Going to watch "the Greatest, Most Exciting Women Bowlers in the World"

    08/07/07

    Column

    By Joe Lyou (Tenpin Slants)

    2007BowlExpoJoeLyou.jpgDiehard bowling fans have missed the women's pro tour, which has been dormant for four long years. That includes me and a couple of my longtime colleagues, Hall of Fame writers Dick Evans and John Jowdy.

    The three of us would get together whenever the old PWBA (Professional Women's Bowling Assn.) Tour was in Southern California, Las Vegas or Reno. It was always tough on Evans because he lives in Daytona Beach, Fla., and each time it would cost him a small fortune for a roundtrip airline ticket.

    Remember when Sam's Town Hotel, Casino & Bowling Center was the PWBA's umbrella sponsor? Evans, Jowdy and I would travel to Sin City to watch the pro dollies—as the late Sam Levine liked to call them—in action. We always had a ball. We had even more fun whenever Chuck Pezzano, another Hall of Fame scribe, was able to join us.

    There were many memorable moments at Sam's Town. But the one that sticks out in my mind was the time Robin Romeo and Jeanne Naccarato captured the PWBA Track Doubles title.

    That was in 2000, and Robin and Jeanne had vowed to win and dedicate the tournament to the memory of their fathers, who had recently passed away.

    When the last ball was rolled, and Robin and Jeanne knew they had won, they broke down and wept on each other's shoulders. Soon, they had everyone in the audience reaching for a hanky. It was a very emotional scene, to put it mildly.

    It wasn't very long after that that Sam's Town, because of a change in corporate management, dissolved its sponsorship with the PWBA.

    And from then on, it was all downhill for the PWBA Tour, which went out of business in '03. It was a dark moment, not only for women's bowling but for the sport of bowling in general as well.

    The year of '03 also was the last time the U.S. Women's Open was conducted. The winner was a young Kelly Kulick, who was later voted the PWBA Rookie of the Year.

    Now, four years later, Kulick will finally get the chance to defend her title, for the U.S. Women's Open Presented by the USBC has been resurrected and will be staged Aug. 13-18 at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno.

    And yes, Dick Evans, John Jowdy and I will be there to record whatever happens for bowling posterity.

    Also on hand will be Robin Romeo, who is still seeking new fields to conquer despite turning 50 in June. "I'll continue to bowl competitively as long as I have the fire in my belly," she said.

    A USBC Hall of Famer, Robin made headlines in the USBC Senior Masters at the National Bowling Stadium in July, when she became the first woman in the 15-year history of the tournament to make the cut to match play.

    The talented Newhall, Calif., right-hander went on to win her first two matches, but was eliminated when she lost her next two. Robin finished in the 17th- to 24th-place bracket, good for $1,200. It was a superb performance, considering the Senior Masters attracted 299 bowlers, a total that included three women. (Linda Kelly, the former Team USA champion from Dayton, Ohio, and Lela Larkin, who owns Roxy Ann Lanes in Medford, Ore., were the other two ladies.)

    Robin won her first two matches with sets of 657 and 616, and then lost with 606 and 526. "What happened in your final match?" I asked Robin.

    She replied, "I had a great shot playing the gutter. But the shot wasn't as good in my final match. I changed balls, but I should've moved inside. I also lost a little of my intensity."

    Robin said she was "a little nervous" when the Senior Masters started. "It helped, however, that I knew some of the bowlers, having competed against them in the (PWBA) Ladies and Legends tournaments.

    "It also helped that I crossed with Bob Kelly, Linda's husband, since I knew him. Also, the other two bowlers on our pair were very friendly."

    Robin added that she plans to enter other PBA Senior Tour events in the future. "I feel I can compete on their level," she said.

    Robin, who retired from the PWBA Tour just before it went under—she toured for more than 20 years and captured 17 titles—has entered the upcoming U.S. Women's Open. She won the Open in 1989, which earned her the coveted Bowler of the Year crown.

    In addition to the U.S. Women's Open, Robin will put up the extra $750 to enter the inaugural PBA Women's Series.

    Scores in the Open will be used to determine the 16 "exempt" bowlers who will qualify for a unique five-week mini tour that will be shown by ESPN as part of the PBA Fall Tour.

    Now, if you'll excuse me, I've gotta start packing for my trip to "the Biggest Little City in the World" and watch "the Greatest, Most Exciting Women Bowlers in the World."

    Email address: tenpinslants710@aol.com