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The Importance Of Women In Bowling continues our series of Editorial articles with this special tribute to the importance of women in bowling. In many ways, the bowling industry has been as influenced by women as it has by men through the history of the game. Not only have women played a key role on the impact of the game on American society as players and as members of the WIBC and now the USBC, but also as business leaders within the industry. To properly get more insight into the importance of women in bowling, we can first begin with some history of the women's bowling association.
Originally called the Woman's National Bowling Association (WNBA), the Women's International Bowling Congress was formed in St. Louis, Mo. in late November 1916. It was the first widely recognized women's association for the sport of Ten-Pin bowling. The founding women were aided by Dennis J. Sweeney, the proprietor of the Washington Bowling Alleys, where a ladies tournament in 1916 provided the inspiration to create the WIBC.
The founding members of the WIBC were:
Catherine Menne, first WIBC president
Ellen Kelly, first WIBC secretary
Mrs. L.W. Waldecker, first WIBC treasurer (quickly succeeded in 1917 by Cornelia Berghaus, who was elected after Waldecker resigned)

The first official meeting of the WNBA was held on October 26, 1917, in St. Louis. 40 women from 11 cities attended the meeting and voted on the organization's constitution, bylaws, and first 16-member executive committee. The purpose of the organization was agreed to be:
"To provide, adopt and enforce uniform rules and regulations governing the play of American tenpins; to provide and enforce uniform qualifications for tournaments and their participants; to hold a national tournament, and to encourage good feeling and create interest in the bowling game."
The WNBA held its first national tournament in Cincinnati, OH on March 11-12, 1918.
In 2005, the WIBC merged with the ABC, the Young American Bowling Alliance (YABA) and USA Bowling to form the United States Bowling Congress (USBC). When it became a part of USBC in 2005, there were over 1.2 million WIBC members playing in 67,000 sanctioned leagues in over 2,700 local associations. Local associations exist in every state as well some foreign countries. The national tournament held by the WIBC, now called the USBC Women's Championships, is the largest women's sporting event in the world. The 1997 tournament in Reno, Nevada attracted 14,872 five-woman teams (for a total of 88,279 participants), the largest entry for any team tournament in history and a women's world record.
Women have been business leaders and officers of governing boards and committees within the sanctioning body organizations in bowling over many years. Women have been team leaders of divisions within the former WIBC and now USBC ranging from directors of high school bowling programs, marketing directors of the WIBC organization, Presidents and Vice Presidents of the organization, and leaders of entities reaching out to merge business links to outsourced components of the industry. Without women dedicating their time and resources to the industry, bowling would have enjoyed far fewer successes than it has through the years.
Women are also an important key in the field aspect of the industry as they are often visible as bowling center proprietors, (some of whom hosted important industry tournament events such as PBA or LPBT events through the years) to center managers, league directors, magazine and newspaper publishers, radio and TV media personalities, and so on. The presence of women has been and is an integral key to any success bowling has enjoyed over recent decades or will enjoy in the future.
Unfortunately, a declining American economy has driven women into the workplace and forced both men and women to work multiple jobs to make ends meet each month. Because of the importance of generating greater household income to raise families, women have rightfully taken to finding employment or to starting small businesses as opposed to bowling daytime and evening leagues as was readily evident in past years. Certainly, many women bowl fewer weekly leagues than in the past for these same reasons.
Bowling membership in the USBC has suffered with fewer men and women league bowlers today compared to the past. In the 1990's the WIBC and then ABC enjoyed a combined total of more than 8 million league bowlers in the United States. Today, there are just over 2 million combined sanctioned league bowlers enjoying league play every week. No doubt, the importance of women in bowling is very evident when we examine the financial impact fewer women league bowlers per year has made on the industry. Combined with bowling centers closing throughout the country, the bowler count is reduced greatly over the past twenty years and the loss of women bowlers is certainly an impact the industry could ill afford.
Women have also made their marks as players and are outstanding ambassadors for the sport. As recently as this year, Hall of Famer Leanne Hulsenberg of Roseville, Calif., topped defending champion Kelly Kulick of Union, N.J., 218-183 to win the 2011 Bowling’s U.S. Women’s Open Championship. The championship round was contested on lanes constructed on the 50-yard-line of the famed Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, Texas before a crowd in excess of 8,000 people, making it the most attended event in bowling history.
Competing in the most unique venue in the history of women’s bowling, Hulsenberg claimed her first title in nearly a decade and earned $50,000 for the victory. The event, conducted by the Bowling Proprietors’ Association of America (BPAA), was broadcast on ESPN2 national television. Had one of the finalists thrown a perfect game in the championship match, they would have received a $1 million prize, which is unprecedented in the history of bowling. The quest for $1 million ended quickly, however, as both players started the championship match by leaving a 10 pin.
With the pressure of playing on one of the largest stages there is – Cowboys Stadium and on national TV – Leanne rose to the occasion and delivered an exceptional performance, said Steve Johnson, executive director of the BPAA. No question outstanding performances such as LeAnn's are helping the resurgence of bowling gain momentum in this country and abroad. In fact, Kelly Kulick, runner-up in this year's Women's U.S. Open Championship also is the first woman to win a title on the Professional Bowlers Association National Tour when she became the Tournament of Champions winner a couple of years ago. No doubt women are as important to the future of this industry as are men.

BPAA,PBA TourWomen players who have been TV finalists on the PBA Tour telecasts such as Carolyn Dorin-Ballard and Liz Johnson join other former women greats Anne Marie Duggan, Tish Johnson, and many other champions on and off the lanes today who remain visible, serving the game as unofficial ambassadors to promote bowling as the number one participatory sport in the world. Women have more than made their mark as successful coaches and instructors in bowling. Many certified USBC Bronze, Silver, and Gold Level coaches are women and are actively involved with bowlers throughout the country everyday working to help bowlers improve their knowledge and skills in the game.
There can be little doubt that women are vital keys to the future successes bowling will experience and to the resurgence in the popularity of the game. Because of the wonderful impact women have made on the bowling industry, bowling remains one of the true sports and recreations for everyone to enjoy. As for my opinion, I salute the long line of wonderful ladies who have contributed to the game of bowling over the span of many years and who continue to work tirelessly to ensure much success in the future.
Rich Carrubba
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