Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011 | 1:55 a.m.
PBA Tournament of Champions
Tickets start at $10 may be purchased online at www.pba.com. The finals will be televised live on ABC Sports on Jan. 22.
Map of Red Rock Lanes
11011 W. Charleston, Las Vegas
Professional bowler Ryan Shafer has seen his fair share of pins and obstacles on his way to next week’s Tour of Champions bowling tournament in Las Vegas.
Schafer was 19 when he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, a juvenile onset illness where the body fails to produce enough insulin to properly control blood sugar levels.
Shafer displayed all of the classic symptoms: suddenly losing 25 pounds, feeling lethargic and experiencing trouble seeing. One day, he went golfing with his brother-in-law, who noticed he was chugging down a Coke at every hole.
“I was so thirsty,” said Shafer, now 44. “My brother-in-law said, ‘I think you’re diabetic.’”
When the diagnosis was confirmed, Shafer said he found new resolve to strike back.
“It wasn’t frightening to me,” he said of his illness. “It wasn’t a big deal. People have been doing (insulin treatments) for years. I was just happy I could take care of it.”
Shafer said he couldn’t let diabetes and insulin treatments get in the way of his passion: bowling.
Shafer has been bowling since he was 5 years old. Growing up, Shafer would help out at his father’s bowling center every day after school.
“I cleaned, worked behind the counter and helped out any way I could,” he said. Afterward, his father would let him practice, he said.
“I was good at bowling, and it made me love the game,” he added.
As a Professional Bowlers Association athlete, Schafer has been making a name for himself. With four PBA Tour Titles and 10 top 10 finishes in the last two years, the upstate New York resident is returning to Las Vegas next week to bowl for the $1 million prize in the 46th PBA Tour of Champions.
“I’ve met a ton of people who have changed my life. I’ve traveled the world,” he said. “Bowling has allowed me to do a lot of things.”
For Shafer, however, it’s not about the glow of the television cameras or the excitement of bowling a turkey. It’s all about showing others the potential for success even if you wear an insulin pump.
“I really want to inspire kids,” he said. “It’s important to tell people that if I can … perform at the highest level, anyone can.
“You can do whatever you want even if you’re a diabetic.”
Fans are invited to watch Shafer compete against a field of 172 other bowlers in this year’s PBA Tournament of Champions, which starts today and runs through next Saturday, at the Red Rock Lanes at Red Rock Casino.