The last time the Professional Women’s Bowling Association visited Florida, Ashly Galante
just had entered her teen years and still was a few years away from hitting her stride as one of the nation’s top junior bowlers.
The five PWBA events held in the Sunshine State during that 2001 season were won by players Galante probably wouldn’t have recognized at the time but now are among her biggest inspirations.
Currently, the 27-year-old Palm Harbor resident is a role model for the young bowlers at nearby Countryside Lanes in Clearwater, Florida, and she’s hoping to have her own breakthrough PWBA performance in front of her friends and family this week at the 2016 PWBA St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open.
The event is the 11th of 14 on the 2016 PWBA schedule and will be held at Seminole Lanes in Seminole, Florida, just a short drive from her house. Competition will take place throughout the day Friday and Saturday.
As if no time has passed, the three winners from the Florida swing in 2001 still are major threats on the lanes, and while their guidance has helped Galante become comfortable with the PWBA Tour life, they’re also among the many contenders she’ll need to beat to get to the next stage of her career.
United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer Liz Johnson (left) of Cheektowaga, New York, won two of those 2001 tournaments, even tossing a perfect game in one of the championship matches. Now, she is the reigning PWBA Player of the Year and already has one win this season.
Fellow hall of famer Carolyn Dorin-Ballard (right) of Keller, Texas, picked up a pair of wins that year, including the 2001 USBC Queens, on the way to a record seven titles for the season. Leanne Hulsenberg of North Ogden, Utah, a 26-time PWBA champion and USBC Hall of Famer, was the third winner.
All three veterans still are very much in the mix each week on the new PWBA Tour, which re-launched in 2015 after being on hiatus since 2003. Along with Johnson’s win this season, Dorin-Ballard, with her timeless style, made her first TV show of the year at the recent PWBA Rochester Open in Rochester, New York. Johnson will be the only one of the three competing at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open this week.
Galante, a collegiate standout at Pikeville and Webber International between 2007 and 2010, experienced some competitive learning curves in 2015 as a rookie on the PWBA Tour, but through hard work, on and off the lanes, she’s seeing a lot of improvement this season.
Her dedication to the sport and continued progress begins in the gym with a personal trainer and includes a strict, healthy diet. This combination helps keep her physically ready for the long travel and competition days on the PWBA Tour, while an open mind and willingness to learn from both her successes and failures on the lanes keep her motivated for the next event or obstacle.
“I know I still have a lot to learn, but I know once I get there by seeing and making the right moves, I’ll get to the next level,” said Galante, who has a high finish of 16th this year at the Nationwide PWBA Sonoma County Open. “When I look back at last year, I feel like I’ve come a long way, and like I’m still moving in the right direction.”
As the 2016 PWBA Tour season rolls on, Galante has found herself within a few shots of making cuts, and she’s worked hard at learning to keep her composure in crucial or frustrating moments, not panicking and finishing strong if something does go wrong earlier in a game.
All are terrific lessons she can pass along to her students, many of whom likely will be on-hand to watch her perform July 15-16 at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open.
Just as she has learned and been inspired by some familiar and successful players on the Tour, like her former Team USA teammate Shannon O’Keefe (left), Dorin-Ballard or hall of famer Anne Marie Duggan, Galante wants to pay it forward and inspire the bowlers she coaches.
“I know a lot of my students and local friends will be there to watch, and I want to bowl well for them and myself,” said Galante, the head bowling coach at Countryside Lanes. “I want to motivate them and show them what the future can be like for them if they continue to work hard and follow their dreams.”
As a top young talent, Galante competed in her first USBC Team USA Trials at age 14, made the team at 18 and helped both Pikeville and Webber International to women’s titles at the Intercollegiate Team Championships in 2008 and 2010, respectively. She also was five-time USBC Sport Bowling Youth Female National High Average Award winner (2004-2009).
Now, she’s ready to enjoy that type of success again, and what better place than close to home, where she can sleep in her own bed, eat at her favorite places and not have to worry about the long travel days or financial aspects of a week on the road.
“I’m thankful that I’ll be close to home, and it would be amazing if this was the week everything finally clicked for me,” Galante said. “I think this week will be a little more relaxing overall because I won’t have to go through the travel process, and I can get a little more rest. I will be able to sleep in my own bed, and I won’t have to worry about where to eat. Also, not having some of the other financial burdens will take off some of the pressure.”
At this year’s PWBA St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open, all competitors will bowl two six-game blocks Friday, with the field being cut to the top 32 based on the 12-game pinfall totals. Advancing players will bowl six additional games Saturday morning, before the field is cut to the top 12 for match play. The 12 will compete in two six-player groups.
At the conclusion of round-robin match play, the top qualifiers in each group automatically will earn spots in the televised finals, where they will be joined by two additional bowlers advancing through the unique dual-stepladder format.
Also competing will be USBC Hall of Famer Lucy Sandelin (right) of Tampa, Florida, a two-time USBC Senior Queens winner, who is excited to have a top-tier event in her backyard and hopes to help bring some attention to the sport locally.
Sandelin spends her days focused on the future of the sport as a highly respected coach and has fond memories of her own PWBA days, including the first perfect game of her bowling career, which came at another Florida event, the 1983 Clearwater Classic.
Her time at the bowling center each day allows Sandelin to get in some practice to stay sharp, and she’s also ready to practice what she teaches.
“I’m excited to have the PWBA so close to home, so the local girls can see what it’s all about and if it’s something they want to pursue down the road,” said Sandelin, who was a full-time player on the PWBA Tour in 1982 and 1983.
“I’m also looking forward to being on the lanes. I know I’ll have the butterflies and be anxious, and I’ll have to do what I tell my students, which is to focus on the process and the pre-shot routine and make the best shots possible.”
The finals of the PWBA St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open will be taped during the U.S. Women’s Open (Aug. 7) and will air on CBS Sports Network on Aug. 30 at 9 p.m. Eastern.
All qualifying rounds will be carried on Xtra Frame, the exclusive online bowling channel for the Professional Bowlers Association.
The PWBA made its return in 2015 after a 12-year hiatus, and the schedule has grown in 2016, from 11 events to 14.
The 2016 season kicked off April 29 in Las Vegas, and as part of an agreement with USBC, CBS Sports Network will televise 23 major championship bowling events in 2016, including 13 PWBA Tour events.
For more information on the PWBA, click here.
PWBA St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open Schedule
Seminole Lanes in St. Petersburg, Fla., United States (July 14-17, 2016); all times local
Thursday, July 14, 2016
11 a.m. – 2 p.m.: Media Event
5 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.: Practice
7 p.m.: VIP event
Friday, July 15, 2016
8 a.m. – 9 a.m.: Practice
10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.: Six games of qualifying
5 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.: Six games of qualifying
Saturday, July 16, 2016
8:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.: Cashers’ round – six games
1 p.m. – 4 p.m.: Round-robin match play – six games
5 p.m. – 6 p.m.: Group stepladder finals
7 p.m. – 9 p.m.: Pro-Am
Sunday, July 17, 2016
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.: Pro-Am