USBC Masters champion Tom Hess shares stage at 2019 Team USA Trials

LAS VEGAS - United States Bowling Congress Masters champion Tom Hess of Urbandale, Iowa, bowls for a living, but he never pressured either of his children to follow in his footsteps.

They both bowled when they were young but were given the freedom to choose their own paths and activities. Recently, his daughter, Megan, decided to make bowling a priority.

Not only has it allowed her to become a successful student-athlete at St. Ambrose University, it also has brought the father-daughter duo to the 2019 USBC Team USA Trials.

Becoming part of the Team USA program would be incredibly meaningful to both of them, but regardless of their final finishes this week at the Gold Coast Bowling Center, the chance to compete together on such a big stage has been priceless.

Both participated in the Team USA Trials for the first time.

"It means the world to me that she's here and has a growing passion for bowling," Hess said. "I never wanted to pressure my kids into bowling. She saw the opportunities that could come from bowling, like going to school or competing for our country, so she started working toward it."

Megan, an 18-year-old right-hander, has been at St. Ambrose for five months, finding a welcoming comfort alongside her fellow bowlers and really dedicating herself to becoming a top-tier competitor.

Hess was amazed at her progress, which he saw first-hand while they were practicing during the recent holiday break.

"I think she has improved leaps and bounds in the five months she's been in school," Hess said. "Part of that is the coaches, especially Craig Crawford, and part of that is her desire and want to improve now that she has made bowling a priority. It's amazing to watch, and I'm very proud of her progress, especially to come here and compete."

Megan also is extremely proud of her progress but knows success will take time.

In 2016, she competed in the Junior Gold Championships presented by the Brands of Ebonite, and that experience showed her what she needed to work on before making another appearance in 2018.

Now, her first Team USA Trials is giving her a chance to test her new skills and gauge where she is after just one semester in college bowling.

Through four days at the Gold Coast Bowling Center, Megan was 106th in the record 152-player women's field and working to gather as much experience and information as possible to continue making progress.

"In high school, bowling wasn't No. 1 for me, since I had other activities, but now, I'm pretty much focused on school and bowling, which has changed my game tremendously," said Megan, a longtime softball player who later was involved in choir and band during high school. "I really love St. Ambrose, and I'm bowling a lot more, so I'm learning a lot and seeing improvement. We're having a great year as a team, and it is a lot of fun. This week is just another chance to gain some experience and see what I can work on for next time."

Being able to watch his daughter compete this week, while also testing his own skills, has been special for Hess.

Bowling may be his job and way to pay the bills, but he expressed that the pride of having a chance to represent the United States on the lanes would be immeasurable and indescribable.

Though he bowled well at times this week in Las Vegas, the 49-year-old right-hander will have to wait for another chance to make that happen. There also could be potential down the road for representing his country in senior competition.

With daily finishes of 140th, 13th, 66th, tied for 50th and third, Hess finished 35th overall with 272 ranking points.

"I don't know that there would be any greater honor than to bowl for my country," said Hess, the 2011 Masters champion and a 10-time Professional Bowlers Association regional champion. "I've won the Masters, but I don't know if that would compare to putting on the red, white and blue and standing on the podium to hear the national anthem after winning a gold medal. I've always considered winning the U.S. Open to be the toughest tournament to win, but it might be better that."

Hess also had a few general thoughts about the record field at the 2019 Team USA Trials, which featured 327 total entries.

"The tournament out here this week is unbelievable," Hess said. "People say the sport is broken, but they couldn't be more wrong. This sport is not dying. Just come and look at this event and the 18-25-year-old kids. A lot is happening right now with the PBA changes and the PWBA, and these kids have so much to look forward to at the next level."

The champions at the Team USA Trials are determined by ranking points earned during the five rounds. The leaders each day earn one ranking point, second place earns two, etc., with the lowest total of ranking points at the end of the week determining the winners.

Both champions earn automatic spots on Team USA and the chance to represent the United States at the QubicaAMF Bowling World Cup.

The top four men and top four women at the 2019 Team USA Trials, based on ranking points, will earn automatic spots on Team USA, while two additional men and two additional women will be selected by the National Selection Committee from the pool of players that competed during the week at the Gold Coast Bowling Center.

The National Selection Committee also will select a maximum of five men and five women for the team based on submitted resumes. Those applicants must have been Team USA or Junior Team USA members within the last 10 years or among the top 25 in earnings during the 2018 PBA Tour season or top 25 in points during the 2018 PWBA Tour season.

After the final qualifying round at the Team Trials, the top three amateur men and top three amateur women will advance to a stepladder to determine the U.S. Amateur champions. Both winners will earn spots on Team USA.

If the U.S. Amateur champion already has earned a spot on the team, the spot will be awarded to the next-highest Team USA Trials qualifier based on ranking points.

To be eligible for this year's U.S. Amateur, a bowler must not hold or have held a professional membership (PBA or PWBA) in 2018. Also, anyone who has won a professional title (regional, national or senior) as a professional is not eligible to compete as an amateur.

For the other youth competitors, the top four boys and top four girls, based on ranking points, automatically will earn spots on Junior Team USA 2019. Two additional boys and two additional girls also will be selected by the National Selection Committee based on performances from either the 2019 Team USA Trials or 2018 Junior Gold Championships.

They will join the youth competitors who already earned their spots on Junior Team USA 2019 through qualifying at the 2018 Junior Gold Championships.'s BowlTV is providing wire-to-wire coverage of the events, including the announcement of Team USA and Junior Team USA 2019.