Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Celebrating Leanne Barrette Hulsenberg's Victory in 2011 U.S. Women's Open

A belated congratulations to Leanne Barrette Hulsenberg for winning what is arguably the biggest women's bowling tournament in history--the 2011 U.S. Women's Open. Of course, my congratulations wouldn't have been "belated" if the finals had been shown live on ESPN2 on Thursday night instead of delayed to Saturday afternoon and I hadn't decided to wait until after the broadcast to write about it so that I wouldn't risk spoiling the results for anyone.

I still don't understand why the finals weren't shown live. As I wrote the other day, after the sponsors of the event went to such lengths to make the tournament an attractive, lucrative, and memorable one, why would they throw water on the fire by televising the event after virtually everyone knew the results? Speaking for myself, I would have reveled in the tension of Leanne's remarkable comeback against Lynda Barnes in the semifinal match had I not already known who was going to win.

Well, Leanne won the match and the title, the 27th of her legendary career. And I can't wait to see the giant replica of that $50,000 check hanging on the wall of Gary and Leanne's pro shop one of these days when I go to practice or bowl league at Fireside Lanes. Perhaps it will even be there this evening when I bowl my sport league.

I can't tell you how happy I am for Leanne and Gary! I've seen Leanne for the past several years at Fireside Lanes, and it seemed to me that she's been pretty disillusioned about bowling for a long time. It must have been a terrible blow to her when the PWBA folded at a time when her game was still strong. She might have gone on to surpass Lisa Wagner's record of 32 national titles. After the PWBA's demise, she just didn't seem to have the spirit to compete at the level she did before, because there just didn't seem to her to be all that much reason to. She still performed quite well at this and last year's Queens and U.S. Women's Open tournaments, but I think she really poured her heart and soul into getting ready for this year's Open. She started bowling more and more tournaments and putting in long hours of serious practice, and it obviously paid off.

What is particularly impressive about her victory this year is that it came against younger players, many of whom had the tremendous advantage of being members of Team USA and other national teams and receiving the advanced coaching that they received in state-of-the-art training centers such as the ITRC. Leanne, so far as I know, had none of that. She did it the old-fashioned, old-school way.

As I wrote previously, I was skeptical when her husband, Gary, told me two weeks ago today that he liked Leanne's chances at the Open. I wonder if even he wasn't a little skeptical too. But after Leanne's performance last week, I don't think either of us will ever doubt that Leanne can still compete with and beat the best female bowlers on the planet.

You can watch video of the entire tournament below and read a recap of the stepladder finals results here.

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