ARLINGTON, Texas – The second swing of the Professional Women’s Bowling Association (PWBA) Tour has seen the tour return to cities it had not been to since the late 1990s or early 2000s.
The trend continues this week when a sold-out field of 110 bowlers will converge on ABC West Lanes in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, for the PWBA Greater Harrisburg Open. It’s the first time since 2003 a PWBA event has been held in the area.
The action kicks off Thursday, June 14 with official practice and Bowl With The Pros events. Competition starts June 15 and continues through the stepladder finals June 16 at 5 p.m. (Eastern). All preliminary rounds and the finals will be streamed live on Xtra Frame, the online bowling channel of the Professional Bowlers Association.
The Tour has made dreams come true for many bowlers since it’s return, and this week’s event will mean just a little bit more for sisters Brooke and Nicole Bower of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, who will compete in a professional event for the first time in their home center.
Nicole, 27, and Brooke, 25, grew up in ABC West Lanes, the daughters of proprietor and United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer Gary Bower and his wife, Gina. The family owns three centers in the Greater Harrisburg area. They’re also the nieces of Pennsylvania State Bowling Association Hall of Famer Darryl Bower, who recently finished sixth at the 2018 USBC Senior Masters.
You could say bowling is in their blood.
When the Greater Harrisburg Open was held in the early 2000s, Nicole recalled it didn’t take long for the sisters to know exactly what they wanted to do with their lives.
“I remember loving every second the ladies were here when we were younger,” said Nicole, who is an assistant bowling coach at Wilmington University. “It’s been well over 10 years since the PWBA has visited Harrisburg. Leanne Hulsenberg and Kim (Terrell) Kearney took us under their wing and made the experience that much more exciting! I knew I wanted to compete at a professional level at that point. When I saw Kelly Kulick, Tammy Turner, Liz Johnson, Cara Honeychurch and the other ladies compete, I knew I wanted to do exactly what they were doing!”
While it has been awhile since the PWBA has been in Pennsylvania, the Greater Harrisburg bowling community has longed for the chance to relive the feeling of having the best women in the world compete in the area. And, for the players who will attend this week, it’s their chance to either relive memories or create new ones.
“I am very excited to bring a PWBA event back to the Harrisburg area,” said Brooke, whose 781 series claimed the 2015 Diamond Singles title at the 2015 USBC Women’s Championships. “Everyone in the area is excited about it as well. I was young when they were last here but watching them compete at that level is something I dreamed of doing.
“When I heard the tour was coming back, I couldn’t be happier that I would have the opportunity to compete, and I was happy that the girls just starting out would have something to look forward to when they get older and really excel at their game.”
The family element of the Bowers is second to none, but there aren’t many opportunities for the family to be together in support of both Nicole and Brooke. This week will be a welcomed change, as Gary and Gina can watch and support both daughters in their own center, even if mom might be a little nervous.
“My mom will definitely be the most nervous,” said Brooke, who competed collegiately at Kutztown University. “It doesn’t take much to get her worked up. She made a five-week road trip with me the first year the tour was back. I think it was tougher keeping her under control than anything else associated with that trip.”
Along with ABC West Lanes, the Bower family also owns and operates ABC East Lanes and ABC North Lanes. Growing up, one might expect the sisters to one day assist with the day-to-day operations of the family business, and that’s exactly what they do.
At ABC West, Brooke is involved with the bowling side of the business, such as tournament coordination, league records and financials, while Nicole is the bar manager. But, on any given day, you could see either sister doing whatever is necessary to ensure the center is running smoothly.
This week presents a unique opportunity for the sisters to compete in front of family and friends. But it also brings a different kind of pressure.
“I don’t know if it will be pressure from actually competing in front of family and friends,” Nicole said. “But the pressure that comes along when a machine breaks, or there’s a scoring problem, will probably be more distracting than anything else. I just want things to run smoothly all around and make it a stop that everyone wants to come back to.”
Although both competed in this season’s USBC Queens, Nicole and Brooke haven’t been on tour as much in 2018, compared with previous years, because of their full-time investments within the family business and other hobbies.
But, they have looked forward to this moment for years and will be ready to hit the lanes on Friday.
“My sister works tirelessly on her game; I know she’s prepared and ready to take on the world this weekend,” said Nicole, who also competed collegiately at Delaware State. “Myself, however, between racing sprint cars every weekend and coaching collegiately, I’ve struggled to put as much time as I need to into bowling. But, that doesn’t mean I’m not going for the title. I want a respectable showing. My goal is to execute both first ball and second ball, and just have some fun and soak it all in.”
Brooke said she had trouble with her timing at the Queens and “keeping my feet under me” and has been working on her game since.
“I have been practicing every day to get that back under control and feel much more confident with my game than I have in the past year,” Brooke said. “My main goal for this week is to have 16 solid games that I am able to keep my timing under control. As long as I do that, I am confident that I will at least make the first cut and be able to see what happens come Saturday.”
Additional Pennsylvania players in the field include 2015 PWBA Storm Sacramento Open champion Elysia Current of Ephrata, 2006 National Collegiate Bowling Coaches Association Rookie of the Year Kerry Smith of New Holland, and Brittany Himmelreich of Cressona.