MOORESVILLE, N.C. – Less than three months ago, Sweden’s Martin Larsen was in a hospital bed waiting to hear how seriously he was injured after being hit by a car while crossing the street.
He was more than 4,000 miles from home, and the last thing on his mind was when he’d be able to bowl again, if at all. He just wanted to know that his injuries were not life-threatening, and he really wanted to get home to Sweden.
After a series of scans and exams, Larsen got the relieving news that he was going to be OK.
Amazingly, he suffered only a broken left wrist, two broken ribs on his left side and a small fracture of a disc in his back. He did get nearly 60 stitches in his left arm, plus some general bumps and bruises, but he truly felt lucky it wasn’t more serious.
“To be honest, I didn’t really think about when I’d be able to bowl again,” Larsen said. “At that point, I just wanted to get home. It was a day-by-day thing. I knew there would be checkups, I’d have to wait for the cast to come off and then there would be some rehab. I never expected it to be this quick, so it has worked out pretty good.”
The incident happened while he and fellow competitor Francois Louw of South Africa were walking to get their car from a Virginia impound lot. They had just enjoyed a nice dinner that lasted longer than they expected, and that resulted in the car being towed. Since the weather was nice, they decided to walk. He was struck while they were crossing a three-lane street.
Larsen believes the 24-pack of bottled water he was carrying on his left shoulder saved him from more serious injuries, or even death.
He said that while the positioning may have impeded his ability to see the oncoming vehicle, it helped protect his head. His left arm took the brunt of the impact, and had he been a left-handed bowler, the outcome for his bowling career likely would’ve been much different.
Larsen spent three days in the hospital and another three days at his hotel, before he was cleared to return home. Fellow bowlers helped take care of him until the conclusion of the Professional Bowlers Association Harry O’Neale Chesapeake Open (Aug. 9-11), but they then had to move on to the PBA Wilmington Open in North Carolina.
A friend flew from Sweden to the United States to help make sure he got home safely and as comfortably as possible.
“Every day that went by, I got better,” Larsen said. “The cast had to stay on for five weeks, and when that came off, I was able to start some light workouts. That was about the time of my tournament, but I wasn’t planning to bowl. I wanted to make sure I was healed up, and I still was able to do some work for the tournament.”
Ironically, the tournament Larsen has helped facilitate since 2017 is the Storm Lucky Larsen Masters, an event that has been part of the European Bowling Tour and World Bowling Tour.
The 2019 edition drew hundreds of bowlers to Sweden and awarded a PBA Tour title to champion Carsten Hansen of Denmark.
“After the injury, bowling kind of became a little secondary, and I started to look at life a little differently,” Larsen said. “You really start to appreciate simple things like being up and functional, so not bowling really didn’t affect me as much as I thought it might. I put a lot of effort into making sure the tournament ran well and everyone had a good time.”
Larsen was patient with the healing process and began working out and practicing once the cast came off his left wrist. His initial goal was to be ready for the WBT Thailand Open during the final days of September, but his body wasn’t ready. He was able to bowl without much pain, but the day after practicing made even walking tough.
He progressively got stronger and more comfortable and was able to participate in the 2019 Norwegian Open, and his third-place finish showed that he had recovered and would be able to make the trip to the U.S. Open.
He now is among the 144 competitors this week at Victory Lanes vying for the $30,000 top prize and coveted green U.S. Open jacket.
Through two days of competition and 16 games, he is averaging nearly 204 and in position to make a run at one of the 36 spots in the event’s cashers’ round, which will be determined after Sunday’s final qualifying round.
Larsen is excited to again be competing at the highest level, and he’s confident his body will be able to endure the long event, but his outlook is a little bit different.
“When I step on the lanes, it just doesn’t feel as crucial to succeed, if that makes sense,” Larsen said. “It’s not that it’s not important, it’s just different. I just don’t feel as much pressure. Walking off the lanes after the first eight games this week, I knew it was pretty tough out there, but I’m able to laugh about it a little bit more, rather than stress about it too much.”
At 40 years old, Larsen knows his competitive days may be limited, but he’ll continue to shoe up as long as he feels he can perform against the best. This week in North Carolina, that might include a little more stretching and throwing warm-up balls on the practice lanes.
“I’ve put my life into bowling, and it means a lot to me, but if it turned out I couldn’t bowl anymore, I’d be happy with how my career went, and I’d be OK moving on to do something else,” Larsen said. “It was not like it would be life and death if bowling was going to be there, but I love it, and it’s great to be back out competing against the best.”
All competitors at the 2019 U.S. Open will bowl 24 games of qualifying over three days, with each day featuring a different lane condition.
After 24 games, the field will be cut to the top 36 for an eight-game cashers’ round on a fourth oil pattern, after which, the top 24 will advance to round-robin match play. The 56-game pinfall totals, including bonus pins for each win in match play, will determine the five finalists.
CBS Sports Network will have live coverage of the stepladder finals on Wednesday, Oct. 30 at 8 p.m. Eastern.
The U.S. Open is the final major championship on the 2019 PBA Tour schedule and is conducted jointly by the United States Bowling Congress and Bowling Proprietors’ Association of America.
Each round of the 2019 U.S. Open, leading up to the championship round, is being broadcast live on BowlTV.com and simulcast on FloBowling.