The call Joanne Byrne received from her husband on Sunday informing her that Kelly Kulick had become the first woman to win a PBA Tour title didn't elicit much surprise. No, for the Levittown Division girls bowling coach, there was just pride and a little I-told-you-so.
"A few years ago , the got shut down and was forgotten about, but Kelly is proof that women are viable competition," said Byrne, who bowled at Fresno State and has competed for seven years in a men's league at North Levittown Lanes. "I know Liz Johnson and I'm familiar with Kelly, so I've always felt that a lot of these women are capable."
Kulick topped Chris Barnes, 265-195, in the Tournament of Champions final in Las Vegas after having earned a berth by winning the PBA Women's World Championship in September. The previous best finish for a woman in a PBA Tour event was Johnson's second place in the 2005 Banquet Open.
Some Long Island high school bowlers considered Kulick's pinfall a windfall for young women.
"It's really cool that she didn't just hold her own against the men but won," said East Islip freshman Lena Sorrentino, whose 215 average is tops among Suffolk girls. "I bowl against the guys sometimes in practice for fun, but for her to do it at that level is a big inspiration."
James Kingsepp, a star bowler for Hicksville, went further.
"There shouldn't be restrictions on them," he said. "I don't think there should be a division between girls and boys . Women should be able to compete against anyone if they want to."
Erica Schneider, a member of the county champion Division team, said she wants to bowl collegiately and dreams of one day being in Kulick's shoes.
"I saw it in the paper and I was like, 'Wow,' " said the junior, who has been bowling since she was 8. "I'd love to get on the Tour and I was actually talking to my family about women competing the other day . . . A lot of people think women don't have the strength or the mind-set to play against men, but this shows otherwise. It's possible."