The 2013 winner of the Sam Levine Flowers for the Living Award, funded by The Bowling Foundation, is John R. Sommer of Rockford, Illinois.
Bowling proprietor John Sommer is living proof that nice guys do not finish last. Sommer has built a career in the bowling business as owner of several centers that has put him at the top of the industry as a member of the elite BPAA Hall of Fame, and now he is the winner of another of Bowling's most prestigious and coveted awards.
Getting to the top is one thing; getting there while earning the respect of virtually everyone in the industry is an enormous accomplishment. More than anything else, The "Flowers" award is about integrity; about not just accomplishment and giving back, but about how a person conducts themselves and treats others along the way.
Sommer is a shining example of having high standards while following the golden rule. He often shares his philosophy of life and business, learned from his late father:
"Do the right thing, and don't worry about who gets the credit."
Running a bowling center, or several as John does, is difficult work, yet Sommer still makes time to volunteer and share his experience with others on numerous committees, events, and projects. As a member of the BPAA tournament committee, he has worked on numerous events over the years, most recently the Hall of Fame Xtravaganza and Bowling's Women's U.S. Open Tournament.
He has also been an enthusiastic supporter of the In School Bowling program and High School Bowling. He was instrumental in the development of a curriculum for High School Bowling as a letter sport in his home state of Illinois, and that program continues to be an example for others to follow today.
The Bowlers to Veterans Link is another of John's favorite charities. His tireless work for the BVL stems from his experience as a U.S. Army lieutenant and company commander while serving in Viet Nam.
No doubt one of John's proudest achievements was the operation of a women's professional bowling tour for 22 years from 1981-2003. Sommer's PWBA gave the top women bowlers in the world a chance to make a living as professional bowlers for more than two decades. During that time, his tour paid out more than $30 million in prize money and produced television shows that were consistently the highest rated women's sports programming on ESPN. The tour also generated billions of print impressions that kept bowling top of mind in household across America, benefitting the entire global industry.