Every community needs a preacher.
Even a bunch of guys who get together to bowl every weekend.
Put the same group of people in the same place every couple of weekends, and they start to form their own community.
For the Southwest Division of the Senior All-Star Bowling Association — which kicked off its Super Senior Member/Guest Doubles Tournament on Saturday at Diamond Lanes — that man is Phil Bailey.
“This is like a big family,” said SASBA founder Jamie Brooks, who owns Diamond Lanes. “I don’t have hardly any friends that aren’t in this. And he is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.”
Unlike some SASBA members, who own a list of bowling accomplishments and Hall of Fame memberships that would make any current PBA star blush, Bailey has never been a part of the pro bowling tour.
He found the game relatively late in life.
Back in the early 1960s, Bailey moved to San Angelo to attend Angelo State University. During college, he started bowling in a mixed league.
And by the time he started to get really good, he had plenty of responsibilities.
“I had a guy who was going to put me on tour back in the late ’70s,” Bailey said. “But my kids had gotten to the Little League age. I actually quit bowling for 10 years.”
Bowling competitively can be one heck of a time commitment.
To keep his skills fresh as a member of SASBA, Bailey bowls nearly every other night.
Back then, he didn’t have time to be a dad and spend so much time on the tour.
Plus, trying to stay at the top would have worn him out.
“I got burned out,” Bailey said. “At that point, the scores started really jumping. 200 was big in the late ’70s, but right after that the scores skyrocketed.”
Bailey spent a decade away from the sport.
But he had more than a few irons in the fire to keep him occupied. Raising a family, building Bailey Construction — the company he still owns and operates in San Angelo — and staying involved in teaching Sunday School at the Nazarene Church kept him busy.
And then one of his sons brought him back to bowling.
Regaining his skills didn’t take long, and as soon as he turned 50 — the minimum age to become a part of SASBA — Bailey joined the tour.
Bailey also became a licensed pastor in 2000. A part-time pastor, Bailey assists the senior pastor at Arena of Life church in San Angelo by preaching whenever needed.
No wonder regular SASBA tour members call him “The Preacher.”
“That’s all I ever call him,” said SASBA legend Gary Dickinson, a member of the USBA Hall of Fame. “You can ride him, he doesn’t ever say anything. You want friends like that.”
Bowling might bring SASBA members together, but the little organization has a way of branching out.
Eight years ago, Dickinson had a heart attack. Bailey prayed with him in the hospital. Bailey officiated the wedding ceremony for SASBA founder Jim King and his wife.
And when Brooks was building Diamond Lanes, Bailey brought his construction company up from San Angelo to work on the front of the building.
Bailey turned down a chance at the tour once before.
But he turned that opportunity down because he was getting burned out. Playing on the SASBA tour is refreshing.
“Once you turn 50, the game’s totally different,” Bailey said. “The competition’s still there. But I know all these guys, and they know me.”
Beating your friends can be a lot of fun.