FAIRLAWN: Walking into AMF Riviera Lanes this week for the PBA Tournament of Champions is an honor for the old and new generation of bowlers and bowling fans.

Even though the bowling center looks nothing like it did 25 years ago with the era of rock-n-bowl, the old feelings are still present.

“Just walking into the building the first night I was here, and seeing the big crowds, I had to let all the memories of being a fan of the PBA and the Tournament of Champions just wash over me,” PBA Commissioner Tom Clark said.

“Thinking that Earl Anthony was here, Dick Weber was here, Carmen Salvino was here, going after a title during the height of their careers, it just brought back great memories of the history of our sport.”

So much rich history at Riviera, which hosted the Tournament of Champions for 29 consecutive years (1966-94), when only the best of the best would bowl for the sport’s most prestigious title at the end of each season.

Some claim Lanes 27-28 are the most famous pair of lanes in PBA history, as they were used on the televised finals every year and will be used again this year at 1 p.m. Sunday on ESPN.

“We’re setting up the crowd the same way it used to be set up back in the day,” Clark said. “It’s different than what we’ve been doing the past few years, bringing the fans onto the lanes. But we’re going to keep the fans off the lanes for this show and have all the fans along the concourse.

“It’s going to feel like a throwback to the most popular and best show of the year for 30 years the PBA was here.”

Bowlers in Akron and all of Northeast Ohio are knowledgeable about the sport of bowling and the history of the PBA. And that includes bowling etiquette, as the fans in attendance understand the pros are trying to make a living and are doing the best they can to bring home a paycheck.

“I sense everyone around here is a bowler or a bowling fan that understands bowling and know who all the pros are. They come in and recognize me ’cause I’m on the show,” Clark said. “The cool thing is there’s a bunch of people that came from back in the day that all remember what it use to be like back in the ’80s and ’90s, and we got younger fans that have never seen it.”

Final five is set

After three consecutive days of bowling, which began with 80 bowlers and includes 2,016 games thrown to this point, the stepladder finals are set for the PBA Tournament of Champions.

Sweden’s Jesper Svensson, a powerful two-handed left-hander, dominated match play in going 16-6-2 with a total pinfall of 10,159 and is in the top spot. Next is Andrew Anderson, who is 147 pins behind Svensson in second. Anderson, who led after the first six games of qualifying, was a qualifier of Monday’s PTQ.

“Match-play rounds have many games and a lots of pins to play for,” Svensson said.

Looming in the shadows behind Svennson and Anderson is nine-time major winner Jason Belmonte, who climbed all the way from 24th to third place and looks for his 10th major that would tie PBA legends Anthony and Pete Weber.

BJ Moore and Matt O’Grady also came out of the PTQ to earn the fourth and fifth spots, respectively.