WICHITA, Kan. - The Professional Women's Bowling Association Hall of Fame inducted its first class in 16 years on Wednesday night before an audience that featured hall of fame members and current PWBA Tour players.
The induction ceremony was held in conjunction with the 2019 United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Queens, the first major of the PWBA Tour season, that starts Thursday morning at Northrock Lanes. BowlTV.com provided live coverage of the ceremony held at the Wichita Marriott.
The 2019 PWBA Hall of Fame class of Wendy Macpherson and Leanne Hulsenberg, both inducted for Performance, and Donna Conners, selected in the Meritorious Service/Builder category, was the first class to join the hall of fame since 2003.
Hulsenberg captured 27 PWBA titles from 1987 through 2002, including the 1999 USBC Queens, and won her second major title at the 2011 U.S. Women's Open. She is third on the PWBA all-time titles list behind Lisa Wagner (32) and Aleta Sill (31) and made more than 100 appearances on television.
The 1987 Bowling Digest Rookie of the Year, when she won three titles, Hulsenberg became the first bowler to capture back-to-back PWBA Player of the Year honors in 1990 and 1991. She was selected to the Bowlers Journal International All-American Team 18 times, including 12 selections to the first team, and was named Women's Pro Bowler of the Year three times (1990, 1991, 2002) by Bowling Digest.
She was inducted into the USBC Hall of Fame in 2008.
"In 1987, my parents took out a $2,000 loan and gave me their minivan so I could go out on tour," said Hulsenberg, who also rolled a 300 game earlier on Wednesday at the USBC Women's Championships. "I won three titles my first year, paid them back, and that was the start of my career. One of the reasons I wanted to be part of the PWBA when it came back was not just because I love bowling, but because I believe young people need role models, since I had so many great ones when I started my career. My wish for all of the PWBA members of this era is that you have the opportunity to do what I did for so long and make as many memories as I have along the way."
Macpherson won the first of her 20 PWBA titles in 1986, capturing the U.S. Women's Open as an 18-year-old high school senior to become the youngest bowler to win the event. She joined the pro tour that summer, taking PWBA Rookie of the Year honors, and won five more majors in her career - three USBC Queens (1988, 2000, 2003) and two Sam's Town Invitational (1990, 1999) titles. She is one of only two players, along with Mildred Ignizio, to have won the Queens three times.
When she won the Sam's Town Invitational title in 1990 at age 22, Macpherson became the youngest winner of the triple crown. She was named PWBA Player of the Year four times over a five-year stretch from 1996-2000 and was the first player to reach 100 television appearances.
She also won 10 titles on the Japanese Professional Bowlers Association Tour, was the first woman to win a Regular Division title at the USBC Open Championships with an 812 series in singles in 2006, and was inducted into the USBC Hall of Fame in 2009.
"When our tour ended in 2003, tonight's party was only a dream," Macpherson said. "My 18 years of tour life were some of my best years, and my career on tour was exactly what I had envisioned. I wanted to be a pro bowler. I wanted to be on television. I wanted to be a champion. I wanted to be one of the best."
Conners is the founder and executive director of the annual Professional Bowlers Association (PBA)/PWBA Striking Against Breast Cancer Mixed Doubles tournament, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. She has grown the event from 32 teams to its current 160 teams, placing the focus of the event on the players and always willing to find a partner for any woman who wanted to bowl in the event.
A USBC Silver coach, the 2012 USBC Joyce Deitch Unity Award winner is a member of the Houston and Texas Bowling Halls of Fame, and won seven PWBA Regional titles.
She is co-owner of Carol Norman's Pro Shop and has done layouts and ball drillings for numerous PWBA players.
"Without the players, I don't have a pro-am, and without the pro-am, I don't have the charity," Conners said. "These players give it all and lay it all out, and I couldn't do it without them. They're just amazing, and I'm so proud of all of them. I would like to say thank you for this most awesome night and leave you with this - the cure is real, can you believe."
Anne Marie Duggan received special recognition during Wednesday's ceremony. Duggan and Virginia Norton both were elected to the PWBA Hall of Fame in the Performance category in 2003, the year the pro women's tour ceased operations, and Duggan helped bridge the 16-year gap between the hall of fame classes.
"I would love to thank all of the people that helped me get here," Duggan said. "Because it's not just you. You don't think about that while you're doing it, but there are so many people involved in your journey."
The 2019 PWBA Hall of Fame class was selected by the PWBA Hall of Fame committee based on applications received. The committee is comprised of three PWBA Hall of Fame members, three Bowling Proprietors' Association of America (BPAA) board members, three USBC board members, and three media members.
The PWBA Hall of Fame started in 1995 to recognize outstanding competitors on the professional women's bowling tours and those who provided outstanding support of pro women's bowling off the lanes. The inaugural class was comprised of Donna Adamek, Patty Costello, Dorothy Fothergill, Mildred Ignizio, Marion Ladewig, and Betty Morris in the Performance category, LaVerne Carter, Helen Duval and Shirley Garms in Pioneer, and Georgia Veatch in the Builder category.
With the induction of Hulsenberg, Macpherson and Conners on Wednesday, the PWBA Hall of Fame now has 38 members, with 21 inducted for Performance, 10 in the Pioneer category and seven in the Meritorious Service/Builder category.
The PWBA returned in 2015 and is supported by the Bowling Proprietors' Association of America (BPAA) and USBC.