Looking like a man not accustomed to rising early, Rudy Kasimakis kept yawning. It was 8 o'clock in the morning and he was about to start bowling during today's second round of the United States Open at A.M.F. Milford Lanes.
''There've been a lot of days when I bowled until 8 o'clock in the morning,'' Kasimakis said. ''But starting to bowl this early is going to take getting used to.''
In alluding to the many times he wandered out of bowling alleys squinting at the early-morning sunlight, the 34-year-old Kasimakis was remembering the years he played for big stakes as an ''action'' bowler while eschewing the Professional Bowlers Association Tour. But now the flamboyant Kasimakis -- Rudy Revs, as he is known in bowling circles -- has become part of the establishment after more than a decade of going head-to-head with scores of bowlers, local hot shots and professionals, in smoky, dimly lit alleys across the United States and as far away as Saudi Arabia.
Although he ranks 20th on the prize money list and has yet to win a P.B.A. tournament, Kasimakis, a native of Hicksville, N.Y., has become the biggest attraction on a tour that lacks players who combine flair with talent. The 5-foot-7-inch, 250-pound Kasimakis stands out as much for his sweeping high-arc windup, huge hook and powerful delivery as he does for his robust build, thick neck and dark goatee.
The P.B.A. Tour is essentially a collection of highly talented but indistinguishable participants, and is a virtual nonentity in the sports world.
So is the tour ready for Kasimakis, a swaggering, trash-talking, in-your-face competitor accustomed to bowling while betting his money against his opponents and usually winning? The answer, from spectators, bowlers and the P.B.A. commissioner, Mark Gerberich, seems to be yes.
''Rudy not only is a great bowler, but he has a terrific rapport with the fans,'' Gerberich said. ''Not all action bowlers can make the transition, since our game is totally different and requires more consistency. And he's attracting more attention to the tour.''
Dave Ozio, a former action bowler who has won 11 titles, conceded that Kasimakis can be intimidating, ''although we don't let that bother us.'' Ozio said that most of the pros welcomed Kasimakis on the tour. ''We need more animated players,'' said the 44-year-old Ozio, a member of the P.B.A. Hall of Fame. ''We have enough monotones out there as it is.''
Kasimakis, who spent a brief spell on the tour a decade ago, agrees. ''The tour needs more color,'' said Kasimakis who, until a few years ago, still worked part time in the pro shop at Mid-Island Bowl in Hicksville and at Bay Shore Bowl. ''They have to attract more viewers and spectators, especially young people.''
During his long years in the shadows of bowling, he competed in every conceivable type of betting game including games where the lowest score won, but with bowlers having to knock down at least one pin, and games where bowlers rolled from behind the scorer's table.
Now he's on the tour and even has three sponsors. Through 16 tournaments this year, Kasimakis has earned $34,750, finished second twice and in the top five three times. With a 215.5 average through 16 games here, he seemed poised to qualify for the next round on Thursday after the field has been cut from 180 to 45 on Wednesday. Both the men's and women's winners of Sunday's finals will receive $35,000.
Married and the father of two children, Kasimakis said he decided to give up the life of an action bowler to spend more time with his family at their home in Gouldsboro, Pa., in the Pocono Mountains. ''I also was ready to go on to the next step,'' he said.
That next step has produced a more subdued Kasimakis. He seems to have refrained from trying to intimidate his new colleagues on the tour. Are those days over? he was asked. ''I don't think so,'' he said with a smile. ''I'm going to be me, and I think I still get under some people's skins.''