• 25 June 2018
  • Author: Terry
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Making the jump from college sports to the professional level can be a humbling experience for any athlete.

This week’s U.S. Women’s Open, taking place at Boardwalk Bowl, presents another challenge for recent McKendree University graduates Jessica Mellott, right, of Lauderhill, Florida, and Sarah Wille, left, of Hoffman Estates, Illinois.

The duo were part of the Bearcats team that won the Intercollegiate Team Championships title and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) title in 2017, and were runners-up in both events in 2018.

Now, they are traveling the country, competing as professional bowlers.

The U.S. Women’s Open marks their second major and fifth overall event. Xtra Frame, the online bowling channel of the Professional Bowlers Association, is live streaming all preliminary rounds of the U.S. Women’s Open, with CBS Sports Network providing live coverage of the stepladder finals on Saturday, June 30 at 5 p.m. (Eastern).

Both rookies just missed the cut to the Round of 32 – important to note because that will earn a bowler a paycheck – at the Professional Women’s Bowling Association East Hartford Open. Sarah became the first to get that elusive paycheck with a tie for 28th place last week at the PWBA Greater Harrisburg Open.

Both said they are learning more each week and are enjoying the experience, despite the bumps in the road.

“I haven’t made a cut yet, and that’s very frustrating,” Mellott said. “It’s more of a mental thing for me. I’ve been throwing it great, doing as much as I can, but the mental side of it, I start to beat myself up a bit more than I should. It takes a toll emotionally and physically. Sometimes I wonder, ‘What am I doing?’ At the end of the day, I just try to look at the positives.”

Wille said it’s hard to come out on the PWBA Tour and expect to win, or even make the cuts, when facing veteran fields.

“They work so hard and have been doing it for years,” Wille said. “It was nerve-racking to start. I can’t get mad at myself because I am so new to this. I have to take the positives out of it and what I’m learning, and then capitalize on that for the next stop or the next day of qualifying.”

The two do have each other to lean on. They were college roommates the last three years and had the same major in college, so they also had all their classes together.

They have been traveling together to PWBA Tour events, with Mellott’s mom, Juli, in a new motorhome. Mellott’s parents, who served in law enforcement and now are retired, started traveling to collegiate events three years ago.

“We had another motorhome, a smaller one, but we ended up getting a bigger one,” Mellott said. “She (Juli) wanted a bigger one, and not just because we were going on tour. She had been pressing my dad for a new one and used this as her excuse to get a bigger and better motorhome.”

Juli Mellott said they got the motorhome four days before the PWBA East Hartford Open and already have 4,200 miles on it. She said the discussions about going on the road after the college year ended started many months back, and she reached out to Wille’s mom.

“I knew that Sarah wouldn’t be able to do it if she didn’t come with us, because her parents work,” Juli said. “Her and Jessica are very close, so I talked to her mom and said ‘I’ll be there, and if you trust me enough, I’ll take Sarah with us.’”

Both bowlers agree Juli does so much more than just drive them to PWBA Tour stops.
“She does a lot for us and she deserves a lot of credit,” Jessica Mellott said. “She’s making us dinner, cleaning everything, asking if we need snacks ... she’s turned into both of our moms. She doesn’t do all the driving, I do some of it, but Sarah doesn’t drive.

Wille is quick to point out she is not under the Mellott’s insurance and, of course, wouldn’t want to have an accident with a new motorhome. She’s also grateful for the chance to travel with the Mellotts.

“It’s been awesome having her (Juli) on tour,” Wille said. “My parents are working and just can’t afford to come to every stop, so it really helped out. They trust Juli, and my mom felt really comfortable that I was in good hands. I trust her and I can’t thank her enough.”

Mellott and Wille both plan to attend graduate school in the fall, Mellott at Florida International and Wille at Northern Illinois. They are planning for careers in the healthcare industry – Mellott in health services administration, Wille in public health promotion.

With the tour cutting to the top 24 for the Elite Field events after the U.S. Women’s Open, the duo plans to bowl pre-tournament qualifiers (PTQ) in the next three events. There will be a minimum of eight spots awarded at each PTQ, and Wille pointed out “you’re guaranteed a check if you make it through the PTQ.”

Mellott said she’s already signed up for the PTQs.

“My mom already has registered me,” Mellott said. “She’s like my ‘momanger..She just takes care of things.”

Mellott added that her first PWBA paycheck will go to her mom, for everything she’s done to help them throughout the years, and especially this summer.

“I look at it this way – I get to travel with my mom and my best friend in an RV, and I get to see my other friends, and we bowl, we do something we love,” Mellott said. “At the end of the day, you realize there are people that can’t do what we do and there are kids out there that want to be us. So, you know, you have to be thankful for the opportunity we have and the blessing we get every day.”

Categories: Tournaments
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