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Bowling, a sport with roots dating back to ancient Egypt, is typically seen nowadays as a game of fun and leisure among family and friends. On the professional circuit, however, the game can get very serious.

George Branham III, a retired professional bowler, was the first Black person to win a Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) title.

Branham, who celebrates a birthday today, was born in 1962 and raised in Detroit. His father, George Jr., was a bowler himself and passed the sport on to his son. While attending high school in California, the younger Branham began taking the sport seriously.

Although he was a multi-sport athlete, Branham had dreams of going pro as a bowler. After notching some amateur wins, Branham went pro at 23 and racked up a series of impressive victories.

Between 1985 and 1987, he won eight consecutive titles. His 1986 win at the Brunswick Memorial World open that placed him in the record books. Branham’s career had its ups and downs after but the turned the corner in 1993.

After winning the Baltimore Open, Branham was qualified to enter the PBA’s premiere event, the Tournament of Champions. After a game contest with opponent Parker Bohn III, Branham would win the match in the final round taking home a check for $65,000. He earned the title of “King Of The Hill.”

Branham never won another PBA title after his 1996 Cleveland Open title. He retired from bowling in 2003. A husband and father of one daughter, he now owns and operates an Indianapolis bowling alley.

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