Marshall Kent is making a name for himself on the bowling scene. A senior at Robert Morris University, he was one of only two nonprofessional bowlers who competed in the World Series of Bowling. (You'll have to check out Sunday's TV coverage to see how he did.)
The 21-year-old Kent, who won a pair of bowler of the year awards last season, talked to RedEye about his achievements, bouncing back mid-tournament and his favorite bowling spots in Chicago.
Tell us how you got into bowling.
Well, my parents actually bought a bowling center [in Yakima, Wash.], before I was born, so I was basically born into the bowling business.
What's the path to becoming a professional bowler?
Basically it started as a dream as a little kid, watching bowling every Sunday on TV, and then kind of started getting into the sport a little more seriously. I started to bowl in some tournaments back home, some little junior tournaments to earn scholarship money to pay for school. I earned a scholarship here at Robert Morris University, and that's what I'd say was the catalyst to getting everything started.
I've bowled here collegiately for three years and I've used what I've learned through college bowling, the coaching I've had, and applied it to my own personal experiences and tournaments. It ended up working out for me. Hopefully by the end of July I should have my professional card and officially be a professional bowler.
You've swept all the collegiate awards possible.
Well my freshman year I came in here and I won rookie of the year and player of the year on top of that, which has only been done I believe two or three other times in the 20-, 30- year history of college bowling. I got pretty fortunate, had a good end to the season. Last year I came back and won player of the year again and we won the national championship as a team. So basically in the last two years I've accomplished everything I possibly could.
Where was your mind at going into the World Series of Bowling?
I felt really good about myself going into it because I had just finished fourth at the U.S. Open, the biggest stage in bowling, so I was really confident going into it. The first couple days were pretty rough actually, so it was kind of a struggle. But then I got back on my feet in the last two days and had pretty good days—the fourth day I lead the tournament going into the TV show.
What was it like being one of the only nonprofessional bowlers at the tournament?
It wasn't really intimidating. It was actually pretty cool because during the tournament I was bowling and I look left and I see all of these guys I've seen on TV as I was growing up watching bowling. These professionals I've known for years and years and years, they were right there—they're human all of a sudden. Every little mistake they make, I see it. Every little success they have, I see it. To see it in person and to compete against them is a pretty incredible feeling.
What's the team like at RMU?
Very talented. There are actually  people on the roster, eight people travel for the A team. For our team this year we have almost the same team as last year, we had one kid graduate from our national championship team last year, so it's basically the same team going into this year. We're all pretty talented bowlers; we can all bowl at any time, any given day and we can put up the same score as anybody else.
It's your third year at RMU, but you're graduating this year?
My senior year of high school I took college classes in a running start program, I went to college during high school so I'm a year ahead. I'll be taking a couple classes in the summer to finish with my bachelor's degree.
What are your plans once you graduate?
For the next few years I'd like to go out, travel the world and go bowling. The Professional Bowling Association just adapted this World Bowling Tour where they have events in Thailand, the Middle East and all over Europe, so I want to go and travel for a couple years, see the world and have some fun.
After you're done with professional bowling, what do you see yourself doing?
I'd like to stay in the business. Own a bowling center, starting or work for a bowling company, but I'd like to stay in the industry that got me through everything—school, my career, it would be nice to stay in the industry.
What's your favorite bowling alley in Chicago?
I don't know if I really have a favorite but I like a lot of them that I've been to. We practice at Diversey River Bowling Center; it's been like a home away from home for me. There are a couple Lucky Strike bowling centers around Chicago, and those are always really nice, high-end bowling centers. Not really practice centers, but you can go and have a good time.
WORLD SERIES OF BOWLING
2:30 p.m Sunday, ESPN
Robert Morris student Marshall Kent is one of only two nonprofessional bowlers in the tournament, along with former NFL star Terrell Owens.
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