Sports history was made Sunday when Kelly Kulick of Union, N.J., won the 45th Professional Bowlers Association Tournament of Champions at Red Rock Lanes becoming the first woman to win a Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour tournament.
She defeated 2007-08 PBA Player of the Year Chris Barnes 265-195 in the championship match to win a $40,000 first prize in PBA’s signature event, plus a two-year exemption on the PBA Tour.
“It’s been a dream of mine to win a PBA Tour event but I couldn’t have imagined it would have come in the Tournament of Champions,” said the 32-year-old right-hander. “It may have looked easy but my legs were like jelly—it got to a point where I couldn’t feel them. Believe me I was nervous and I was just letting adrenaline take over.”
The previous high finish for a woman in a PBA Tour event was second by Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, N.Y., in the 2005 Banquet Open.
In 2006, Kulick became the first woman to earn an exemption on the PBA Tour by finishing sixth in the PBA Tour Trials. Her best finish in the 2006-07 season was 22nd which she accomplished twice.
Kulick recognized the potential impact her victory will have for the future of the sport.
“I believe this can only mean bigger and better things for the sport,” she said. “If in any way this can be a boost for women sports and bowling, I’m willing to do my part.
“I feel like I’m on a magic carpet ride right now and I want to keep riding it higher and higher.”
In the championship match Kulick started with four consecutive strikes, then had an open frame when she left the 7-10 split in the fifth frame. She then went on to fire the next six strikes and a nine-count on the final ball to close the game.
Barnes, who won the Tournament of Champions in 2006, was trying for his second Tournament of Champions win.
“When it comes down to one game, a combination of factors have to come together and they just didn’t for me,” Barnes said, “but Kelly bowled great and she met every challenge.”
In women’s professional competition, Kulick won the 2007 United States Bowling Congress Queens and the 2003 U.S. Women’s Open in addition to winning the PBA Women’s World Championship in 2009.
In the semifinal match, Kulick defeated eight-time Tour champion Mika Koivuniemi 227-223 to advance to the final match against Barnes.
In the opening match, Koivuniemi defeated three-time titlist Rhino Page, 255-215.
Kulick earned a berth in the Tournament of Champions, by winning the PBA Women’s World Championship last September, the first PBA women’s major tournament.
PBA TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS
Red Rock Lanes, Las Vegas, Nev.
Jan. 24, 2010
1, Kelly Kulick, Union, N.J. 492 (two games) $40,000
2, Chris Barnes, Double Oak, Texas 195 (one game) $20,000
3, Mika Koivuniemi, Hartland, Mich. 478 (two games) $10,000
4, Rhino Page, Dade City, Fla. 215 (one game) $7,000
Match One – Koivuniemi def. Page, 255-215
Semifinal Match – Kulick def. Koivuniemi, 227-223
Championship – Kulick def. Barnes, 265-195