Professional Women Bowlers, Part 2: An Exclusive Interview with Champion Jodi Woessner
In part two of a series on professional women’s bowling, meet pro women bowling champion Jodi Woessner. Jodi’s journey to bowling stardom is unique and inspiring. It is a story all bowling and sports fans can relate to and appreciate.
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Although Jodi Woessner has been bowling professionally since the mid 1990’s, when she won a few Women’s Regional Titles, she is still considered to be a relative newcomer to the PBA and the PBA women’s series. During the 2008 season, she did what normally takes pro bowlers years to accomplish. She stormed on to the scene in incredible fashion and firmly established herself as a force to be reckoned with. She is for sure one of the true rising stars of the sport.
In the 1990’s Jodi excelled in the amateur rankings, especially in and around her home state of Ohio, winning several titles. But last season, seemingly out of no where, Jodi got on a incredible roll that had all pro bowlers, including the men, wondering who she was and where she came from.
She started things off by becoming only the sixth female bowler to ever win a PBA Regional title that included the men bowlers, by winning the Central Regional Open. In the championship match she defeated men’s bowling great Jason Couch, to take the title.
This win seemed to serve as the catalyst for what turned out to be an incredible season. Immediately after, she qualified for the women’s series by finishing in the top twelve of the U.S. Open. In the open she wound up finishing in the top eight.
A few weeks later, in one of the first women’s series events of 2008, she made it to the finals of the Chameleon Championship and finished second. Then she won her first ever Women’s PBA title, taking the Women’s Shark Championship, by beating arguably the best woman bowler in the world, Carolyn Dorin-Ballard. Following that win she capped off her season when she finished second in the Women’s Series Showdown.
By the end of the 2008-2009 season she won a PBA Regional title, won her first Women’s PBA event, and finished second in two other events. Not a bad first full year with the PBA. No wonder everyone is taking notice.
It is hard to believe that at thirty-nine years old, Jodi has just begun to hit her stride and realize her potential. The sky is the limit for Jodi as she continues to climb her way up the rankings and into prominence in the world of professional bowling.
Jodi is one of those bowlers that anyone can emulate. She has a picturesque classic style that anyone can learn from. She is fun to watch with a fierce competitive spirit that really draws viewers and fans in. She has that eye of the tiger look that true champions are made of.
She is incredibly fan friendly and wants to let everyone know how much she loves what she does and how great a sport bowling is. She not only strives to continue her winning ways, she wants to help promote bowling however, and whenever possible.
All photos approved by Jodi Woessner
Home: Oregon, OH
Pro Career Highlights and Championships
2008 PBA Central Region Storm Products / Beechmont Toyota Open Champion (sixth woman to win a PBA regional event that includes male bowlers)
2008 Qualified for PBA Women’s Series
2008 U.S. Open Television Finalist
2008 Women’s Chameleon Championship: 2nd place
2008 Nominated for U.S. Bowler All-American Team
2008 Women’s Shark Championship – Winner
2008 Women’s Series Showdown – 2nd place
2009 Member of the Bowlers Journal All American Team
2009 PBA Women’s Series Exempt Player
2008 US Open
Tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming a pro women’s bowler.
I didn’t take the ”normal” path by going to college and/or bowling for Team USA. I got a full time job right after high school, started bowling adult leagues/tournaments then a few years later decided to try my hand at the LPBT (Ladies Pro Bowlers Tour) Regional program. After only a few tournaments, I won my first title in Baltimore in 1993. As I remained working full time, I continued to bowl as many regional tournaments as I could along with a few national stops here and there until the women’s PBA tour folded in 2003. When I heard about the Women’s Series two and a half years ago, I decided I wasn’t getting any younger. So, if I really wanted to test my talent against the world’s best, I needed to do it now. My first attempt in 2007 wasn’t successful, but with the (BIG) nudge of my husband, Aaron Hawkins, and a lot of work getting in shape and bowling in as much as I could, including starting to bowl PBA Regional tournaments to gain more experience, I was successful on my second attempt.
You are one of only six women to ever win a PBA Regional Championship. Tell us a bit about that. How did that feel?
That was an incredible feeling! As I indicated in my last answer, I wanted to gain more experience before the 2008 Women’s U.S. Open, and I knew PBA Regional tournaments would provide that, not only considering the lane conditions but also the competition. I bowled in my first PBA Regional in Detroit in June 2008 and finished in the top eight after winning my first match on Sunday morning then losing the second. Two weeks later I bowled in the PBA Central Region Storm Products/Beechmont Toyota Open in Cincinnati. Again, ”just to gain more experience.” Even after leading the A squad at +333 pins, I didn’t feel safe that I was going to make the cut (top 16), because the B squad was so much stronger considering all the exempt players. I figured if “I” could shoot that high, there were at least sixteen guys on the B squad that would, too! Well, after everyone laughed at me, I ended up qualifying second. Then after sixteen games of round-robin match play (which I prefer over the bracket-style format) on Sunday, I was in fourth place and had to make my way through the very tough stepladder finals. I beat Ken Abner, Brian Waliczek and then Emilio Mora Jr. before facing Jason Couch in the championship match. He started off by striking in the first eight frames, but I hit my first nine! In the tenth frame he left a seven pin, and then missed the spare! I sat there in disbelief that I had not only won a PBA Regional but just beat Jason Couch to do it!
2008 PBA Central Region Champion
Was participating in the women’s series last season what you expected? What was it like?
Considering I had little experience competing on the women’s tour, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I will tell you, though, that I knew I had a lot to learn and I did learn a lot! I was so happy we crossed with the guys because I don’t think I would have learned as much only bowling with the women. The guys were very willing to provide input after practice sessions and in between blocks since we weren’t competing against them. Plus, I had the added bonus of my husband being with me. Chris Schlemer of Storm Products assisted me as well.
What was the most difficult part about it and the most rewarding part, besides winning your first pro title of course?
The most difficult part was feeling inferior. I knew most of the girls and some of the guys, but had never bowled in a setting like that. After a short time, that feeling started going away, but I felt like a fish out of water for the first few weeks. The most rewarding part was getting over that and feeling like I was accepted and respected. I have a ton of new friends, both professionals and spectators. I’m certainly not done yet, but I feel such a sense of accomplishment and can’t ever look back and say what if.
Was that the first time you bowled live on television? How nervous were you?
Yes, that was the first time I bowled live on television. It was very nerve-wracking not only because of the anxiety of the match, but I also felt so rushed since we bowled our match after the guys were finished. We were there all day bowling on the practice lanes. Then once it was our turn, it was rush-rush then over in a flash. I learned so much in that short amount of time, though, and knew if I had another chance, things would be different.
What was the first thing you thought of when you realized you won your first pro title?
Honestly, how to react! That day was odd because I was so calm compared to the first time. I just had a feeling that no matter what, I was going to have a good showing (unlike the last time) and really thought I was going to win. Once it actually happened, I didn’t know what to do, where to walk, what to say. I wanted to say hi to my mom and grandma who were at home, but I couldn’t find the camera!
Camaraderie and a family type atmosphere seem to be an integral part of the PBA. Was this the case with the women too?
Yes, several of us would hang out after bowling or on our days off. It’s all business on the lanes but off the lanes, we have a lot of fun together! That’s the time when I can pick some of their brains as most of them have competed in far more than I.
Even though it was your first year, how did you feel about the turn out at the events?
Considering we bowled with the guys, I thought the turn out was great! We had many positive comments about how they were getting the best of both worlds.
You had an awesome year, winning a regional title, your first women’s title and coming in second in two others, what are your expectations for this year?
Well I’m in it to win it! I want to have a good showing and continue to learn as much as possible. I have a lot to prove to myself since I never competed full time prior to last year.
Has there been any talk about what the PBA’s goals are for the women’s series this year?
Considering they expanded the field from sixteen to eighteen, plus two more qualifiers per event, it’s obvious they want it to grow into something much bigger. However, I have not spoken with anyone directly regarding the goals.
How do you feel about having the first five events of the 2009 series in Detroit?
For the PBA, I think it made sense. It certainly was more cost-effective and considering the state of the economy, it was better than the alternative. Detroit is a great place to bowl. I used to drive up there twice a week for three years to compete with and against some of the best (Aleta Sill, Cheryl Daniels, Lisa Bishop, to name a few). Plus, it worked out perfectly for me. It’s only fifty minutes from my house! Since I didn’t have enough vacation time left, Owens Corning worked with me so I could continue working my “real job” in between the times I bowled. It was tough some days, bowling a few hours, working a few hours, bowling a few hours, but much better than having to make a decision between one or the other!
Does this year have a different feel than last year?
One of the biggest differences for me this year was not crossing with the guys. I missed that since I learned so much from them.
If you were asked to make appearances at your local bowling lanes to promote the women’s tour, would you do it?
Absolutely!! I do everything I can from promoting the PBA/USBC through making sure all my friends are aware of the tournaments, to throwing the first ball for the sixty-four-team high school league, to working a junior bowling camp in the summer.
In your mind, who is the best woman bowler right now?
That’s a tough question right now because the World Series of Bowling just ended and there were a few women that dominated. Since there are many people out there that don’t want to know the outcome until the shows air, I’m not going to mention names.
If you had to choose one woman partner for a doubles match, who would it be?
I’ve always admired Lynda Barnes and Kim Terrell-Kearney from the days of the Women’s World Team Challenges. They are class acts both on and off the lanes. I would be thrilled to bowl with either of them in a doubles match!
If you had to choose one woman opponent for a finals match, who would it be?
Choose? I really don’t know how to answer that question. I guess Carolyn Dorin-Ballard comes to mind, of course, since I beat her for my title, but that doesn’t mean that would happen again. They are all so good! I concentrate more on what I can control and not who the opponent is or what they are doing. I certainly put that philosophy to the test when I beat both Jason Couch and Carolyn. As people always say, in order to be the best, you have to beat the best!
Why should bowling fans or sports fans in general watch the pro women bowlers?
More of the typical league bowlers and even open bowlers can relate to the women’s games more than the men’s games. I hear time and time again from female and male spectators that my game resembles theirs. Also, I believe sports fans are impressed with the intensity and athleticism of the women.
As a pro bowler, if you had one message to send out there to existing or potential fans about the sport of bowling and the women’s series, what would it be?
My message is that it doesn’t matter what path you take, if you have heart, desire and ability, make it happen! You can’t wonder “what if”. I am so grateful to the USBC and PBA for starting the Women’s Series and providing me with that second chance. I cannot tell you how many people over the last year have asked me “where did you come from”. I’m sure there are many people out there just like me.
Click here to read part one of this series on professional women’s bowling.