SEATTLE, Wash. – Immediately after the second-largest television audience in 10 years watched Kelly Kulick’s historic victory in the PBA Tournament of Champions, the significance of her achievement began to resonate around the world.
No sooner had the telecast, which drew a 1.52 Nielsen rating (more than 1.7 million viewers), ended than National Football League star Terrell Owens broke the news to his throng of Twitter followers: “Kelly Kulick just defeated Chris Barnes 265-195 to become the 1st woman ever to win the PBA Tour!! Congratulations Kelly!”
Since Owens’ “tweet,” Kulick’s triumph has created an unprecedented news media frenzy for the world of bowling, and two days after her surprising victory over Chris Barnes at Red Rock Lanes in Las Vegas, she was still the hottest story in the wide world of sports.
“The rich history of the PBA Tour has added another chapter,” said PBA Commissioner and CEO Fred Schreyer of the huge ESPN audience. “We are pleased that we can deliver such a strong audience to our advertisers and sponsors at one of our signature events. We look forward to continuing to build on the momentum we have established.”
Sunday’s ESPN audience was quickly joined by millions of other newspaper readers, radio listeners, online visitors and network television viewers. Kulick’s victory was published by more than 300 major-market newspapers, from the New York Times to the Los Angeles Times, and all stops in between. She spent most of Monday on an airplane, flying home to New Jersey, but the wheels no sooner hit the ground than she was inundated with requests for appearances on CBS’ Early Show, ABC News, Fox Business, WABC-TV in New York, and an assortment of ESPN programs.
She managed to fit in a handful of radio interviews as well, including one with WGN Radio in Chicago, and while she drove around New York City on Tuesday making non-stop appearances, she did additional radio interviews with stations in Hartford/New Haven, Tampa, St. Louis and with Sirius Satellite Radio.
“Kelly Kulick is a great representative of the sport of bowling and the PBA, and she is doing a wonderful job of telling compelling stories about the PBA and bowling in general,” said Tom Clark, PBA Deputy Commissioner. “She is keenly aware of the opportunity she has to showcase the sport, and that simply means greater value for the entire industry.”
The buzz about Kulick’s milestone continued unabated. Her Facebook page has been inundated. Her e-mail account was temporarily overloaded. She had more than 300 text messages on her phone when her plane landed Monday. And pba.com had recorded a record number of visitors in the first 48 hours after her win.
Here is a sampling of what the American bowling and news media community has been saying:
Randy Pedersen, 13-time PBA Tour champion and ESPN color analyst: “What I witnessed on Sunday, given the circumstances, could possibly be the best performance I have ever witnessed in professional bowling, Nobody gave Kelly a chance, yet she performed magnificently. Under the most extreme pressure our sport can provide she managed her game flawlessly. People need to understand just how spectacular this accomplishment is.”
Nelson Burton Jr., PBA Hall of Famer and long-time ABC-TV color analyst: “She truly bowled with as much determination and heart as I have ever seen.”
Don and Paula Carter, bowling hall of famers: “What a great show Sunday! We enjoyed every aspect of the telecast.”
Associated Press: “Kelly Kulick left all the guys in the gutter.”
Matt Fiorito, Detroit Free-Press: “Annika Sorenstam couldn't do it, nor could Michelle Wie, although they got tons of publicity in their failed attempts. But on Sunday, Kelly Kulick proved to the world that in precision sports at least, women can compete with men.”
Jeff Wolf, Las Vegas Review-Journal: “Kelly Kulick used a 15-pound bowling ball to smash a 52-year barrier when she became the first woman to win a PBA Tour tournament.”
Andy Hutchings, The Sporting Blog, sportingnews.com: “I'm too young to remember it ever being truly popular, but I think it's fair to say bowling has become a bit of a niche sport of late…Today, Kelly Kulick might have changed that.”
Entertainment&showbiz.com: “It can’t get bigger than this for 32-year old Kelly Kulick. The American Professional bowler becomes the first women to win the prestigious PBA title last Sunday in Las Vegas….Kelly Kulick is also known to have been a part of Spider-Man’s comic book. She was featured as friend and former girlfriend of Flash Thompson, starting with Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man issue no.20. She was included into the comics after participating in a bowling pro-am event with the daughter of one of the Spider-Man writers.”
Philadelphia Inquirer: “Kelly Kulick left all the guys in the gutter yesterday when she became the first woman to win a PBA Tour title, beating Chris Barnes in the final of the 45th Tournament of Champions in Las Vegas.”
Dave Poe, Parkersburg News and Sentinel: “The best sports story on Sunday? It wasn't Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts coming back from an 11-point deficit to defeat the upstart New York Jets and advance to the Super Bowl. Nor was it the New Orleans Saints' dramatic overtime victory over the Minnesota Vikings. Rather, Sunday belonged to Kelly Kulick. Who in the heck, many of you are wondering, is Kelly Kulick? She's a professional bowler. She's arguably the best female bowler in the world. On Sunday, she was the best bowler in the world - period.”
Sportsexaminer.com: “You might say that the announcers were breathless by comparing Kulick to Billie Jean King as a pioneer in women's professional sports. But you can't deny she accomplished something no other woman has. Golfers Michelle Wie and Annika Sorenstam failed to reach those heights when they competed on the men's golf tour.”
Mason Lerner, Sports Chat, The Faster Times: “Kelly Kulick made history and added a new twist on throwing like a girl when she became the first woman to ever win a PBA major at the Tournament of Champions in Las Vegas.”
All Headline News: “Kelly Kulick pounded 10 strikes at the final of the 45th Professional Bowlers Association Tournament of Champions Sunday at Red Rock Lanes in Las Vegas, becoming the first woman to capture a title in a male-dominated sport.”
Francine King, Jacksonville Times-Union: “Terrell Owens tweeted about it. Facebook pages filled with it. Bowling communities are buzzing about it. On Sunday, Kelly Kulick achieved what no woman had accomplished before her: a victory on the Professional Bowlers Association Tour — and in one of its most prestigious tournaments.”
Stephen Haynes, Newsday.com: “The call Joanne Byrne received from her husband on Sunday informing her that Kelly Kulick had become the first woman to win a PBA Tour title didn't elicit much surprise. No, for the Levittown Division girls bowling coach, there was just pride and a little I-told-you-so.”
Fort Worth Star Telegram: “Lynda Barnes, a pro bowler whose husband, Chris Barnes, suffered the 265-195 loss to Kulick, said she had no hard feelings. ‘He got run over — it’s a simple as that,’ Barnes said as she hugged friends at the International Research and Testing Center (Monday during the opening ceremonies for the International Bowling Campus in Arlington, Texas). "But you can’t help but be happy for Kelly."