ARLINGTON, Texas – Some rookies are relatively unknown when they begin competing on the PWBA Tour.
That wasn’t the case for Hope Gramly of Aubrey, Texas.
On the contrary, the 23-year-old right-hander was already on the radar of most PWBA bowlers and fans long before she ever threw her first shot as a professional.
That’s not surprising since Gramly made two stepladder finals appearances while competing as a non-member during the 2022 PWBA Tour season and authored one of the most decorated collegiate bowling careers in recent memory.
With so much success already under her belt, big things were expected of Gramly during her rookie season, and she didn’t disappoint, notching four top-10 finishes – including three stepladder finals appearances – and cashing eight times in 11 events en route to capturing 2023 PWBA Rookie of the Year honors.
The PWBA Rookie of the Year award is presented to the top rookie each season, based on points earned during the year.
Gramly wasted no time setting the bar among rookies once the 2023 PWBA Tour season kicked off in May, finishing in a tie for 14th place at the season-opening PWBA Stockton Open and following it up with a stepladder finals appearance and eventual fourth-place finish the following week at the GoBowling! Spokane Open.
She missed the cut at the 2023 USBC Queens in Las Vegas during Week 3, but she bounced back strong by reaching the stepladder finals at each of the next two tournaments – the PWBA Grand Rapids Classic and BowlTV Classic – and collecting two more fourth-place finishes.
The three-time National Tenpin Coaches Association (NTCA) Division II Player of the Year’s last top-10 finish of the season would come at the PWBA Waterloo Open in August, and it was a big one as it punched Gramly’s ticket to the 2023 PWBA Tour Championship and officially secured her rookie-of-the-year honors.
Carlene Beyer of Ogdensburg, Wisconsin, was second in points among rookies; Correen Acuff of Surprise, Arizona, finished third.
Gramly didn’t have the award on her mind when the season began; nevertheless, winning it was an accomplishment she certainly won’t take for granted.
“I’m honored to now be included on the list of great bowlers who have won rookie of the year,” Gramly said. “It wasn’t really a goal of mine throughout the season, but it was still an amazing feeling once it was officially announced, and Robyn (PWBA Brand Manager Robyn Graves) handed me that trophy.”
Gramly got to hold her fair share of trophies while helping McKendree University to national titles at the 2022 NCAA Bowling Championship and the 2023 Intercollegiate Team Championships.
But while she will always cherish the memories of winning with her teammates, there is just something different about reaching the top as an individual competitor.
“Those national championships were a team effort, and they’re something that I’ll always be proud of and brag about as long as I’m able to,” Gramly said. “But I’ll never take credit for those myself because I had my girls there with me.
“Winning rookie of the year is finally something I can say ‘It was me; I did this.’ Of course, I had help from my ball reps, my parents and many others, but they couldn’t throw the ball for me. This is really my first individual award in a while that I’m very proud of, so that puts it right at the top of my list of what I’ve accomplished so far.”
Gramly wants to accomplish a great deal more in the years to come, and she knows that she’ll have to keep her foot on the gas in order to do so because bowling timidly is the quickest way to get lapped on the PWBA Tour.
“One of the things I learned at the first couple of stops is that I have to be aggressive with my moves on the lane so that I can keep up and keep my name toward the top of the standings,” Gramly said. “In college, it was easy to be more conservative and wait for the lanes to come to me. On tour, you don’t really have that luxury and time, so you have to go after those pins rather than waiting.”
Another valuable lesson Gramly picked up during her rookie season was that for as fierce as the competition gets on tour, the friendships are equally intense.
“I knew a lot of the ladies were good friends because they spend so much time traveling and bowling together, but I didn’t really realize how deep those friendships went until we got to the Tour Championship,” Gramly said. “Most of these ladies want their friends to succeed just as much as they want to be successful themselves, and that’s the attitude I want my competitors to see in me even more next year; I want them to know that I want them to bowl their best even if it’s against me.”
Gramly was able to lean upon some close friends of her own while navigating her first professional season.
She gave particular credit to her tour roommate, 2022 PWBA Rookie of the Year Olivia Farwell of Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, and three-time PWBA Player of the Year Shannon O’Keefe of Shiloh, Illinois, who in addition to being a fellow competitor was Gramly’s collegiate coach at McKendree.
According to Gramly, the duo’s support and that of her parents, ball reps and friends helped make sure the pressure didn’t outweigh the pleasure during her first year on tour.
That pressure is likely to climb even higher next season since, as reigning rookie of the year, Gramly will have to contend with the elevated expectations that come with being one of the PWBA Tour’s marquee players.
“I’ve wanted to be on tour since fifth grade, and there wasn’t even a tour to be on back then,” Gramly said. “So, to be out here competing week in and week out with these ladies is a dream come true.
“To be considered among the best and have my name mentioned as someone who can win any week of the season is a little intimidating because I still want it to be fun and not put too much pressure or big expectations on myself. It’s an honor to be talked about in the same breath as these ladies, but I just have to stick to what I do and keep my head down.”
Having the proper mindset will be crucial in that regard, and that’s something Gramly thinks is important for any up-and-coming players who aspire to compete on the PWBA Tour.
“If I were talking to someone who wants to be on tour in the future, I would tell them that bowling is very hard and that there are going to be bad days where you have to stay patient,” Gramly said. “Even if you don’t win a title or do anything great in your mind, that doesn’t mean it’s not coming. Believe in yourself, believe in all the people who are behind you and you’ll achieve your goals eventually.”