Diamond Hunter wants to make a name for herself.
The 21-year-old from Copiague is determined to make it on the pro bowler's tour and knows that getting noticed can be half the battle.
Hunter was a four-year bowler at Copiague High School and earned a scholarship to Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. She graduated this month with a degree in business administration and is now turning her focus toward the Professional Women’s Bowling Association tour.
“I’m just very adamant about going pro,” Hunter said. “I really love the sport and I figured if I’m this great, I want to take it to the next level.”
Like all of this year's high school and college graduates, Hunter missed out on the traditional graduation ceremony becauce of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On a recent trip back to Baltimore to clean out her dorm room, she hired a photographer to take photos of her in her cap and gown.
The photos show an intensely focused Hunter staring down the camera as she releases a bowling ball, a graduation cap perched on her head.
The photos have been retweeted over 13,000 times as of Tuesday night and reached the highest level of the sport. PBA commissioner Tom Clark reached out to congratulate Hunter on Twitter and helped organize a zoom call between Hunter and bowling superstar Jason Belmonte. Hunter suddenly found herself receiving career advice from a player who some believe is the best of all time.
“Those two names are the biggest names in the sport, in terms of the professional level,” said Thomas Falbo, Morgan State’s women’s bowling coach. “The equivalency is to have the commissioner of the NBA and LeBron James or Steph Curry saying, ‘We want to have an individual chat with you on zoom.’ "
Hunter said she spoke with Belmonte for about an hour, picking the bowling great’s brain about how to approach starting a professional career.
“It was mainly that I need to learn patience and I need to know that I’m not always going to win,” Hunter said. “I just have to put in the work and the hours to get everything done.”
Hunter bowled to a 176.8 average with a high game of 237 this season, according to ncaawomensbowling.com. The high score was tied for 17th best in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference this season. Falbo said that Hunter was battling some hip and back injuries toward the end of the season.
“When she wants to do it and is physically able to do it, you have to get out of her way,” said Falbo, who came to Morgan State before Hunter’s senior year. “Because, it’s going to happen.”
Hunter believes her path to the women’s pro tour will begin on the amateur circuit. Partly on Belmonte’s advice, she plans to play mostly lower-caliber events at first, while entering the occasional pro tournament, paying the entry fee, and trying to qualify for a deep run.
“I feel like that’s the better route for me right now,” Hunter said. “While doing those tournaments, I will get myself into some professional women’s tournaments, just to get a feel for it. If I win, I win and if I lose I lose, but I’ll know what to learn from those experiences.”
Due to the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 shutdown, Hunter isn’t sure when or where that first amateur tournament will be.
Like most individual sports, having a sponsor is key to a bowler’s success on tour. Falbo said that making a name for herself, first on the amateur circuit, and then by making inroads at professional events, will be a boon to Hunter’s professional prospects. Those viral photos can only help her, Falbo said.
“She has a very marketable personality,” Falbo said. “She has a lot going for her and I think that’s why the PBA reached out because they see a market that they could tap into, and they should because there is enthusiasm across the world for this sport and she absolutely could drive that.”