The Best Bowlers of All Time & of the Last 5 Years

Earl Anthony

Earl Anthony – Considered the greatest bowler of all time.

Creating a ‘Best Bowlers of All Time’ list isn’t easy. There have been thousands of outstanding players in the history of the game. There are dozens of factors and criteria that can be used to determine a player’s quality, such as career earnings, annual earnings, tournaments won, tournaments placed, career average, tournaments cashed relative to tournaments bowled, and on, and on…

Scroll to the bottom of this post for a look at the best bowlers of the last 5 years.

Those are just the objective factors. There is a lot to take into account in a list like this. That’s why, for the ‘All Time’ list, we’re borrowing straight from the PBA’s ’50 Greatest Players in PBA History’. This list is from the 2008-09 season, so certain stats for current players have changed, but the overall structure of this list will likely stand for a long time.

Note: This list only takes into account PBA players and doesn’t include players like Andy Varipapa who was around before the PBA.

  • Key:
  • (A) – Active on the PBA Tour or PBA 50 Tour
  • (P) – Passed Away
  • (R) – Retired

Best Bowlers of All Time

  • 1. Earl Anthony (P)
  • 2. Walter Ray Williams Jr. (A)
  • 3. Dick Weber (P)
  • 4. Pete Weber (A)
  • 5. Mark Roth (R)
  • 6. Mike Aulby (R)
  • 7. Norm Duke (A)
  • 8. Don Johnson (P)
  • 9. Marshall Holman (R)
  • 10. Parker Bohn III (A)
  • 11. Don Carter (P)
  • 12. Billy Hardwick (P)
  • 13. Brian Voss (A)
  • 14. Dick Ritger (R)
  • 15. Nelson “Bo” Burton Jr. (R)
  • 16. Johnny Petraglia (A)
  • 17. Carmen Salvino (R)
  • 18. Wayne Webb (R)
  • 19. Dave Davis (R)
  • 20. Dave Soutar (R)
  • 21. Amleto Monacelli (A)
  • 22. Mike Durbin (R)
  • 23. Dave Husted (R)
  • 24. Jason Couch (A)
  • 25. Steve Cook (R)
  • 26. Chris Barnes (A)
  • 27. Jim Stefanich (R)
  • 28. Harry Smith (R)
  • 29. Del Ballard Jr. (R)
  • 30. Tommy Jones (A)
  • 31. Wayne Zahn (R)
  • 32. Jim Godman (P)
  • 33. George Pappas (R)
  • 34. David Ozio (R)
  • 35. Randy Pedersen (A)
  • 36. Dave Ferraro (R)
  • 37. Larry Laub (R)
  • 38. Bill Allen (P)
  • 39. Mike McGrath (R)
  • 40. Joe Berardi (R)
  • 41. Tom Baker (A)
  • 42. Danny Wiseman (A – part time)
  • 43. Doug Kent (A)
  • 44. Patrick Allen (A)
  • 45. John Guenther (R)
  • 46. Gary Dickinson (R)
  • 47. Barry Asher (R)
  • 48. Tommy Hudson (R)
  • 49. Mika Koivuniemi (A)
  • 50. Bob Strampe (R)

Source: 50 Greatest Players in PBA History

We think the PBA did a great job with this list. Here’s the tricky part, though: how do you incorporate some of the best bowlers of today with the best bowers of the ever-growing past? For example, in the 5 years since this list has been published, Mika Koivuniemi has had incredible success, including a 1st place Tournament of Champions finish, a 2nd place U.S. Open finish, and a handful of other titles. It would be reasonable, then, to bump Mika up on that list were it current.

You also need to take into account how much the game has changed. Was it tougher back when bowling balls were hard rubber and transitions on the lane were by a quarter of a board? Or is it tougher now with the hundreds of bowling ball coverstock/core combinations, varying oil patterns, and lane transitions every half game? We don’t know. That’s not for us to decide.

For this list, we’re only looking at objective factors and we’re only looking at the past 5 years (2009-present).

Note: Averages are calculated per season, not by total games, and should not be cited as official averages (but they should be pretty close!). Because there is no definitive way to rank the players, this is our subjective order. You can sort the table by clicking on the column titles.

Best Bowlers of the Last 5 Years

BowlerEventsCashesCash %EarningsAverageNotes
Jason Belmonte776787%$611,179.59223.98-9 Titles
-29 TV Finals
Sean Rash856981%$569,837222.13-4 Titles
-21 TV Finals
Mika Koivuniemi876878%$706,856221.65-5 Titles
-12 TV Finals
Chris Barnes846679%$493,371221.95-5 Titles
-15 TV Finals
Pete Weber867081%$429,738.11224.73-3 Titles (2 PBA50 Titles)
-17 TV Finals (10 PBA50 TV Finals)
-2 PBA50 Tour seasons included
Bill O'Neill797190%$432,686222.60-6 Titles
-18 TV Finals
Walter Ray Williams Jr.1229477%$419,604224.00-2 Titles (9 PBA50 Titles)
-7 TV Finals (25 PBA50 TV Finals)
-5 PBA50 Tour seasons included
Mike Fagan836882%$379,071220.99-4 Titles
-16 TV Finals
Norm Duke775875%$358,092221.96-5 Titles (2 PBA50 Titles)
-13 TV Finals (4 PBA50 TV Finals)
-1 PBA50 Tour season included
Wes Malott 685276%$342,836.79222.61-3 Titles
-16 TV Finals
Tommy Jones786279%$385,966220.16-3 Titles
-12 TV Finals
Osku Palermaa644773%$301,072217.22-4 Titles
-10 TV Finals
Parker Bohn III835263%$231,609.96219.30-1 Title (1 PBA50 Title)
-7 TV Finals (3 PBA50 TV Finals)
-1 PBA50 Tour season included
Tom Smallwood724968%$329,960218.40-3 Titles
-12 TV Finals
Ryan Ciminelli764661%$274,161.59219.45-2 Titles
-13 TV Finals

Do you agree with this list? Did we leave anybody off? Let us know down below – we’ll fix the list if your argument is convincing enough.

8 Comments

Pete Weber

Without a doubt, Earl Anthony was the best. He had 43 titles including 10 majors, as well as around 40 second place finishes, many where he was leading the tournament !!

Reply
David Cre

There is NO comparison between bowlers of yesteryear & those of today. Old time bowlers had to rely strictly on accuracy, while shooting on wooden lanes, using a hard solid-rubber ball, pins that were solid, hard-rock maple & weren’t plastic covered.

Reply
W Lewis

While I agree the the game is totally different today from what it was back in the day (because of the equipment available and the surfaces used today), I don’t think that bowlers in either era should b penalized for that. Maybe the fair way to list them is by “pre and post reactive resin bowlers,” this way bowlers in both eras r accounted for.

Reply
ronaldo santiago

greatest bowlers of all time in the US?! but the world greatest bowler of all time is paeng nepomuceno, winner of 4 world cup, world invitational, world tenpin masters, IOC president’s trophy and other international titles!

Reply
Kevin Bickel

Can’t argue with that! We did just look at players who compete on the PBA tour for this list (which does include some international players like Amleto Monacelli and Mika Koivuniemi) but another, all-encompassing list would be fun to make!

Reply
Jay Pryor

What about Ray Bluth , 3 pba championships isn’t enough to get on the list.

Reply
Matthew

What a helpful site! I must say that I rellay learned a lot today and I enjoyed reading your quality guide here on bowling. Thank you very much for sharing it with us and I’m looking forward for more interesting post. : )

Reply

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