Jamie Nelson is in a position few serious bowlers would enjoy.
The Spokane woman bowled a 710 for her three-game singles series to place at the top of her division on the first weekend of the Washington Women’s Bowling Association championship tournament under way in Spokane.
Nelson bowls in Division A, reserved for those who average more than 170 pins per game. Because only one series counts, Nelson must sit back for the remaining eight weeks of the tournament and wait to see if other bowlers can top her score.
One already has - Nadine Fulton of Tacoma - and the tournament is young.
But Nelson, who averages 211, won’t be watching nervously each weekend. She may not even be at North Bowl, where the singles is being held.
“I signed up to help, so I’ll help if I can, but we’re out doing other tournaments a lot,” she said.
The 28-year-old left-hander may be more youthful than the stereotypical bowler, but her navy blue “300 Club” windbreaker and the 300 ring that sits on her right hand testify to her talent. Since Nelson began bowling seriously four years ago, she’s racked up four 300 games. One occurred during an 800 series, a feat for any bowler.
“My ultimate goal was to get a 300 and an 800 series, and I did that last year in one night,” she recalled.
That night, she bowled a 247, then hit 300 her next game. She was so excited a friend had to help her calm down before she bowled the third game.
“Then I start striking,” she said, reliving the feeling. “In the last frame, my friend comes up and says, ‘You’re in, you’ve got it.”’ She finished with an 803, the first time a woman had bowled more than 777 in a sanctioned competition in Spokane.
Nelson’s series at the WWBA state tournament, her second appearance there, was more than a little frustrating because she had several splits. One particularly untimely split occurred in the 10th frame of her last game.
Nelson spends so much time at Valley Bowl she considers it her second home.
“We practically lived here last year,” she said, then added she’s cut the number of leagues in which she bowls from five to four. Tournaments occupy many weekends.
“One tournament can give you a lifetime of experience,” she said, citing the knowledge she gained from competing in the same tournament as professional bowlers in last year’s National Queens Tournament in Reno.
Nelson has learned through observation and experience that the secret to a clean sweep of the pins is concentration.
“If I can concentrate and I’m zoned in to what I’m doing, it’ll be a good game,” she said above the din of balls rolling and pins toppling at Valley Bowl. “Consistency is huge and, of course, luck.”
Nelson is toying with the idea of trying pro bowling. She plans to cut down her league play and compete in more tournaments next year.
“That should tell me if I’m ready to try bigger and better things,” she said. “In a couple of years, I might do something wild and try it out.”
Though Nelson calls herself “very competitive,” she also bowls because the sport gives her time with her two sisters and her husband. The four family members bowl in several of the same leagues, sharing victories and disappointments.
“I like bowling and I hate bowling,” Nelson confessed. “It’s like doing anything well - you shoot a good score and it makes you feel good. If you don’t do well, that’s not so nice.”
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