LAS VEGAS –For more than half a decade, Wesley Low Jr. of Palmdale, California, and Breanna Clemmer of Clover, South Carolina, have been on a similar trajectory in the bowling world, and both have set their sights on careers on their respective professional bowling tours.
Their journeys have been filled with many triumphs and accolades, but they’ve been careful not to accelerate the process, even if their skill levels have indicated they might be ready. Instead, they’ve been focused on touching every steppingstone along the way and enjoying each milestone to its fullest.
In their careers, the two have found the spotlight in top-tier youth events, collegiately and internationally as members of Junior Team USA. They’ve combined for 10 appearances on the team, more than three dozen medals in international competition, six world championships, four wins at the Junior Gold Championships and three collegiate national titles.
Last year, at the Gold Coast Bowling Center, the two notched arguably the most significant wins of their pre-professional careers by claiming the titles at the United States Amateur Bowling Championships. With those final feathers, which included spots on the adult version of Team USA for the first time, it’s now time to make the leap to the next level.
“I wanted to be an adult bowler so quickly, but my parents told me they wanted me to stay in juniors,” Low said. “I think that progression allowed me to learn about bowling and see different environments. Youth bowling is one thing, collegiate bowling is another and amateur and professional bowling are different, too. I’ve seen it all now, and I’ve gained a lot of knowledge. I think it helped me grow and become a better person because of the things I experienced and the people I met during that progression.”
Low recently joined the Professional Bowlers Association and is just days away from the start of his rookie season on the PBA Tour.
The 22-year-old two-hander is committed to traveling the globe, at whatever the monetary expense might be, to see if he has what it takes to maintain his momentum against the best bowlers in the world.
The 2020 PBA Tour season will kick off Jan. 13 with the PBA Hall of Fame Classic at the International Training and Research Center in Arlington, Texas, a facility Low is familiar with from past training camps and practice sessions with Junior Team USA and Team USA.
“I always thought I wanted to get to the next level, every step of the way,” said Low, who won four PBA regional events as a non-member. “I did youth bowling. I went to college and bowled. This always has been a dream and something I hoped to do while I was still young. Winning the U.S. Amateur last year, when I felt like I wasn’t bowling well or making progress with my game, really re-energized me.”
While everything in Low’s resume suggests he’ll have no problem making a career in bowling, he also made sure to have a backup plan.
During his time at Wichita State University, he earned a bachelor’s degree in management, and he now is about a year from adding an MBA (Master of Business Administration).
He’ll continue taking classes while traveling to compete, made possible by a curriculum that includes both on-campus and online courses. Beyond the classroom, Low also is working to grow his social media presence, specifically on YouTube with bowling-related content.
Clemmer, a senior at McKendree University, also has been diligent with her studies and has planned a career path that will allow her to excel on and off the lanes in two areas that are special to her.
As an elementary school teacher, the 22-year-old right-hander would have some financial stability and summers off to focus on the Professional Women’s Bowling Association Tour season, which runs from April until September.
“I decided to join the PWBA Tour this summer, and it’s exciting to be training for that, since the preparation is much different,” Clemmer said. “It’s important to make sure my game is where it needs to be to compete against the best ladies in the world. I had to realize exactly where my game was in order to improve it, be honest and then take the necessary steps.
“When I’m not bowling, I will be back in the classroom. I love kids and helping them out, and I really want to be in a role where I can help shape their lives.”
Much of Clemmer’s success over the last four years has come under the watchful eyes of Junior Team USA head coach Bryan O’Keefe and 15-time Team USA member Shannon O’Keefe. They also happen to be the director of bowling and head women’s bowling coach at McKendree, respectively.
Shannon is a 13-time PWBA Tour champion and two-time reigning PWBA Player of the Year. She not only coaches her players, she also inspires them and has become the standard to which up-and-comers hope to reach.
“I think without having Shannon and Bryan in my corner, along with some incredible friends and family, I don’t know that I’d be the bowler I am,” Clemmer said. “I sometimes have trouble believing in myself, but their support makes that much easier. They all help me realize who I am and remember the things I’ve accomplished, and it definitely helps with my confidence.”
Knowing the start of the PWBA Tour season quickly is approaching and that she’ll be competing against the best women in the world, Clemmer has intensified her training regimen to make sure she’s as prepared as possible. That includes physical conditioning and working on her mental game.
All of her experience and success, both on challenging lane conditions and handling pressure in some of the sport’s most competitive environments, also will help her feel prepared.
In the short-term, Clemmer is in Las Vegas looking to earn a second consecutive spot on Team USA, while also defending her U.S. Amateur title. Because Low has joined the PBA, he no longer is eligible to defend his crown.
After five days of competition at the 2020 USBC Team USA Trials, the top three non-professionals in the standings will advance to the stepladder finals.
By the time last year’s U.S. Amateur stepladder came around, much of the pressure of the week had been lifted for Clemmer and Low, who already had earned automatic spots on Team USA based on their second-place finishes in the Team Trials.
Victory in the stepladder portion of the week only made the experience sweeter and offered some potential closure to a special part of their careers.
Clemmer defeated past Junior Team USA member Mabel Cummins of Antioch, Tennessee, 217-181, and Low topped men’s Team Trials champion John Janawicz of Winter Haven, Florida, in dramatic fashion, tripping a 9 pin to lock up the title. The final score was 216-198.
“I think more emotion came out of me after the last game of qualifying because I knew I’d accomplished my goal of making the adult team, and even though I had one more thing to do, that would just be icing on the cake,” Clemmer said. “It helped me realize my dreams were coming true, and it was something I had the power to do for myself. That was a big moment for me mentally and emotionally, and winning just solidified that.”
Through three days of qualifying this week at the Gold Coast Bowling Center, Low is tied for 55th place among the 175 men. Clemmer entered the third day tied for second place overall. She finished fifth on each of the first two days.
Competition will continue through Tuesday. Bowlers are being tested with a variety of World Bowling oil patterns over the five rounds. The event will conclude with the stepladder finals of the 2020 U.S. Amateur event and the introduction of Team USA and Junior Team USA 2020.
All rounds of qualifying, the stepladder finals and the announcement of the teams are being broadcast live at BowlTV.com.