More than 4,500 bowlers have descended on Polk County between May 5 and June 25, participating in the Florida State Bowling Association’s 2018 Florida State Open Tournament. Multiple disciplines, including team, doubles and singles, will compete at both Lakeland AMF and Cypress Lanes in Winter Haven.
To many attending, this is just another bowling tournament. But to Ryan Ritchie, then a sales and events representative with PCSM, the tournament has a bittersweet taste.
“Not only is it the last event I’ll be involved with while at PCSM,” said Ritchie, who recently was hired by Haines City to serve as the deputy director of parks and recreation, “but this one is for Dewey.”
Dewey Kirkland, whose influence on Polk County bowlers stretched over generations, was influential in bringing the tournament to the area. Kirkland passed away suddenly during a bowling tournament in Reno, Nevada, in 2016.
“If it wasn’t for Dewey, we wouldn’t have gotten it,” said Ritchie.
Dewey had walked into the PCSM offices a year earlier and announced his interest to bring the state bowling association’s annual convention and championship to the county in 2018.
“He was a champion through and through to make it happen,” Ritchie said.
After his passing, Ritchie presented Dewey’s plans to the board of the bowling association.
“I simply told them that having the jamboree and tournament here was what Dewey wanted. It was clear. The 2018 Open Championship is dedicated to Dewey Kirkland and his passion for the sport.”
More than 200 adults came to Lakeland in October, where they golfed, bowled and dined as part of the meeting. Currently, about 5,000 participants will visit the area on weekends over a six weekend period as part of the tournament.
“That’s a lot of people, and their families, come to Polk County,” said Ritchie. “And none of it would have happened without Dewey.”