May 17, 2007 19:00
This week, the PBA caught up with Kelly Kulick, who last year became the first woman to earn a full-season exemption on the Denny’s PBA Tour, to discuss her return to the Denny’s PBA Tour Trials this June.
Last summer, Kulick finished sixth out of 140 bowlers in the 2006 Denny’s PBA Tour Trials to earn one of 10 exemptions available at the Tour Trials – and one of 58 exemptions on Tour – to become the first woman to bowl full-time on the Denny’s PBA Tour. She finished the season 54th in the 2006-07 PBA World Point Rankings, 15 spots shy of regaining her exemption.
Kulick will attempt to repeat her historic feat May 29-June 3 at Stardust Bowl II in Merrillville, Ind., in the 2007 Lake County Indiana Denny’s PBA Tour Trials. Last season’s Tour Trials were held at Stardust Bowl I in Hammond, Ind.
This week, the PBA caught up with Kulick to discuss her thoughts about returning to the Tour Trials and competing for one of seven exemptions available.
Q: How have your past experiences at Tour Trials, and your success last year, prepared you for this year’s event?
KK: Basically I’m walking in the door with more confidence. I’ve had a year of practice on all the patterns after being on Tour full-time and I’m coming off a win at the USBC Queens so I’m hoping to have that same success carry over.
I’m also no longer petrified of the Cheetah pattern. I’m still concerned with the Shark pattern but I just hope to have smart ball selection to get me through the week.
Q: Does bowling Tour Trials get easier each time you do it?
KK: Either way it’s a grind, more mentally than physically. It’s an endurance competition. It’s hard physically to bowl that many games for five days in a row, but mentally it’s a bigger challenge. You’re basically bowling for your career. At the same time, I’m really not. My goal is to get back out there and win a title, but if I don’t make it out, it’s not the end of the world. I think the reason I was so successful last summer is that I came in feeling like I had nothing to lose. I did have a back up plan and that took some pressure off. I don’t have to put pressure on myself this year either, but I definitely want to get back out there.
With my record at Tour Trials, finishing in the 20s-30s the first two years and then finishing sixth last year, it’s been a good event for me and that will uplift me. I definitely have more confidence than I had last year.
Q: How do you feel about the Tour Trials switching back to wood lanes?
KK: I’m more concerned with the Shark pattern than the surface, although the way the Shark played this year on Tour anything is possible. I had more success playing outside on the Shark than inside last season, which is how most people play that pattern. I am just going to take advantage of all the practice time they allot for us and see if I can come out hot out of the gate. My slower ball speed has been a concern.
Q: Do you think the switch to one squad this season instead of two will be better?
KK: I don’t think it will have much of an effect. What will help me is I’m going to bowl the Regional Players Championship at Stardust Bowl II the week before Tour Trials as a pre-practice so I can see how the house plays differently from one pair to the next. With one squad you don’t really pay attention to what everyone else is doing you just have to worry about yourself. At the end of the day you know what number you have to shoot for.
Q: With only seven spots available compared to 10 last season, do you feel any more pressure to perform this season?
KK: Obviously the more numbers the better but considering how I did last year in finishing sixth I don’t have to worry about it. Dick Ritger told me something that has really helped me. He said ‘don’t worry about making the top seven, just go out and try to win the whole thing. You don’t ever bowl to finish fifth, you bowl to win.’ That’s what I’m going to do.
Q: As someone who has earned an exemption through Tour Trials, explain the feeling of getting through such a grueling event and knowing you are exempt?
KK: I really didn’t understand the full extent of what I’d done until a few weeks after. It’s just a great feeling to take advantage of your opportunities. This is what I’ve always wanted to do. I’m always striving to better myself as a person and the Tour Trials is a test of what I can do to get better and better. I’m always working at this game and trying to make it better for myself, but also for everyone coming up in the game behind me.
It was just a great feeling because one day I’m thinking I’m going back to school and then the next day I’m bowling on Tour. I don’t feel like it’s over for me though. There are still some open doors I want to go through and I still have a lot to accomplish. I just hope if I make it, this time I get a summer off.
Q: Was there any doubt in your mind you would bowl Tour Trials again after missing the cut on the 2006-07 Denny’s PBA Tour?
KK: There was no doubt in my mind I would bowl again, none whatsoever. I truly believe this is what I’m meant to be doing. I’m pretty good at throwing the ball and I’m going to let it take me as far as it can.
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