter of his piano
teacher and a self-employed international education consultant
who is fluent in four languages, "for encouraging me to follow
Before the official job change, Moore passed the collection
plate, so to speak, to raise money to cover his expenses. He
sold $1,000 shares in his career to 17 community business
people. It wasn't just because he is a pleasant fellow that he
had little trouble finding investors. In 1995 Moore took his
youth group to a bowling alley and reluctantly filled in when
one of the kids took ill. Using a house ball and wearing hiking
boots, he rolled a 300 game, the "20th or so" of his career, he
says. So last January, four weeks after marrying Rebecca, C.K.
resigned as an associate pastor and hit the road. "Life on the
tour is pretty much what I expected," he says. "You just need to
treat it like a job that you take seriously."
When Moore is home in Chehalis, which is halfway between
Portland and Seattle, he plays basketball and lifts weights at
the gym and bowls six times a week. (You can guess on which day
he rests.) Standing 6'3" and built like one of the Douglas firs
at the timber yard down the street from his house, Moore does
not want for power. But synthetic surfaces give him trouble. "I
have a long swing, and the ball skids down the lane faster than
it does on wood," he says. "Mostly, though, I need to work on
In competition, Moore, whose initials stand for Charles Kenneth,
bowls with a somber visage. He takes a deep breath and wipes his
16-pound ball before letting fly. He is without spiritual
pretensions. "It's hard to be superstitious and be a minister,"
he says. "Besides, I don't think God plays favorites."
Moore leads Bible study for other holy rollers on the tour but
otherwise avoids waxing evangelical. "I don't go around
preaching to the guys, and they're not trying to shove drinks
into my hand," he says. "I just happen to be a pastor who bowls."
Bowling's rookie-of-the-year distinction doesn't bring with it a
long-term contract, a windfall of endorsements or many other
guarantees. "I know that winning an award in 1996 doesn't do a
thing for me in 1997," Moore says. "I have goals for this year,
and in December my wife and I will sit down and ask ourselves
where we go from there. Right now, though, we're still in a
state of wonderment."
COLOR PHOTO: RICH FRISHMAN Church members who bought shares in Moore feel blessed. [C.K. Moore bowling in church aisle]