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photo by Amani Williams
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photo by Amani Williams
In the summer after his junior year at The University of Akron, Denny Schreiner had the idea to go on a PBA summer tour. He had bowled a very successful season on his college team and wanted to see if he could compete with the professionals. He presented the idea to his father, who insisted he finish college before pursuing that dream.
Not long after that, a teammate convinced Schreiner to play in a Christmas regional tournament for a $5,000 prize. Up against PBA Hall of Famers Mike Durbin and Roy Buckley, Schreiner beat the pros in match play, though he finished ninth overall in the tournament. “I was good enough, no question,” he says. “But I have no regrets.”
With a BA in Communications, Schreiner eventually got his chance at a PBA tour—as the Tour Broadcast Director in 1978. His knowledge of the sport informed his play-by-play announcing and led him to become the ESPN voice of the PBA from 1986 to 1995, with Mike Durbin as his color analyst.
The 62-year-old Akron native was inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame in February of 2016.
What does it mean to you to be inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame?
DS: I was surprised [that] I got voted in this past February. Fred [Horton] introduced me that night, [and] I saw a lot of players I had worked for and with. It’s a unique thing. Only one other broadcaster is in the Hall of Fame, Chris Schenkel. That says a lot about how I did my job, being the best you can possibly be.
What do you love most about announcing?
DS: In electronic broadcasting, you are on a high wire without a safety net. When you say something, you don’t get to take it back. It’s a real rush to juggle [everything] when you’re working live at the network level. There’s a lot behind the scenes that people never have any idea of. It’s the challenge of having 10-12 balls in the air and getting off the air and saying, gee I only missed a couple things!
You also announced on the Golf Channel, one of the earliest cable networks. How did that come about?
DS: There are very few chances in broadcasting to be one of the keynote people at the beginning of a network, to build and brand it. I have a lot of knowledge about golf. There were 800 applicants for the job, and I landed it. I stood onstage in Orlando in November ‘95 with Mr. [Arnold] Palmer and Mr. [Joe] Gibbs [as the] channel went on the air for the first time.
What advice do you have for young people interested in sports or broadcasting careers?
DS: I talk to classes at UA from time to time, and several years in a row kids asked how much money I make. I didn’t get involved in this business because of money or fame or anything else. I love sports and competition. If you’re good and you have a passion, you’ll make money. But that comes secondary.
Why did you stop announcing?
DS: At age 47, I developed a rare genetic eye disorder, called Stargardt’s, [and] lost all my central vison in six months. I stepped away from broadcasting at that point. I had been to the highest level of the trade. [I thought,] I’ve already climbed a mountain; I don’t want to settle for being in the valley.
How has it been transitioning to teaching golf at Greg Jones Golf Academy?
DS: A lot of my best memories in sports and broadcasting are in golf. It’s my way of sharing some nuggets and secrets with others. I really enjoy it. It’s only frustrating because I wish I could help them get better faster. It’s fun when you see a light go on, and they see something they’ve never seen [or] get a great result. That’s worth the price of admission for me.
Why have you stayed in Akron all these years?
DS: Akron is the home of Swenson’s hamburgers, Krispy Kreme donuts and the All-American Soapbox Derby. We have a great university and Double-A baseball team, some of the best football facilities in the country, and three great professional franchises 30 minutes away. Northeast Ohio has some great golf courses—nowhere in the world is better than Firestone. I’m an Akron kid through and through.