Red and Blue Bowling ball rolling down a bowling alley lane

Deo Benard Succeeding as a Professional Bowler at Young Age

Though his father Rick once was a professional bowler, an admittedly laid-back Deo Benard wasn’t initially interested in the sport. That changed in 2016 when the Las Vegas native was 12 years old and living in nearby Henderson.

“It was Easter vacation, and I said ‘Dad, can you teach me how to bowl,’” the Roanoke resident recalled between squads at a recent tournament.

“I thought, ‘Oh my God, thank you,’” Rick said.

“I started watching bowling videos a lot,” Deo continued. “I saw Belmo [future hall of famer Jason Belmonte] in the 2013 [United States Bowling Congress] Masters. I watched the whole telecast and found it interesting. When I was done, I watched Belmo in the next year’s Masters. I just kept watching bowling and decided I wanted to bowl all the time.”

Deo began practicing daily and quickly learned how fun the sport could be. Now at age 19, he’s holding his own against the best Professional Bowlers Association’s players.

“He’s very athletically coordinated,” said Rick, who bowled in 10 national PBA Tour events one year, but upon finding the travel difficult, pivoted to regional events of which he won four.

“I coach, and if I give somebody something, it takes like an hour for them to understand it and a week to bowl and get it,” Rick said. “I can tell [Deo], and he’s like ‘Okay’ and one try, and he’s got it. It’s mind-blowing. I’ve coached hundreds of people, and I’ve never seen that before.”

Before joining PBA – which approves those under age 18 with parental consent – he twice competed in the USBC Junior Gold Championships. He led the U15 division qualifying in the 2018 event in Dallas and finished fourth overall in 2019 in Detroit.

Deo competed in his first pro event as a non-PBA member at age 14, made match play, and beat two top players before nerves got him. At 16, he was the youngest PBA member with a regional title when he won at Las Vegas’ South Point Bowling Center. While someone younger came along, he remains the youngest with four titles. In the 2020 season shortened by the Covid-19 pandemic, he was named Northwest/West Region Rookie of the Year.

He placed second in his only 2019 regional at South Point, won again there in 2020 and 2022, in Odessa in 2021, and this year in Thousand Oaks.

“I’m always learning,” Deo said. “It’s such a learning process.”

That continues to include viewing YouTube videos of multiple players, especially two-handers.

“He’s watched probably hundreds of videos even still,” Rick said. “At first, he was learning how to throw, and now he’s trying to figure out what their mental game is and what makes them so good. He’s always trying to figure things out.”

“I’ve always been like super chill. Everyone says I have no emotions,” Deo said. “I try to keep it simple. I don’t want to get mad.”

When Deo first started bowling, the left-hander used the conventional one-handed method. Within eight months, he switched to the two-handed version Belmonte has made popular.

“I was doing pretty well one-handed,” Deo said. “Then I started trying two-handed for fun. My dad said it was really good, and I stuck with it.”

After moving to Albuquerque, he bowled as an eighth grader for Rio Rancho High School where his 223 average in 2017-18 remains a state high school record. When he came to Roanoke when his dad was transferred four years ago, Deo attended high school online, graduating in 2022.

Deo attributes his early success to what he’s learned about the sport and the people who play it.

“I always look at how you can be smoother,” he said. “I feel like two-handed, it’s all about how smooth you can be throwing the ball.”

Today, when not competing in tournaments, he bowls at Bowlero Watauga, Cowtown in Fort Worth, and Bowlero Lewisville with his father. Deo will compete in as many regionals as he can for the rest of 2023, and next year, he plans to compete full-time on the national tour. To succeed there, he believes he needs to stay mentally sharp and physically accurate.

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