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Score that a (giant) strike: Kelly Kulick grabs men’s pro bowling title (plus $40,000, brand new fans, and a win for gender equity)

January 26, 2010 – 5:09 PM

By Laura Pappano
Last weekend – in case you haven’t heard – Kelly Kulick became the first woman to win a Professional Bowlers Association Tour Title. And she didn’t just win, she blew away her opponent. At the 45th P.B.A. Tournament of Champions in Las Vegas, Kulick beat 2007-2008 PBA Player-of-the-year Chris Barnes 265-195. That’s 70 pins. If you want to see her bowl, she’s competing next month in Colorado.

Kelly Kulick, barraged by press requests, and her mom Carol Kulick, just back to her Union, N.J. home from Las Vegas and hoarse (but elated) each spoke by phone with FGN about the experience  – and what the watershed win means.

FGN: How important was this victory?

KK: I think this is going to change the face of bowling as we know it. If there weren’t bowling fans before this happened, we gained some this past Sunday.

FGN: How much did you win?

KK: $40,000. It’s my highest prize money ever.

FGN: When you went out to Las Vegas, how did you feel about Kelly’s prospects?

CK: To be honest, at first I didn’t think she had a chance because she was bowling against these men and it is awkward to be the only woman [competing at the event].

FGN: When did you begin to think she had a shot at winning?

CK: Actually winning?  I noticed that she was striking and [Chris Barnes] wasn’t and I thought, ‘She’s going to do this! She’s really going to do this!’” The crowd was unbelievable. I really think they were behind her. They were so there for her that it pumped her up. They were cheering; it was awesome. It is amazing what the crowd behind you can do.

FGN: Kelly bowls with a 15-pound ball; many men bowl with a 15 or 16-pound ball. The pins, the lanes are the same for men and women. What makes people think the guys should always win?

CK: [The argument is that] because of their strength…they just have the power so they can scatter more pins.  It’s always been a question: Can women keep up? Can they do it? But it’s not about power anymore. It’s about precision. It’s about placing the ball. It’s about your timing. It also goes back to being told all your life that you can’t play with men. I always joke that if Kelly were a man, she’d be pitching for the Yankees.

FGN: You are saying that part of the problem is the message to women and girls…

CK: Women have been told all their lives that they can’t compete [with men]. And so they don’t think they can. It takes one woman breaking through. There is room in every sport for women. As long as they are told they can’t, they will believe that. But one by one, they are finding out that maybe they can.

KK: I always thought women could compete against men. It is more mental strength than anything else. Where men have an advantage is that as you play, the lane breaks down. It gets drier and it forces you to play a part of the lane that may not be a comfort zone. The men’s ball speed is usually faster and has a higher rev rate [more revolutions] than most women [which gives it more force against the pins]. My game is versatile enough that I can play the angles and I can usually keep up with them.

FGN: This sounds like a matter of technique and training. Are there more female bowlers who have this great training and technique?

KK: There are many more opportunities to learn now — the training and the coaching are readily available, compared to what it used to be. It has become more of an individual challenge – how far you want to perfect yourself as a professional athlete.
FGN:The women’s tour folded after the 2003 season (the year Kelly won the Women’s US Open). Since 2004, women have been allowed to qualify for the men’s Tour. Is there reason to revive a women’s tour (assuming the money is there) or should women continue to play with the men?

CK: What the women have been doing is having something like seven events just to try to get something going. But its not really an official tour. I don’t know if there will be a women’s tour again. If you could see the collegiate bowling out there it’s excellent — and these women have no where to go. HIgh school bowling is bigger than ever.

KK: I would like to see a ladies tour. We have to be marketable as people and athletes. Some of the best compliments I have received are from girls who say, “when I grow up I want to be like you.” I’m excited. I know I have affected a lot of lives.

  1. One Response to “Score that a (giant) strike: Kelly Kulick grabs men’s pro bowling title (plus $40,000, brand new fans, and a win for gender equity)”

  2. One big STRIKE (X) for the ladies. One huge bonus for women in sports!

    By NFL / AFL on Jan 30, 2010

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