Josh Tharp, a twenty two year old Columbia native, spends at least four days a week in a bowling alley. In sixth grade he was inspired by his father’s hobby of bowling. Josh remembers thinking “I would really like to do that, I would really want to try. So I came out here one Saturday morning, that is when all the youth leagues are, and I started bowling and I got better at it. In high school the coach that I had at the time had the pro shop and said hey we need some help and asked if I wanted to do it.”
Josh became a co-owner of The Pin Deck Pro Shop before college. He assists bowling novices and competitors with various inquiries about the sport. The Pin Deck Pro Shop is located inside of the AMF Town and Country Lanes Bowling Alley. He preforms various services such as selling balls and shoes as well as drilling and resurfacing bowling balls and personalized coaching.
He received an offer to bowl collegiately at Robert Morris University in Peoria, Illinois. He “went for a visit and it wasn’t financially feasible. The campus wasn’t great so I kind of decided Mizzou was the better place to go.” Working in the shop is a time consuming process. Josh must balance being a student with the exhaustive list of duties as a business owner. . One of the more demanding responsibilities is repairing bowling balls, which can only be preformed by a very experienced bowler.
Tharp feels that his decision to become an owner of the Pro Shop was motivated by both finances and personal interests. Josh balances being a full time student and working as a small business owner with his partner Josh Youngblood. “I thought it was something I could do as a part time job throughout college and something where I could make money... doing something I really enjoyed. It had a lot do with, if myself and John didn’t take it over we didn’t reallyknow who else would take it over. We didn’t want to see it go into somebody’s hands that would kind of run it into the ground.”
Despite not pursuing to bowl collegiately, Josh competes in bowling on the Mizzou Club Bowling team. He trains weekly with his teammates. His gear is wheeled in a traveling kit from the Pin Deck Pro Shop, a mere forty feet away from the lanes they practice on at the end of the bowling alley. The team lacks a coach and is not considered a NCAA sport for men, so they travel to various tournaments hosted by other schools and bowling alleys in the Mid-West region.
Josh and his fiancé share a meal with his mother and two sisters. Josh meet his fiancé Jennifer Garmon when they were teammates on the Hickman High School bowling team. As the eat, he observes the food very intently. “I originally started in hospitality management because in high school I took three years of culinary classes... just because I enjoyed that and it was something I really wanted to do. Over time I realized that I was a lot better at doing bowling things so that’s what I’ve decided I want to do.”
Nestled in the back corner of the College of Arts and Science advising building, Josh finds a rare moment to devote towards his studies. Typically, his time is dedicated towards his fiancé, his work, and improving hisbowling. He laughs at the fact that he is a student but doesn’t have any time to study.
Josh would consider himself an atypical student at a tier one research institute. As his studies have progressed, he realized that owning his own business was not enough to pay for school and living expenses. He started to work at the Columbia Country Club “on the side to do weekends and nights when I wasn’t at the pro shop. Then I took this job doing filing and office work on campus because there’s just a couple hours everyday in between classes that I don’t have anything to do, just to do for extra cash.”
“I don’t think that I have fully gotten the college experience knowing people and making friends in dorms and stuff. You always hear about people making friends in dorms, sororities and fraternities. That’s not really what I did. I worked a lot. I know a lot of people from work and the bowling alley. That’s who I hang out with.”
Upon graduating from Mizzou, his “ultimate goal is to eventually bring a NCAA bowling program to the University of Missouri. That is easier to do from a women’s side because it is not a NCAA sport for men yet, so eventually that is what I would like to do. Obviously there are some stepping stones to get there. Probably start out at a smaller program. Columbia College just introduced their program and I’m pretty good friends with the guy that is running that one so probably to try to get with them and eventually build up some kind of following at Mizzou and try to start one here.”