Happy Hooker

A young pro bowler finds hope to spare.

The boy who was treated to the burger at Fuddruckers remains undeterred.

"I love being on the road," Jensen says. "I love living out of a suitcase. I love being in new places and meeting new people and being in a hotel." Part of that view, he grants, springs from his youth. At 21, Jensen has no girlfriend and no mortgage. His most serious financial obligation is the monthly payment on his Nissan Murano. When he's not bowling weekend events on the PBA's Southwest Tour, hoping high finishes will get him another shot at a tour trial -- similar to a Q-School in golf -- he has the energy to cover a nine-state territory as regional sales manager for Roto-Grip bowling products. Roto-Grip gives him a little endorsement money. For the second straight summer, he's living with Chris and Linda Barnes and their children in a Dallas suburb and driving endlessly to tournaments. Whenever he's in his native state, he consults with Denver hypnotherapist Steve Hanson, who, he says, helps him suppress conscious thought and achieve the state of relaxed concentration that all athletes crave.

In June, Jensen won a regional event in San Antonio, but his competition earnings total just $5,500 this season. He qualified for the last PBA tour trial before he had to withdraw with a sore wrist. Realistically, he says, it will take two more years for him to rejoin the national circuit. "Right now, it's more about gaining the experience, and I'm willing to do that," he says. "Hardly anyone knows about the professional side of bowling. We live on the road six or seven months a year. We bowl 150 games a week. Anyone who says that doesn't take athletic skill doesn't understand. But it's also mentally exhausting. You must have the right mindset. Maybe some of our guys aren't in the best of shape, but they're mentally strong. We're not playing for a million dollars, so when it's going bad, it seems that it's even worse. That's one of the most unbelievable things about being on tour: The highs are so high and the lows are so low. It's an extremely stressful environment."

Tyler Jensen loves throwing his life away.
Tyler Jensen loves throwing his life away.

But any guy who loads twenty bowling balls in his trunk also has desire. Ever since he was a little kid, Jensen says, he's imagined himself in the final match-up of a big-time bowling tournament on television. Just as other young men fantasize about homering off Roger Clemens in game seven of the World Series, or draining a buzzer-beater in the NBA finals, Jensen has always seen himself squaring off against Pete or Walter Ray or his pal Chris for a display check the size of a wall poster and the heartfelt cheers of Albany, New York, or Reno, Nevada, or Kennewick, Washington. "This is our dream," he says. "This is what we do. I don't know how easy it would be to give it up."

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