SEATTLE – Kelly Kulick’s professional bowling career has been a collection of “firsts,” but none of them have been more revealing than her appearance – discreetly nude – in the latest issue of ESPN the Magazine’s annual “Bodies We Want” photo-feature.
The 34-year-old Union, N.J., resident, who is about to begin her third season as the only woman ever to compete as a Professional Bowlers Association exempt tour player, is the first bowler to appear in ESPN the Magazine’s annual “Body Issue,” a special edition that celebrates athletic physiques involving male and female athletes from a variety of sports. The issue goes on sale on newsstands on Oct. 7.
“After the publicity I got during the PBA’s U.S. Open last year (feature stories in several major New York and New Jersey daily newspapers), I was contacted by ESPN the Magazine and asked if I was interested in participating in the ‘Body Issue.’ We discussed how it would be done. I talked it over with Ebonite (her bowling ball sponsor) and the PBA, and I asked for some time to get in shape.
“I thought it would be done in good taste, so I thought it would bring great exposure to bowling and myself.”
"Kelly is a great ambassador for bowling and the PBA,” said PBA Deputy Commissioner Tom Clark. “The more people who know about her, the more fans she’ll have who will want to follow her progress as a professional bowler. The ESPN pictorial is another high impact way of gaining recognition and attention."
Kulick made the trip to New York City for the photo shoot, wearing athletic gear and a bikini to set up the pose the photographer wanted to shoot.
“Then I disrobed and positioned arms and legs so nothing would be indecent, but I would still show my athletic form,” she said. “It was nerve-wracking at first. I was told it would be uncomfortable for the first 20 minutes, which it was, but you eventually become comfortable with what you’re doing. There were only three or four people in room. It’s not like you’re posing in front of a bunch of people. And I feel good about my body, I didn’t feel nervous at all about posing.
“I saw the photos the day they were taken,” she added. “I don’t know what shot they choose, but they were all superb. Black-and-white, all very creative.
“To think about all of the female bowlers out there and they asked me? Ultimately it was my decision and I’m very flattered,” Kulick continued. “There were a lot of different athletes involved. We’re all different. It’s all about the physiques for each kind of athlete; it’s not about being a size 2 person.”
Kulick became the only woman ever to win a major sports title without the aid of an automobile or a horse when she won the 2010 PBA Tournament of Champions at Red Rock Lanes in Las Vegas, defeating an otherwise all-male field of 63 PBA Tour champions. Previously, she had become the first-and-only woman to earn an exemption to bowl full-time on the PBA Tour during the 2006-07 season.
Kulick earned the right to bowl in the 2010 PBA Tournament of Champions as the first PBA Women’s World Championship winner. That win was part of an unprecedented string of four consecutive major championships (U.S. Women’s Open, USBC Queens, PBA Women’s World Championship, PBA Tournament of Champions). Her TOC victory also earned her a two-year exemption to return to the PBA Tour.
Kulick will be among 49 PBA Tour exempt players who will join a field of 240 bowlers – men and obviously women – from around the world for the third annual PBA World Series of Bowling Nov. 4-20 at South Point Bowling Center in Las Vegas.
The former Collegiate All-American (Morehead State University), current member of Team USA and two-time Woman Bowler of the Year also has just begun a three-year term as an athlete representative on the United States Bowling Congress Board of Directors.