North American Bowling News

The Pop Whitten Pro Duckpin Tour

Ed 'Pop' Whitten

Strong Competition for the Game's National Tour

In each successful organization, there's always one key figure whose tireless efforts and devotion to the group, although appreciated, inevitably get overlooked as time goes by. When people participate in, and witness, the excitement of a tournament event, the name for which the event stands understandably tends to be disassociated with the tour. The highly successful Pop Whitten Pro Duckpin tour has grown in popularity over recent years and is now a stiff competitor to the sport's national tour, the Duckpin Professional Bowlers Association.

The Pop Whitten Tour, originally called the Virginia Pro Tour, was established back in 1971, founded primarily by its first president, Buddy Spindler, and the tour was open to all Virginia residents. One of the associate founders back then was Ed "Pop" Whitten. After Spindler stepped down from the upper ranks several years after the tour's inception, Whitten took over the duties as tour director, and continued to run the Virginia Tour in fine fashion for the next 25 years. The Virginia Tour reached its peak in 1987 when the total membership was a substantial 198 members.

Whitten was a model leader for any successful organization to emulate. While Pop was a very personable figure, he still understood the importance of neutrality in his position. When there were times that rulings had to be made without wavering and for the good of the tour, Whitten made them, and stood by them.

As time progressed, so did demographics. Several key Virginia bowling centers were closing their doors, and the state's bowlers were becoming less prevalent on the tour. By the mid to late 1990s, the sole use of Virginia bowling centers was no longer appropriate, and for the good of the tour, enthusiastic Marylanders were allowed to join the cause. Along with this change, Maryland-host bowling centers were now becoming a part of the 'mix', and once again, the Virginia tour began to flourish.

Tour officials, Ken Sizemore and George Wynkoop

In 2004, after a most impressive run, Pop Whitten was ready to step down, and passed the duties of handling the tour into most capable hands, groomed by Whitten's example over the years. A cohesive unit of members, headed by directors Ken Sizemore, George Wynkoop, and Gary McKinsey have continued the tour's legacy, as the organization is now considered one of the more highly anticipated periodic duckpin bowling events. With the changeover, it only seemed fitting to the new tournament heads that the organization be renamed to "The Pop Whitten Pro Tour"--an honorable and respectful tribute to the backbone of the tour for so many years. An accompanying website, located at, is a valuable complement to the PWPT, as news from current and archived tours is available for viewing. The PWPT now is hosted by a span of bowling centers, ranging in location from the Hagerstown to Baltimore areas of Maryland.

The tour currently averages about 125 entries per stop. Tours are held once a month, with the season opener occurring in July, and the closing 'Masters' event being held in June. Membership for a year is $50.00, and each event costs $80.00 to enter. The season-ending Masters event is a bit more prestigious with a richer prize fund, thus entailing a $100.00 entry fee. To participate in the Masters, a bowler must have bowled 4 events throughout the PWPT year to be eligible. There are no average restrictions, and for the bowlers who are not quite at the pro level, there is a 'Pins Over Average' qualifying stipulation, which allows for these bowlers to advance to the head-to-head match play competition for the final day of the event.

Ed Whitten, 82, grew up in Lynchburg, Virginia, and currently resides there. An accomplished bowler in his own right, Pop recognized the importance of running a successful tour, and when he became tour director, he decided to make the sacrifice and dedicate himself administratively, rather than as a participant.

There are some who excel as players, and there are others who find it more important (or have it dealt upon them) to lead. Ed Whitten has earned respect and recognition over the years as one of bowling's brightest lights, as he became one of the duckpin game's most durable cogs, without which the Virginia Pro Tour/Pop Whitten Pro Tour could not have functioned.

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