A professional bowling tournament with a $10,000 top prize will be returning to Middletown for its fourth year July 26.

A professional bowling tournament with a $10,000 top prize will be returning to Middletown for its fourth year July 26.

The three-day Professional Bowlers Association East Region Appletree Classic will be held at Mid County Lanes, with Wilmington based company Appletree Answering Service as its main sponsor.

This is the second year that Appletree is sponsoring the event, and the fourth that it is being held at Mid County Lanes.

The first two years the event was held, the prize was $2,500, said Mid County Lanes manager Jennifer Patrick. When Appletree joined the sponsorship last year, the prize went up to $10,000 and the number of participants doubled.

“When you have a sponsor that puts in a lot of money, it definitely helps,” she said.

This year, 150 bowlers will compete.

Last year there were more than 170 bowlers, including 13 professionals with exempt status on the PBA’s national tour, Patrick said. This year they limited the number of athletes to 150.

“They mostly come from the eastern region [of the United States], but we do have people come from Texas, California and other places,” Patrick said.

Last year’s winner, Dick Allen, hails from Columbia, S.C.

On Saturday, the 150 participants, including Allen, will roll eight qualifying games of starting at 8 a.m.

The top 24 qualifying scorers will advance to Sunday’s match-play competition, which consists of 12 games starting at 9 a.m.

At 3 p.m., the top four scorers will move into stepladder, single-game finals, where the winner will go up against the top seed to determine the champion, Patrick said.

“The first two days are more laid back,” said Appletree spokeswoman Sarah Sheridan. “Sunday is the finals and that’s the day where it’s a more intense competition.”

Friday night will start off the event with a pair of pro-am squads at 5:45 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Junior bowlers will compete for scholarship funds and adults will try to get a piece of the $4,000 prize fund.

There will also be prizes.

From Friday to Sunday, there will be no public bowling, but the alley will still be open.

A weekend pass for spectators is $6 and Patrick said that part of this money will go towards the scholarships for the Junior Program.

Last year, some of the funds went towards Autism Speaks.

Having a big-league tournament like this has been good for business too, Patrick said.

“It does a lot for the bowling community,” she said.

While Middletown its self may not have a large bowling community, the alley is centrally located, being surrounded by Bear, Elkton, Smyrna and other neighboring towns.

Appletree got involved with the tournament because the company’s CEO is a bowler, Sheridan said.

“He has always loved the sport,” she said. “And it’s fun for our employees.”

During the three-day event, employees from the Wilmington office will be coming out to cheer on bowlers and volunteer.

“It’s a fun event that Appletree supports each year,” Sheridan said.