Tom Smallwood

Last updated
Tom Smallwood
Born (1977-11-04) November 4, 1977 (age 45)
Years active2008-present
Height5 ft 6 in (168 cm) [1]
Bowling Information
Affiliation PBA
Rookie year2003-04
Dominant handRight (full roller delivery)
Wins3 PBA Tour (2 majors)
5 PBA Regional Tour
300-games 11
Sponsors MOTIV Bowling, Turbo Grips

Thomas Smallwood (born November 4, 1977) is a professional ten-pin bowler competing on the PBA Tour. In 2009, the right-hander won his first PBA Tour title and first major in the PBA World Championship, defeating 2008–09 PBA Player of the Year Wes Malott in the final match. Smallwood has won three PBA Tour titles, two of which are majors. He has finished runner-up in two other PBA major championships.


Early life

Growing up in Flushing, Michigan, Smallwood's parents took him as a toddler to Colonial Lanes for their Sunday-night mixed league which led to his interest in bowling. He played other sports but always came back to bowling. He went to Saginaw Valley State University, but soon quit to be a bowler. [2]

Bowling career

Early years

At age 19, Smallwood went to Las Vegas for a 1997 high-roller amateur (non-PBA) tournament for the first time. He fell short of winning $10,000 on the second day. [2]

Tom had been an excellent bowler in classic leagues in and around Saginaw, and supplemented his income by competing in local tournaments and a few open PBA events. He estimated that even in a lean year, he would net an extra $10,000 to $15,000 from bowling. [2] He qualified for his PBA Tour card in 2003–04 because he did well in PBA Regional Tour events. However, he did not handle the pressure well in his first try on the national PBA Tour, missing the cut in 19 of 20 events. He finished 53rd on the Tour points list and did not make the next season's all-exempt Tour. [2]

Smallwood then found a job at a metal shop as his then-girlfriend (now wife) Jennifer would not marry a man without a regular paycheck. At age 30, Tom had decided he was "done" with trying to be a full-time bowler, content to work during the week and bowl weekend tournaments that paid as little as $800 for first place. He then got a job at General Motors' Pontiac East Assembly Plant in the Spring of 2008 only to get laid off two days before Christmas. [2] Tom, then married and with one child, [2] agreed to look for a new job for two months before considering a return to the PBA Tour. [1] Smallwood practiced for free at State Lanes in Saginaw after job applications did not pan out, having been a regular league bowler there and being neighbors of the owners, Anne and Steve Doyle. [2]

Success in 2009

Still looking for a regular job, Smallwood learned that the PBA Tour Trials would be held in the Detroit area in May, 2009, making travel a non-issue. He swore to Jen that this would be his last attempt at bowling for a PBA Tour card. [2] He and Jen scraped together the $1500 entry fee and Tom finished third at the Trials (out of 97 bowlers), easily making the top eight who gained PBA exemptions for the 2009–10 season. "I always felt I could compete out there [on the Tour], but I was also content with working and staying with my family," Smallwood said in an interview with USA Today just prior to the PBA World Championship finals. [3]

Ironically, he was offered a chance to go back to work at General Motors, when a representative from that company's job bank called him just days before the 2009 World Championship finals. Smallwood had to decline, telling the rep that he was a full-time bowler now and would in fact be on ESPN television that Sunday. [2] Smallwood, now a 32-year old "rookie", then shocked the bowling world on December 13, 2009, by making it to the final match of the PBA World Championship and defeating reigning PBA Player of the Year Wes Malott, 244–228, for the title.

With his major tournament win at the PBA World Championship, Smallwood earned a PBA Tour exemption through the 2011–12 season. In his first full season on the PBA Tour, he made 15 cuts and eight match-play rounds in 18 events, while appearing in three televised finals. Tom's "rags to riches" victory in the World Championship was voted #47 in the PBA's "60 Most Memorable Moments" list, revealed as part of the PBA Tour's 60th Anniversary celebrations during the 2018 season. [4]

Continuing in the PBA

Smallwood qualified as the #1 seed for the 2011 PBA Tournament of Champions, which offered a PBA-record $250,000 first prize for the January 22 televised finals. He faced Mika Koivuniemi, fresh off a 299 semifinal game, in the final match, but lost 269–207 to take home the $100,000 runner-up check. [5] He made four TV finals overall in 2010–11, but did not win a title.

Smallwood won his second PBA title on November 3, 2013, at the World Series of Bowling PBA Scorpion Championship. To get to the final match on this day, he survived the longest sudden-death roll-off in PBA history after tying Josh Blanchard 232–232 in the semifinal. Smallwood threw five strikes in the roll-off, while Blanchard threw four strikes before leaving a 10 pin on his fifth shot. Smallwood then defeated top seed Marshall Kent in the final match. [6]

Smallwood made a bid to win his second PBA World Championship in December, 2016, charging from the #4 seed to the finals, but he fell to #1 seed E. J. Tackett in the title match. [7] Smallwood was voted by his peers to receive the PBA Steve Nagy Sportsmanship Award for the 2016 season. [8]

On February 25, 2018, Smallwood won his third PBA title and second major at the Barbasol PBA Players Championship. Smallwood climbed from the #5 seed in the TV finals, eventually defeating top seed Jason Belmonte in the final match. [9] On November 20, 2018, the PBA announced that Smallwood had won his second career PBA Steve Nagy Sportsmanship Award. [10]

Based on 2020 season points, Smallwood qualified as the #14 seed for the season-ending PBA Tour Playoffs. He made it all the way to the final four (semifinal) round before being defeated by eventual champion Bill O'Neill. Smallwood was the only player in the final four that did not earn a bye into the second round. [11]

On February 6, 2021, Smallwood won the Central Region qualifier for the PBA Players Championship, earning a spot in the February 21 final round, which offered a PBA record-tying $250,000 first prize. Smallwood qualified as the #4 seed in the finals and, in the first match, beat Anthony Simonsen 278–225 to advance and bowl against third-seeded Dick Allen. Prior to Smallwood's seventh frame in this match, Allen knocked over his water bottle, some thought intentionally, spilling water on the floor. This caused a lengthy delay. After this, Smallwood did not perform as well, which some attributed to the delay, but he still had a chance to shut out Allen in the ninth and tenth frames. However, Smallwood rolled an errant ninth frame shot that ultimately cost him the match. Smallwood himself later said the ball landed on the thumb hole, causing it to project several boards to the right, and placed no blame on Allen or the delay. After Smallwood failed to make the ninth frame spare and then threw a split in the tenth frame, Dick Allen won 216–195. Smallwood won $60,000 for finishing fourth in the tournament. [12]

On the first day of qualifying for the 2021 PBA Tournament of Champions on February 23, Smallwood toppled 3,153 pins (262.75 average) to set the all-time PBA record for a 12-game block. [13] However, by the end of the week, Tom just missed making the televised finals, losing a roll-off to François Lavoie for the fifth and final seed to finish the tournament in sixth place.

Smallwood's 2021 Players Championship earnings pushed him over the $700,000 mark in career PBA earnings. He also has five PBA Regional Tour titles, and has rolled eleven perfect 300 games in PBA competition.

Personal life

Tom Smallwood was born to Dennie and Sharon. His father worked at General Motors, primarily at a Flint Chevrolet plant manufacturing V6 engines. Smallwood is married to Jennifer "Jen" (De Veaux). The couple has a daughter, Hannah Rose, and a son, Brady. Tom is a native of Flushing, Michigan. [2]

In 2020, Smallwood became a pro staff member for MOTIV Bowling and later that year was named a MOTIV brand ambassador. [14] [15] Prior to 2020, he was sponsored by Radical Bowling. [16]

In the media

On March 1, 2021, CBS Television announced it had ordered a pilot for a multi-camera sitcom based on the life of Tom Smallwood and his journey from laid-off auto worker to professional bowler. The pilot for the family sitcom was produced by David Hollander and Saginaw, MI native Brian d'Arcy James, and written by Mark Gross ( Man with a Plan ). [17] Actor-comedian Pete Holmes was chosen to play the lead as Smallwood. [18] In April 2021, it was announced that Chi McBride and Katie Lowes would co-star in the pilot. [19] [20] On May 14, 2021, CBS officially picked up the series, [21] planning a mid-season debut in the 2021–22. [22] The CBS promo read:

Here's the thing Tom Smallwood (Pete Holmes) knows about bowling: You get two chances. No matter what you do with the first ball, you get another roll to make it right. A story of the ultimate second chance, Smallwood tells of a Detroit assembly-line worker who, with the consent of his loving wife (Katie Lowes), decides to turn an unexpected layoff into a dream-fulfilling new job as a pro bowler. Based on the true "modern-day Michigan fable" of three-time PBA Tour winner Tom Smallwood. [23]

On November 24, 2021, it was announced that the series title had been changed from Smallwood to How We Roll. [24] The series premiered on March 31, 2022, but was canceled after one season two months later. [25]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dominic Barrett</span>

Dominic Simon Barrett is one of England's leading ten-pin bowlers. He competes in world events and on the PBA Tour, where he has won ten titles. This total includes three PBA major titles: the PBA World Championship (2013), the U.S. Open (2018) and the Tournament of Champions (2022), which makes him one of nine triple crown winners in PBA history and the first European player to accomplish the feat. He has been the ranking winner on the European Bowling Tour (EBT) in three seasons and is also the only player to have been named as ‘World Bowling Writers’ bowler of the year three consecutive times. He is nicknamed "The Dominator".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chris Barnes (bowler)</span> American professional bowler (born 1970)

Chris Barnes is an American professional bowler and member of the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA), who currently competes on both the PBA Tour and PBA50 Tour. He has also competed internationally as a member of Team USA.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jason Belmonte</span> Australian professional ten-pin bowler

Jason Belmonte is an Australian professional ten-pin bowler. He plays on the PBA Tour in the United States and in world events. He is known for being one of the first bowlers to gain media attention for using the two-handed approach style to deliver his shot. He has won 31 PBA titles, including a record 15 major championships; he is only one of eight bowlers in PBA tour history to achieve 30 wins, making him the only 30-time winner in PBA Tour history who is not currently a member of the PBA Hall of Fame. He is one of two bowlers in PBA history to have won the Super Slam, winning all five PBA major titles. He is the all-time leader in both USBC Masters and PBA Tournament of Champions titles, winning each event four times. He is also the only three-time winner of the PBA Players Championship.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mika Koivuniemi</span>

Mika Juhani Koivuniemi is a Finnish bowling coach and semi-retired professional ten-pin bowler. He competed on the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) tour in the United States, and won bowling titles in 21 different countries during his career. He is a two-time PBA Player of the Year, one of only three players born outside the USA to win that award. Koivuniemi is the second international player and first European ever elected to the PBA Hall of Fame; he was inducted in 2019. He is also a member of the World Bowling Writers Hall of Fame and Finland Bowling Hall of Fame.

The PBA Tour is the major professional tour for ten-pin bowling, operated by the Professional Bowlers Association. Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, over 3,000 members worldwide make up the PBA. While most of the PBA members are Regional professionals, a small percentage of the bowling membership competes at the national and international level, forming the PBA Tour. Founded in 1958, the PBA Tour has been in continuous operation since the inaugural 1959 season.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sean Rash</span>

Sean Rash is an American ten-pin bowler who is considered one of the top players on the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) Tour. He currently owns 17 PBA Tour titles, including two major championships, and was the 2011–12 PBA Player of the Year. Rash has rolled two of his 30 career PBA perfect 300 games on television, making him the first player in history with multiple perfect games in the TV finals of a PBA Tour event. Canadian François Lavoie and American Chris Via, and Australian Jason Belmonte have since joined Rash in this exclusive club. Sean also owns ten PBA Regional Tour titles.

Wesley Clint "Big Nasty" Malott is an American professional ten-pin bowler and member of the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA). Originally from Pflugerville, Texas, he now resides in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He has won ten PBA Tour titles, and was the 2008–09 Chris Schenkel PBA Player of the Year. He won his lone major championship at the 2012–13 U.S. Open, and has finished runner-up in five other PBA major tournaments. Malott also won the 2006–07 Showplace Lanes Megabucks Shootout, which was not a PBA Tour event. He won the non-title PBA King of Bowling event in 2009, and defended his King position eight consecutive times through 2018.

This is a recap of the 2009–10 season for the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) tour. It was the Tour's 51st season and consisted of 19 title events.

William O'Neill is a right-handed professional ten-pin bowler who competes on the PBA Tour in North America. A resident of Langhorne, Pennsylvania, his nickname on tour is "The Real Deal". O'Neill has won 13 PBA Tour titles, including two major championships at the 2009–10 U.S. Open and the 2020 PBA Players Championship.

This is a recap of the 2011–12 season for the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) Tour. It is the tour's 53rd season, and the third straight season in which all of the first half events were condensed into the PBA World Series of Bowling (WSOB). The season consisted of 15 title events. This is also the final season in which the PBA is using an "exempt" player list. The "exempt" status for touring players will not be carried into the 2012–13 season.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ryan Ciminelli</span>

Ryan Ciminelli is a left-handed ten-pin bowler originally from Cheektowaga, New York. Since 2007, he has competed on the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) Tour. Ciminelli has won eight PBA Tour titles, including one major championship, in addition to 13 PBA Regional Tour titles. He has earned over $700,000 on Tour through the 2020 season, and has rolled 15 perfect 300 games in PBA competition. Ciminelli was runner-up for PBA Player of the Year in the 2015 season. He was given the nickname "The Ryan Express" in the 2012 Tournament of Champions TV introductions, while his DV8 bio listed the nickname "Hit Man".

2016 is the 57th season of the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) Tour. There were 26 singles title events, two doubles title events, and two team events on the 2016 schedule.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jesper Svensson (bowler)</span> Swedish professional bowler (born 1995)

Jesper Svensson is a Swedish professional bowler. He has been a member of the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) since 2014, and also competes on the European Bowling Tour (EBT). He has won eleven PBA Tour titles overall, including a major title at the 2016 PBA Tournament of Champions. He also owns six EBT titles and one PBA Regional title. He is known for using the two-handed shovel style delivery with a dominant left hand. He uses non-reactive urethane bowling balls almost exclusively. Svensson is a member of the Storm and Vise Grips pro staffs.

Tom Daugherty is a right-handed American professional ten-pin bowler residing in Riverview, Florida. He is a member of the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA), having joined in 2001. He is one of the few PBA bowlers to successfully use the one-handed no-thumb delivery. Although Daugherty has won four PBA Tour titles and 21 PBA Regional titles, he is perhaps best known for rolling a nationally-televised 100 game at the 2011 PBA Tournament of Champions, the lowest score ever bowled in a televised PBA event.

2017 is the 58th season of the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) Tour. The 2017 schedule includes 24 singles title events, two doubles title events, and one non-title team event.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anthony Simonsen</span> American ten-pin bowler

Anthony Walter Simonsen is an American professional ten-pin bowler from Little Elm, Texas, currently residing in Las Vegas, Nevada. He has been a member of the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) since 2014. Simonsen became known in bowling fan circles early in the 2016 season, when he earned the distinction as the youngest player in history to win a PBA major championship. He is now the youngest player in history to own five major PBA Tour titles. He uses the two-handed shovel-style delivery with a dominant right hand. At age 25, Simonsen eclipsed $1 million in career PBA earnings during the 2022 season.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">E. J. Tackett</span> Professional ten-pin bowler

Edward Dean Tackett Jr. is an American professional ten-pin bowler from Huntington, Indiana, now residing in Bluffton, Indiana. A member of the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) since 2012, Tackett has won 21 PBA Tour titles, including four major championships, and is one of nine professional bowlers that have completed the PBA Triple Crown. He was named PBA Player of the Year for the 2016 season, and was runner-up for the award in 2017 and 2018. Tackett is right-handed and uses a cranker-style delivery. He has been called a "unicorn" in the sport, because of his ability to use a one-handed, thumb-in delivery to achieve RPM rates comparable to most two-handed bowlers.

Andrew Anderson of Holly, Michigan is a right-handed American professional ten-pin bowler known for winning the 2018 USBC Masters. He competes in events on the PBA Tour and in global events as a member of Team USA. In his second full season on the PBA Tour (2018), Anderson won the Chris Schenkel PBA Player of the Year Award.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jakob Butturff</span> American ten-pin bowler

Jakob Butturff is a left-handed American ten-pin bowler from Chandler, Arizona and a member of the Professional Bowlers Association. He competes in events on the PBA Tour and in global events as a member of Team USA. He has won eight national PBA Tour titles and 27 PBA Regional Tour titles. Jakob also rolled the 28th of the PBA Tour's 34 televised 300 games.

Bowling on CBS is the de facto title for CBS Sports' professional ten-pin bowling television coverage.


  1. 1 2 Lowery, Steve (January 27, 2010). "Tom Smallwood's Cinderella story". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 14, 2018.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Farber, Michael (March 15, 2010). "The Remarkable Story of Tom Smallwood". Time, Inc. Retrieved March 14, 2018.
  3. "Former GM autoworker Smallwood bowls to PBA Tour semifinals." Article at, December 11, 2009.
  4. Vint, Bill (March 23, 2018). "PBA Spare Shots: Wiseman Wins Miller Park Masters and Other "60 Memorable Moments" Unveiled". Retrieved March 23, 2018.
  5. Jensen, Don (January 24, 2011). "WESLEY CHAPEL MAN ROLLS 100 IN SEMI BUT POCKETS $50,000 FOR THIRD PLACE". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved February 24, 2021.
  6. Tom Smallwood Ends TV Drought, Wins PBA Scorpion Championship for Second Tour Title Vint, Bill at on 22 December 2013.
  7. Vint, Bill (December 11, 2015). "Indiana's E.J. Tackett Wins PBA World Championship for First Major, Fourth 2016 Title" . Retrieved December 11, 2016.
  8. Vint, Bill (February 5, 2016). "Tackett Wins GEICO Chris Schenkel PBA Player of the Year Award; Canada's Lavoie Named Rookie of the Year" . Retrieved February 7, 2016.
  9. Bernreuter, Hugh (February 25, 2018). "Saginaw pro bowler claims second PBA major championship". The Saginaw News. MLive Media Group. Retrieved March 14, 2018.
  10. Vint, Bill (November 20, 2018). "Michigan's Andrew Anderson, Tennessee's Kamron Doyle Win PBA Player, Rookie of the Year Honors". Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  11. "BILL O'NEILL WINS PBA PLAYOFFS FOR 13TH TITLE". 8 November 2020. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  12. "PBA Players Championship". Retrieved March 4, 2021.
  13. "Tom Smallwood Crushes First Day At 2021 Kia PBA Tournament Of Champions". 23 February 2021. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
  14. "Motiv Brand Ambassadors". Retrieved January 17, 2022.
  15. "Motiv Team". Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  16. Manzione, Gianmarc (February 3, 2016). "Tom Smallwood Joins Radical Bowling Pro Staff". Bowlers Journal. Retrieved March 23, 2022.
  17. Andreeva, Nellie (March 1, 2021). "Sarah Cooper, Tom Smallwood Comedies Get CBS Pilot Orders" . Retrieved March 3, 2021.
  18. Andreeva, Nellie (March 29, 2021). "Pete Holmes Set As The Lead Of CBS' Tom Smallwood Comedy Pilot" . Retrieved March 30, 2021.
  19. Petski, Denise (April 8, 2021). "Chi McBride To Co-Star In CBS' Tom Smallwood Comedy Pilot" . Retrieved May 17, 2021.
  20. Andreeva, Nellie (April 13, 2021). "Katie Lowes Joins CBS' Tom Smallwood Comedy Pilot" . Retrieved May 17, 2021.
  21. Low, Elaine (May 14, 2021). "CBS Orders 'Smallwood' and 'Good Sam' to Series" . Retrieved May 17, 2021.
  22. "Pete Holmes To Star In New CBS Comedy Smallwood Debuting Mid-Season". May 19, 2021. Retrieved May 20, 2021.
  23. "About Smallwood". Retrieved October 18, 2021.
  24. White, Peter (November 24, 2021). "Pete Holmes' CBS Comedy 'Smallwood' Retitled 'How We Roll' As Episode Order Adjusted". Deadline Hollywood . Retrieved November 24, 2021.
  25. "'How We Roll' Canceled After One Season by CBS". 12 May 2022.