A ten-time PBA title winner as well as a former President of the PBA, Steve Hoskins is one of just 18 bowlers in the PBA's 50-year history to bowl a televised 300 game, defeating Walter Ray Williams Jr. 300-234 at the 1997 PBA Ebonite Classic in Rochester, NY. Steve now operates his own business in Hudson, Fla., a car lot by the name of Carzone where he specializes in offering a wide variety of financing options to people with credit issues. Here, he recalls some of the greatest memories of his previous career as a full-time professional bowler, including the day he bowled 300 on TV and the time he broke his hand when he punched a door in fury after leaving a stone 8-pin to lose a title match against Brian Himmler, and discusses the happiness he has found in his life since leaving the pro tour.
You say that you are much happier now in your post-PBA-Tour life than you were when you were on tour. Some people might find that hard to believe because you enjoyed a lot of success on tour, shooting 300 on TV, winning ten titles and making many telecasts over your career. Why is life happier for you now than it was then?
SH: It's an overall answer, basically. I have a lot more balance with my home life and my business life. And I don't have to travel like I used to, though occasionally I do miss the travel because you get to experience so many great things. But as a general rule, I like being home.
You also say that you sometimes look back on those days and smile in disbelief at the life you were able to live-traveling the world as a pro bowler, getting paid to go places like Japan-when you look back on those days now, what are you most grateful for?
SH: The opportunity. I have met so many incredibly nice people across the globe. The experiences that I had, you know, some people live their entire lives and never get that opportunity.
Fans see the bowlers on TV making money and living the life, but they don't see the grind behind the scenes, how tough it can be to live out of a suitcase for years on end, how stressful that lifestyle can become. Can you talk about the part of touring life that fans don't see and how difficult it can get after a while?
SH: You know, I never really thought of it as "difficult." I always believed that I was playing a game for a living, and I really did enjoy it. Even the last year when I was dealing with some personal problems here at home, I still did enjoy bowling, it was just no longer something I wanted to do on a day-to-day basis.
What was behind your decision to leave the tour at that time, Steve?
SH: Well, quite frankly I was going through a divorce my entire last year on tour. That was difficult for me to deal with-that was a life I had known for the previous ten years. And quite frankly it was difficult for me to adapt to it. And that's part of the reason that I-I'll allude back to what I was saying before about how happy I am-because of that, I met my current wife, I have an extended family now, I have two more children that are in my family, and it's superb. I wouldn't trade it for the world.
Does it surprise you that guys that you toured with back in the day are still doing it, like Steve Jaros, Tom Baker, or Walter Ray?
SH: No. I mean, all the guys you mention are extremely good. Quite frankly, Walter Ray is the best ever. No, it's not shocking at all. It's a lifestyle that you choose. Some guys have adapted to it very well-that's what they love, they don't want to do anything else. Me? I'm pretty OK with it. I decided I wanted to move on and I am one of those people who when I make up my mind, I make up my mind.
So that's a decision you made for yourself, it wasn't something that was forced on you by external circumstances?
SH: Oh, God no! No, not in any way shape or form.
I think a lot of people are under the impression that they don't see people like Steve Hoskins on tour anymore because of the exempt-field format that came into existence when you were the President of the PBA.
SH: Well, that's part of it. I mean, I don't particularly care for it, I think the number is too low. But the bottom line is now the way things are structured I don't necessarily think I would enjoy it the way I used to I am not a big proponent of match play-never have been, never will be. I don't think it showcases who the best person is.
SH: Because bowling is a sport that evolves. You have to be able to learn how to read lane conditions, learn how to adjust when the lanes break down, and when they do the match play stuff it's a sprint.
What about some of the longer match play formats, like a best three out of five match?
SH: Three out of five is still ridiculously short. I don't ever really care to watch some of my friends bowl a 7-game match, beat somebody by 150 pins and lose four to three. This is not tennis. You should not get rewarded for shooting 150, 250. You should get rewarded for shooting 220, 220.
Would you consider the 300 you bowled on TV to be the most cherished memory of your tour days?
SH: Gosh, that's a hard one. It's up there, I don't know if it's the single best. You know, winning the major five or six weeks later when they had the first telecast when everybody made all the noise in Pittsburgh, that was pretty electric. And that was pretty much the culmination of a fall I will never forget. That's probably the section of time, in the fall of '97, when I was coming back from the broken hand that I think ultimately made my career.
What made that fall such an unforgettable moment in your life?
SH: Well, I won twice, finished second once, and bowled 300 on TV. I won a major, and I really solidified myself at that point in time as one of the best. And quite frankly, for the next six years that's pretty much how it was. Not only did I believe it and get affirmation from it but I think most of the fans and players thought that as well.
Was the approval of fans and players important to you?
SH: Oh, absolutely. Anybody who says it isn't is full of BS. Anybody who plays a sport or puts themselves out in the public eye like that is looking for positive affirmation. No doubt about it, it's an ego thing. Nothing more.
Like Norm Duke and Johnny Petraglia, you shot that 300 against Walter Ray. Why do you think several televised 300s have been bowled against Walter Ray?
SH: I think a number of things could lead to that. You know you have to bring your A-game when you're bowling Walter. It's pretty easy to start off with the front five or six and have a guy who is struggling against you and get lazy. With Walter, you can't do that. If he can do it with a pencil, he can do it. In other words, if you can screw up and he can add it up and beat you, you just have to assume he's going to. He is that good, and was for 15-odd years.
One thing that made that 300 game especially significant was that it was your second telecast since breaking your hand-can you tell me that story?
SH: Sure, I had the solid 8 in Tucson, which was my first show back in 1997 after I took a half a year off. My second child was born. I basically didn't bowl from June until January of 1996. So of course I came back had gotten another semester of college out of the way. I think Tucson was the third tournament. I make the telecast and leave the solid 8 to lose to Brian Himmler on the show, went back to the paddock, and there were people in line waiting for autographs. Not to be rude, I stopped and signed them and each of them had a comment to make-you know, just trying to be nice, "bad break" and all that stuff. Well eventually the last person to say something really set me off, so I hauled off and punched the door. The problem was, the door was steel, and it was bolted shut. And I remember looking at Steve Wilson and he says 'Wow, that looked like it hurt.' And I said 'Yeah, you could say that.' I didn't know it was broken for two days until I tried to bowl again.
Well, I guess you knew loud and clear at that point!
SH: Oh yeah, so I went to the doctor and they did X-Rays and hey, guess what, I broke my bone in a couple spots.
What was your reaction to the X-Ray news?
SH: You talk about despair-I think is the best word for it. I had just taken six months off and now I had to call all the companies I worked for and tell them, 'Hey, guys, guess what? I'm taking another 8 weeks off.' It's funny, because it was kind of a blessing, now that I look back. Because I focused better after that and I kind of quit taking for granted what I was doing for a living. I was just at the tail-end of a four-year contract, so obviously they weren't sure if they were going to re-sign me. I tried to get re-signed in the summer again just to get myself some security with my family and I go out and bowl, win two tournaments, win a major, shoot 300 and all of a sudden my stock went up to the moon. So, invariably I ended up signing a contract that was probably worth twice as much money because they wanted to wait. So, it worked out pretty well for me.
You mentioned taking some time off because you had a kid, and I am wondering how hard you think it is for guys like Chris Barnes or Mika who have children now to still be touring full time?
SH: Well, it is what it is. You know what you're doing when you get into it. I mean, shoot, I've had children since 1992. When I went back on tour full time again in January of 1993, you know, I basically travelled for 11 years having children. I flew home every week or every other weekend at all times depending on whether I was east of the Mississippi or west of the Mississippi.
Have any of your children gotten into bowling?
SH: Actually, we all bowl the generation gap league on Sunday nights. I bowl with my kids in the summer every year.
Have any of them gotten good?
SH: Yeah, they enjoy it. But none of them take it seriously.
You are one of the few to actually win a title in the same telecast in which you bowled a 300. Why do you think most players have not gone on to win titles after shooting 300 games?
SH: It's the absolute adrenaline rush, and then whether you like it or not you're going to have a letdown the next game. For me, I was very fortunate-there was a 7-minute commercial break and a little bit they had put together for the show-so I had 7 minutes between games rather than 3 ½. I had a little extra time. I stood by the ball return and did a lot of breathing and composed myself again. Because ultimately, I was there to win the tournament. And I was very fortunate that I had the chance to step up in the tenth and shoot two strikes for the win.
Who was the toughest competitor you ever faced on tour?
SH: Without a doubt, it's Walter. I mean, you have to say Walter, but Norm Duke is a close second. If I had to make a list of people that you were just in amazement at how good they are, you've got Norm Duke, you've got Voss, you've got Weber, Amleto, and Parker. My good friend Jason Couch, he's another one-if I am going to pick a team, he's another one that I would want on my team. You look back at the guys that were superb in the early '90s and played through the beginning part of this decade-those are the guys who were all my friends.
With the news that Brian Voss and Amleto will be rejoining the tour this year, do you think those guys still can pose a threat to the younger players?
SH: Without a doubt. Amleto is in top physical shape, and Voss is in great shape. But their games are what matter and you know they are going to call on thirty years of experience and they're great for the game. Unfortunately, that's what happened when they went to the exempt field. They've lost of a lot of name players-and not even so much just the names, but they lost as lot of the characters. You know, the people with personalities, the people that the fans have endeared themselves to, the people that caused people to come in and pay 20 bucks just to watch them bowl. Now, most of the characters quite frankly are contrived. It's this gimmicky garbage that you have and I am not a proponent of it. You know, that's the kind of stuff you do in an exhibition, throwing the ball between people's legs, throwing a ball over chairs-that's not stuff you do on TV. We're not the X-Games. Sorry, it's an opinion, and I may be wrong.
This is still many years away for you, Steve, but I'm wondering if you will have any interest in bowling the senior tour when you become eligible to do so?
SH: If the money was good, but of course that's still ten years away. You know, I'm just forty. Everybody thinks I'm older. There's actually people that I bowled with on tour for fifteen years that did not realize how old I was. It's kind of shocking. But I started when I was 19. But to answer your question-if the money was right, would I consider it? Absolutely.
And in the meantime, you have no interest in bowling any PBA events?
SH: I get the inkling. I'm getting it again, more so than I did a year ago. But it is what it is. I actually bowled my first tournament in years, a local state tournament with all my buddies that I bowl in league with, you know, just for fun because it's thirty minutes away from the house. But that's all it was. It was strictly fun, we were there to party and have a good time just like everybody else does when they bowl. That's the part that I am actually enjoying.
Since you've moved on in your life, Steve, how do you deal with that itch to do it again when it comes every once in a while?
SH: I apply it to my business.
Explain what you're doing for a living these days.
SH: Well, my wife and I own a car lot up in Hudson, Fla. called Carzone. Basically, I specialize in cars that are $8,000 and under and I do all types of financing. I do some in-house financing-buy here pay here-I love credit issues, I mean, I understand, hey, bad things happen to good people every day. Most of them just need a hand. Literally, for me, it's all about respect. I treat my customers exactly the way that I would want to be treated if I walked out on a car lot, which is not like a number. It is very individualized at my car lot.
You seem pretty passionate about this new career and the business is doing pretty well, correct?
SH: Oh, absolutely. I'm loving it because I get to interact with people every day, which is one thing I did enjoy about the tour. I love talking to people. I love hearing their stories and deciphering, quite frankly, whether or not they're BS-ing me or telling me the truth. And for the people that I think are telling me the truth, I'll bend over backwards to get them some help.
Are there any ways in which the rewards of what you're doing now compare to the rewards you experienced as a pro bowler?
SH: In a way, yeah, but on a much smaller level. You know, you don't get that instantaneous gratification of winning a tournament or anything like that, but you do get the gratification of helping someone achieve a goal, which is to procure transportation, and making them feel like they got exactly what they wanted instead of what somebody is telling them they have to get. So it's individual successes on a day to day basis as opposed to the culmination of three or four years worth of work of, you know, hey, you just won a tournament. The highs aren't quite as high but the lows aren't quite as bad either.
Well, lastly, Steve, what are the odds that we will see Steve Hoskins's name on a PBA leader board within, say, the next ten years?
SH: I would give it a fifty-fifty chance. If the opportunity presented itself and, you know, the sponsorship deal was correct and it was a good fit for me, yeah, I would not rule that out in any shape or form.
Well, I think a lot of people will be encouraged to hear that, Steve.
SH: Yeah, because it's probably different than what I said four years ago.
And four years from now it will be different then, right?
SH: It will. I still do absolutely love the game. It has afforded me an experience of a lifetime, and I will never forget that.Read More Permlink to In Retrospect: The Steve Hoskins Interview
Stefanie Nation of Arlington, TX has been named Kegel Bowler of the Month by the Bowling Writers Association of America for July 2009.
Nation captured the Singles gold medal at the World Tenpin Bowling Association Women's Championships in Las Vegas. After qualifying as top seed, Nation defeated Krista Pollanen of Finland, 220-195. Nation then downed Mexico's Sandra Gongora in the final match, 167-131.
Nation became the third American woman to win the gold medal at the WTBA Women's Championships, following Kelly Kulick in 1999 and Shannon O'Keefe in 2007.
Other nominees capturing substantial votes were Stephen Conn, Crestwood, KY and Maggie Zakrzewski, Palatine, IL, USBC Junior Gold Boys and Girls Division winners and USBC Youth Open All-Events Boys and Girls Division winners Andrew Koff, Miami, FL and Katie Thornton, Chesapeake,VA.
For additional information, contact Jackie Wyckoff, President
Bowling Writers Association of America
Yesterday PBA Hall of Famer Mike Limongello reminisced about his days as a young, legendary action bowler from long Island. Today, we conclude our interview as Limongello remembers more of his legendary matches against action bowling greats. While Limongello may be best known for his now-mythical, all-night action matches against the likes of Richie Hornreich or Ralph Engan for thousands of dollars a game, though, he also proved that he could contend with the greatest names in the sport during his days on the PBA Tour, winning two majors in one year when he took the U.S. Open and PBA National Championship titles in 1971. Here, Limongello also recalls the day that Dick Weber kept him off what would have been his first telecast, the time he borrowed Harry Smith's bowling ball in the middle of the 1971 U.S. Open and won the tournament with it, and memorable matches against legends like Carmen Salvino and Ray Bluth.
A lot of the guys who were a part of the action scene back in the day say they were the best days of their lives. What made those days so great for you?
ML: To me I was just so much in love with the action. I loved bowling, I started when I was 14. I wanted to be a baseball player and when I used to play baseball the manager of the baseball team took us out bowling after the game. I fell in love with it right away and wanted to be a bowler. I just knew I had the talent, and once I started bowling for money and action I didn't want to go to school anymore. One of my home houses was Sunset Lanes. We'd bowl pot games for two or three bucks a man. I got out of school, the school year was over and summer was starting. I was about a 175 average and I bowled the whole summer. I must have bowled 150 games a week. I went from 175 to just about a 200 in three months. I just got so good in three months from bowling every day, I don't know how I did it. But it just was natural to me I just loved the action. The friends we had, such a great time. Everybody liked the action, everyone had this group of guys traveling with them. They used to bet on me.
The action was a lifestyle. So many guys were into it. It was just a fun, fun lifestyle. In other words it was an addictive thing. You just loved the action, the money was there all the time. You could be broke but you always had a shot to make money and it was fun, exciting and fun. I wouldn't have changed those days for anything. It was a really unique time to be bowling back then, from 1960-61 to '65 when I went on tour the action was really big, 7 days a week and it was in a different house every night. One night it was in Brooklyn, the other night was in Queens, then Jersey another night. Yonkers was big on the weekends. At Central Lanes up there they had about 50 lanes, you could go there after leagues were over on Friday night, say ten or so, and go nonstop through Sunday afternoon. I would go there Friday around 11pm and you literally by one or two in the morning just about every lane was going, there was a different match on every lane. It was just before I went on tour, we just traveled the action circuit every night. It was a group of guys that I lived with on Long Island and it was maybe seven or eight of us. We were all bowlers, and we would just go every night wherever the action was and just bowl whoever was there.
At any time we could lose whatever we had in our pocket. I could have two grand and blow it easy, or I could have $50 and go into the house and just beat everybody in the house and turn $50 into $5,000. I did it so many times with a small amount of money. I won a lot of money bowling and the only way I lost money was in doubles when I couldn't get matches anymore. I would have to bowl with a 170 or 180 bowler against two 200 bowlers and you just lose matches like that.It was a different world. It started in the 1960s, '61 and '62 and went to maybe the late 70s, about 15 years. But from '61 to '70 it was just all over the place, and then it just died out. There was no action anywhere anymore. It was really a life not a lot of people would know about and what's funny is kids nowadays come up to me where I work, some kids come into Taj Mahal-this actually happened. Some young kids came in from Long Island, a lot of people where I deal know me and that I used to bowl. I'll be dealing, and somebody might be saying something like 'Hey, this dealer, he used to bowl on tour.' 'So this young kid from Long Island sitting at the table, the kid was about 25, and he says 'You're the Lemon!' and I go 'Yeah.' And he says 'Oh my God! You're a legend!' and I am like 'How do you know about me? You're 25.' He says 'You're a legend in Long Island, everybody knows about you.' I was shocked. I know a lot of people know about me, but here is a young kid and he is a bowler and he bowls in league, wants to be a pro maybe, he says 'Yeah the guys always talk about the old action days. Look under actionbowlers.com.'
A lot of people call Ralph Engan the king of the action. What was your estimation of Ralph Engan?
ML: Ralph Engan was a tough guy to bowl. We had some great matches, me and him. He would beat me, then I would beat him, we would go back and forth. But one night in Central Lanes it was really late, like six or seven in the morning, and most of the action is done. I had been bowling a couple of matches earlier and Ralph was there betting on other matches. Well it came down to nothing going on and they said 'OK, Ralph, bowl Mike.' The house was betting against me and I am bowling Ralph heads-up for three or four grand a game because everyone in the house was betting on him. I beat him like four in a row, and that was the end of the match. But he beat me a few times too. I didn't really want to bowl him, it was a tough match.
What was it like to make that transition from action bowling to the pro tour?
ML: The action and the tour were very different things. My goal was to be a pro bowler, I didn't want to be a hustler for rest of my life even though I loved it. I wanted to be on tour. When I went on tour the reason I started out so good right away was that when I got up against the best guys on tour I wasn't afraid of them. I was in awe of them, I had seen them on TV, OK, but in my mind I said 'If I bowl as good as I can bowl I can beat them.' That is how I felt in my heart. So bowling in the finals against Dick Weber or Salvino or Harry Smith I wasn't afraid of them. Of course they beat me sometimes. I am not trying to brag, these are my honest feelings. The first finals I made was in Florida. It was the fifth or sixth tournament I bowled in and the first game I bowled Salvino, he shot 250 and I beat him. The next game I bowled Harry Smith. He shot 240-something and I beat him. The next game I bowled Ray Bluth. He started with the first 9 and I beat him. I started out strike, spare and struck all the way out. He had the first 9 and left the 2-4-5 and shot 277. I struck out and shot 280, and I am floating on cloud nine. I just bowled three of the best bowlers I have ever seen on TV and beat them. And I settled down after that. It was a 16-man finals. I was hanging in there in 5th, 6th or 7th place-somewhere in that area. They only took the top four to make TV. So now it comes to the final game and I am bowling Dick Weber. So it's whoever wins the game makes TV, whoever loses is the alternate. That was the first time that I was nervous and had to win a game to bowl on TV, and I am bowling Dick Weber and he is in his prime. It was a close match all the way. Then it came down to the tenth frame and it was really close, and I got up first and I had to double to win and I get up in the tenth and left a four pin. He had to strike to beat me and he just struck out in the tenth and he beat me 218 to 210.
How do you deal with that, coming so close to the show and missing it by just 8 pins?
ML: You know, I didn't even care. I wasn't even disappointed to not make the show. I just thought 'Wow, I just bowled Dick Weber!' I didn't choke, I bowled good. But I was nervous. That was one of the happiest times on tour for me, knowing that I was good enough. I said 'OK, I made it. I bowled all these good guys, beat some really good ones, and one of the great ones beat me. Dick had to strike out in the tenth to beat me.' But Dick was great. He just got up and threw three strikes like nothing. It wasn't like I was rooting against him. I was like in a different world, it was so great to me that I was able to watch somebody that great. That was a turning point in my career. Five or six weeks after that, I won. At that moment, I knew I was good enough.
What other memories of Dick Weber do you have?
ML: Dick was a great guy. A lot of times I would have talks with him and I would say 'God, how do you do it?' He was about thirteen years older than me. And a lot of times I'd say 'How do you stay so good? How do you keep going?' To me at that time he was older, he might have been 33 or 34. I said 'What gives you that drive? You've done everything.' At that time he had won so much. He just said he loved it, loved the game, the action, the competition. You know, when you bowled him you could see the fire in his eyes. He wasn't giving an inch. He was totally focused. He was just mean on the lanes, he was like a tiger on the lanes, just mean. Off the lanes he was a great guy. Like Marshal Holman or Pete Weber. On the lanes he is a lion.
Your Hall of Fame entry on the PBA's website describes you as "one of the top clutch bowlers of all time." How did you control your nerves under pressure?
ML: I guess I just did it so much. There were times I bowled with nothing in my pocket and I HAD to win the game, I didn't have enough to cover the bet. I think I just did it so much and so often it just became second nature to me. The biggest thing was I loved it so much it didn't really affect me. In other words I actually loved the pressure, I would wish when it came to the tenth frame-let's say the match was even-I would actually root for the guy I was up against to throw a double so I would have to double to beat him, because I wanted to see how good I could be in the clutch. I didn't want him to screw up. Money wasn't important at the time, I wanted to beat him under pressure. I wanted him to get a double to show I could get up there and beat him. I used to do that all the time. I knew I was going to do it. I knew I could do it. The thing I would concentrate on was the basic principles. If you get nervous and do not think about what you're supposed to do you'll forget your basic fundamentals and you might choke. But if you have a set way of bowling that keeps you in time-you know, keeps your timing right to make a good shot-concentrate on that and not on 'Oh, God I have to get a double to win!' That's what I concentrated on, I got my focus down so good that my concentration was so good and the pressure never came into my mind.
There are stories online about you not even using your own equipment on tour. Is this true?
ML: A lot of times I would borrow someone else's ball. I always believed before this new equipment that if I was having trouble with the lanes there was another ball that would react better than my ball. So if I was struggling, most of the time when we went to an alley on tour I would have one or two balls at the most, the black rubber and a plastic ball-that was it. Now guys carry fifteen to twenty balls, there are so many different things to choose from. If I was bowling I would bring one ball with me, maybe borrow someone else's. I would walk around and ask when I bowled the U.S. Open, after the first qualifying round I was in 150th place. At that time we bowled four 8-game blocks. I said 'I am dead.' I go into the paddock, talking to Harry Smith who had four bowling balls. I am putting my hand in his stuff-his hand was almost identical to mine, same span, grip, everything-and I say 'Harry can I try one of your balls in the next block?' So I get this ball, and whatever kind of balance he had in it, top weight, whatever-in those days all you could do was play around with different weights-the ball just reacted perfectly and I averaged 220, 230. I kept moving up the line and went on to win the tournament. There I am using Harry Smith's ball, and it went all over the paddock, 'Lemon's using someone else's ball!' I used to do that a lot because I always knew in my mind that there is always a ball for every condition.
Why did you leave the tour?
ML: I hurt my back in my late 20s and had to lay off a whole year, doing rehab, weights, training, stuff like that, and it just never helped. I had to have an operation, and then it just kept giving me problems. In my later days on tour when the lanes got tougher for me, you know, it wasn't as easy. Then when I got married everything changed. It was more pressure for me and harder to handle it because I was not just bowling for me anymore, and I was having trouble performing. And even if I did, my fundamentals weren't working. In other words, that's when pressure can get to you-if you can't perform anymore. In my prime, it never got to me. So when I was not able to hit the lanes the way they were doing them I lost interest, the fun was gone. I won 2 majors in 1971 in my prime. I won the U.S. Open and the PBA Nationals, and I got married that same year, and then the year after that was when I hurt my back. I started losing interest and I quit the tour after the winter tour in '75. I moved to Vegas, met my future wife, and I lived in Vegas from '75-'78. Then when we decided to get married we moved back to New Jersey. I had odd jobs here and there, bartending and different stuff, and in the '90s I got into dealing poker. I have been in Atlantic City ever since. I still love the action. I work part time, I am on social security now. I deal three days a week and play poker three times a week. I only live ten miles outside the city, so at least I am still in the action.Read More Permlink to Memory Lane: An Interview with Mike Limongello, Pt. 2
By Gianmarc Manzione
Lori Conard had nowhere to turn, her entire life consumed under a fourteen-foot storm surge which, once the storm had passed, stood still inside her house as it gathered mosquitoes and mold. One of many doomed communities in the ravaged East Bank of New Orleans, Conard's hometown of Chalmette virtually dissolved like a pill under the smashing weight of water that Hurricane Katrina shoved over the levy wall. But with a family full of bowlers and one of its youngest, 8th-grader Ray Conard, looking for a high school bowling team to join, the Conards were about to find in bowling a way back to normalcy that none of them saw coming.
"It was indescribable," Lori Conard recalls of the day she finally returned to her house a month after landfall and found a 14-foot-high lake inside. "I never knew what the force of water could do. The house looked like somebody put everything in a food processor and pushed the strongest button. We had plates on top of ceiling fan blades. But one thing that was funny, on a mantle piece is a crystal clock, and the clock never moved. It was really indescribable. You had to think 'OK, what next?'"
What was next was an unwanted move to Houston, a son who did not want to be there, and a search for a high school back home that had not been battered to the ground.
"We thought we would stay in Houston," Lori Conard explains, "and then my son wanted to come home so badly, so we wound up staying on the West Bank where Shaw is."
The "Shaw" Lori Conrad alludes to is Archbishop Shaw High School in Marrero, La., where Coach Denise Vedros would soon lead the bowling team to a State Championship after becoming, for a time, the only team in the state to represent New Orleans after so many storm-ravaged bowling centers ended the seasons of high schools which themselves remained closed for months.
"We've always had a successful bowling program," Coach Denise Vedros says, "but the last couple of years have been a struggle due to hurricane Katrina. We lost our bowling center in the area where our school was located, and the only one left after the storm was a very small one called Colonial Bowl on Jefferson Highway, so my students had to make a commitment to travel across the river for both practice and matches-you don't get that kind of commit unless they're really bowlers."
It was this cadre of "real" bowlers that Lori Conard's son Ray might never have met had he not been forced on a hunt for the area's last remaining bowling centers by one of the worst natural disasters in American history. In the center across the river, Ray Conard found a place where instant friends gave him somewhere to belong to again after months of displacement. For his mother Lori, it was a place where, for maybe a few hours a week that removed her from the stress of rebuilding her Chalmette home, she could "be in a normal situation with people who were having a normal life. You didn't have to think about things like sheet rock."
But for Shaw's Bowling Coach Denise Vedros, the boy that the storm blew her way became the pulse of her team's success and an indispensable component of their 2009 State Championship. "Ray started as an 8th grader in 2007-2008 and was one of the best bowlers I had," Coach Vedros says. "He was eligible for Varsity his freshman year, 2008-2009, and started as my top bowler. He was a true motivator and inspiration for our team."
Any championship team needs leaders, but the confluence of victory and adversity bred many leaders at Archbishop Shaw. Patrick Kravet, the aspiring graphics designer who concluded a five-year stint with the Shaw bowling team with a championship-clinching strike in the tenth. "The team tackled me. It was awesome, really awesome," Kravet recalls. Brandon Palmisano, who tired of the football team and quit to try his luck at bowling instead. "Little did he know he would help the team win a State Championship," Coach Vedros says. Greg Cruice and Michael Niven, who joined Ray Conard and Patrick Kravet on the All-District Team.
"I think before Katrina they always relied on one or two bowlers to carry the team," Coach Vedros observes, "and I think everything they experienced-being displaced from their homes for two months, their school for a month, and then we had some victims that transferred into our school that lost everything, it taught the team a lot. It was more about teamwork, not just bowling."Read More Permlink to Tragedy and Triumph: The High School Bowling Team that Wouldn't Quit
By Gianmarc Manzione
If you're wondering how Kim Terrell-Kearney made the leap from a teenager whose interest in bowling "faded through high school" to a two-time Women's U.S. Open champion who gets voicemails from Billie Jean King, don't worry. So is Kim Terrell-Kearney.
"Yeah, that's a pretty big leap, isn't it?" Terrell-Kearney chuckles as she considers the longevity of an unintended career that now spans nearly 25 years.
"We didn't have high school bowling in California, so I was kind of an average player then. It wasn't until college that I found my way and things started making sense," the former San Jose State star and PWBA Rookie of the Year explains. "It was a steady transition. College bowling was my thing. I loved the team portion of it, so I kept working each summer and got better. I never really intended to go on tour, though-that wasn't my dream by any means."
As Kim Terrell-Kearney now knows well, there's one strange thing about dreams: If you don't find them first, sometimes they find you. With three major titles to her credit, including those two U.S. Opens and a 2002 WIBC Queens championship, the woman who thought she would spend her life as a physical therapist knows exactly where her dreams are found these days. The problem is that they just won't stay put.
Since her days as that young college star who was just trying to make sense of things, Kim Terrell-Kearney's dreams have compiled the itinerary of a traveling diplomat, from her San Francisco youth to the Head Coaching position at Delaware State University and, most recently, to the International Bowling Campus in Arlington, Texas, where she will work under renowned USBC Gold Coach Rod Ross as a coaching specialist. It's the time in between those stops, though, that was especially hard for Terrell-Kearney.
"You miss a lot of birthdays and holidays the normal person takes for granted," she says of her days roaming the country as a full-time player on the now-defunct PWBA tour. "The Fourth of July, those Memorial Day picnics, driving down the highway looking at people cooking in the back yard while we're on our way to Rockford. The traveling remains the hardest part, just being away from my family so much."
But dreams are not the only thing Terrell-Kearney chases around the country and, as a Team USA Member, around the world. She also chases history, defeating Trisha Reid for her 2008 Women's U.S. Open in the first-ever title match between two African American contenders in the history of bowling. It was a good follow-up performance to the last U.S. Open title Terrell-Kearney captured in 2001, when the entire PWBA tour threatened to pull out of the tournament until their prize fund matched that of the Men's U.S. Open-and were rewarded with the largest prize fund in the history of Women's bowling, including a total tournament purse of $300,000 and a first place check for $55,000.
"I am really proud of the fact that we stood together," she said at the time. "I think it was really important. I had a lot of passion for our cause. I just couldn't with good conscience compete in an event that didn't treat us equally."
Terrell-Kearney was not alone in her pride, though, as a congratulatory message left on her cell phone by none other than tennis legend Billie Jean King confirmed.
"It was just the most amazing voicemail," Terrell-Kearney said of the tennis legend's support. "To listen to someone of that caliber as an athlete, just the legendary things she's done in the sport of tennis."
If Kim Terrell-Kearney ever pauses with pride to reflect on her achievements in a sport that was not even her highest ambition when she entered college, she does not pause for long. Instead she sees her new opportunity with the USBC as a chance to learn even more and sees room for improvement as a coach. This after winning Coach of the Year honors for guiding the DSU Women's Bowling Team to a 119-38 record and their first-ever MEAC championship in March.
"I get to work with some of the best coaches in the country, and I will only get better," she says of her new position in Arlington. "And I get to work every day with Rod Ross, who has been my coach and mentor for years."Read More Permlink to U.S. Women's Open Profiles: Kim Terrell-Kearney