RENO, Nev. – There are some new names at the top of the leaderboard at the 2021 United States Bowling Congress Women’s Championships, with some big scores rolling in for singles and team competition.
The members of Pocket Pounders of Haltom City, Texas, rolled the highest team series in the Sapphire Division since the tournament transitioned to four-player teams in 2014 to take the lead with a 1,989 total at the National Bowling Stadium.
In singles competition, Wendy Kelley of Trout Creek, Montana, cruised to the lead in Amethyst Singles with a 600 series, while Melinda Jenkins of Longmont, Colorado, moved into the top spot in Emerald Singles by a single pin with a 663 series.
In Ruby Singles, Jennifer Nusbaum of Leonardtown, Maryland, moved into a tie for lead with Gay Socha of Fayetteville, Georgia, by rolling 246 in her final game to finish with a 696 series.
The team effort by Pocket Pounders included games of 648, 756 and 585 to take the lead by 121 pins. Rock N’ Rowdy Rollers of Gun Barrel City, Texas, had set the bar for Sapphire Team on the 2021 event’s opening squad in April with 1,868.
The previous high four-player mark in Sapphire Team belonged to Harbor Ladies of Eureka, California, who won the Sapphire title at the 2015 event, also at the NBS, with a 1,942 total.
Tammy Lepley led the way for Pocket Pounders with a 550 series, and she was joined by Janell Smith (514), 2004 Division II Singles champion Debi Richardson (501) and Belinda Partida (424).
Despite the big effort in the team event at the NBS, the team members were surprised by the news that they had moved into the lead.
“We had no idea until they told us,” said Richardson, who made her 17th USBC Women’s Championships appearance. “We hadn’t looked at the scores, so it was a really great surprise. We had really good chemistry and attitudes on the lanes, and we’ll be checking the scores every day now.”
Richardson, Smith and Partida bowl together in the Dallas-Forth Worth area, and Richardson and Lepley are sisters.
Richardson knows about the excitement of winning at the national level after her win at the 2004 event in Wichita, Kansas, and she hopes to be able to share in that feeling with her teammates.
“It would just mean everything,” Richardson said. “I’m really excited for the team, especially for me and my sister. I’ve bowled this tournament for 17 years, and I don’t know how many more opportunities I’ll have like this, so for us to do something together is awesome.”
Sapphire Team features four-player teams with a combined entering average of 544 and below.
Kelley used games of 175, 221 and 204 to take the lead in Amethyst Singles at the NBS. Cindy Spotanski of Loveland, Colorado, previously led with 546.
Kelley, a 63-year-old right-hander, returned to the sport a couple years ago after taking a 20-plus year hiatus. She easily recorded the best set in her three Women’s Championships appearances and improved on her doubles set by 230 pins after making the right ball change during singles.
“I brought three bowling balls with me,” said Kelley, who added sets of 427 in team and 370 in doubles for a 1,397 all-events total. “I used the other two in doubles, and they hooked a little too much. It wasn’t working, so I switched to a ball that didn’t hook very much.”
After her 221 performance in Game 2 of singles, Kelley was happy to continue her momentum into the third game. She knows there still is a lot of bowling to take place in Reno, but she’s hoping to retain the top spot.
The 2021 Women’s Championships will conclude its 73-day run at the NBS on July 4.
“If I win, I think it’s time to retire,” joked Kelley. “I don’t want to get my hopes up too much, since there’s still a lot of bowlers coming in. I’m very excited through to do what I did.”
Amethyst Singles features bowlers with entering averages of 125-137.
Jenkins rolled to scores of 203, 214 and 246 at the NBS to surpass Tonya Hausser of Loveland, Colorado, who had held the Emerald Singles lead with 662.
Emerald Singles includes bowlers with entering averages of 149-160.
Nusbaum, a 40-year-old right-hander, started her singles set with games of 221 and 229 before delivering eight strikes in Game 3 to tie for the lead in Ruby Singles.
Her overall performance also helped her into second place in Ruby All-Events with a 1,890 total. Nusbaum added sets of 601 in doubles and 593 in team. Deborah Manthey of Dearborn, Michigan, leads with 1,915.
“In doubles, I messed around with a couple of different types of bowling balls,” Nusbaum said. “I found that my symmetrical bowling ball worked best.”
Nusbaum has been working on her game, which included a trip earlier in 2021 to the International Training and Research Center in Arlington, Texas. A win at the Women’s Championships would validate that the work is paying off.
“At the beginning of the year, I went to the ITRC and worked on some things to better my game,” said Nusbaum, who made her fourth tournament appearance. “I did go through a little slump, but I worked through it and practiced a lot. It would mean a lot, since I haven’t won a title before. This would be a big win for me.”
Ruby Singles features bowlers with entering averages of 161-174.