by Dave Williams
A few weeks ago I penned consecutive articles that shared a lot of information about Leila Wagner, a professional bowler, clinician, television analyst and announcer that deserves to be in both the USBC and PWBA Halls of Fame for her body of work on and off the lanes. She had it all… the charm, the determination and the good looks to go with a respectable bowling career, as well as a legendary career as color analyst alongside Denny Schreiner on the women’s television broadcasts.
Well, guess what? The Professional Women’s Bowling Association (PWBA) gave Leila a call (actually it was an email from a friend), stating that she was one of four nominees (so far) on the 2023 ballot. The others are equally impressive: Cheryl Daniels of West Bloomfield, Mich., Dede Davidson of Buellton, Calif., and Mary Bundrick of Chicago, whose idea it was to start a women’s professional bowling association.
Bundrick, who was president of the Chicago Women’s 700 Bowling Club, gathered together and chaired the 23 charter members of the PWBA. Those charter members elected Georgia Veatch, already a member of the Bowling Hall of Fame, as their first executive director. For the next sixty-plus years, the PWBA has reached unprecedented highs and lows. There are so many different “four letter” abbreviations that are contained in the next few paragraphs, that you can’t help but compare it to Jim Cramer’s knowledge of stock symbols during the “Lightning Round.”
In 1960 there were a total of 3 events in the inaugural PWBA season: The World’s Invitational (Marion Ladewig $4,000); The PWBA Championship (Marion Ladewig $1,000); and the BPAA All-Star (Sylvia Wene $5,000). The next year they would add the WIBC Queens event from Ft. Wayne, Ind., won by Janet Harman of Cerritos, California. From there, it was a general progression from 6 events in 1962 to twelve tournaments by 1965.
The organization then teeter-tottered between 7 and 13 events until 1974, when they reached 15 events. In 1976 another milestone was set at 18 tournaments, with Patty Costello winning seven of them. Another breakthrough year came in 1984, when a grand total of 23 events were scheduled. Prominent super stars that are recognizable today began to emerge: Aleta Sill (5 titles), Lisa Rathgeber-Wagner (4 titles), Dana Miller-Mackie (3 titles) and Cindy Coburn-Carrol (3 titles).
The high water mark for tournaments was reached in 1987, and then again in 1989, with 27 events each year. A new group of upcoming stars (Leanne Barrette, Jeanne Maiden-Naccarato, Nikki Gianulias, Cheryl Daniels and Dede Davidson) had emerged to rival old time standouts Betty Morris, Lisa Wagner and Aleta Sill, who had left briefly to join a splinter group known as the Ladies Professional Bowlers Association (LPBA).
Along the way the organization had several names: first there was the PWBA, then the aforementioned splinter group known as the LPBA, which later merged with the PWBA, forming the Women’s Professional Bowling Association (WPBA). Then according to USBC records, the WPBA dissolved and a bowling proprietor from Rockford, Ill., started the Ladies Pro Bowlers Tour (LPBT). The LPBT continued for several years, and in 1998 adopted the PWBA name and a new logo.
What followed was a downturn of tournaments until 2003, when the organization essentially closed up shop. The Women’s International Bowling Congress (WIBC) then acquired the assets of the PWBA, including their historical records. When the USBC was formed, bringing together the men’s, women’s, and youth administration under one roof, the PWBA became a part of that governing body.
With a renewed vigor and interest, the PWBA began adding tournaments to the USBC Queens and U.S. Open, which had carried on through the years from 2003 to 2015. It’s really interesting to follow the tournament history that has been catalogued by Eric Hartman and posted free of charge at 11thframe.com (click on “Women’s Pro History” on the bar at top).
Cheryl Daniels — Motown May Also Be Calling?
I remember meeting Cheryl Daniels during my years at AMF. She had a regal air of confidence and sophistication. As Terry Foster of the Detroit News qualified it, “Cheryl Daniels is more of a businesswoman than a bowler.”
It’s hard to believe that Cheryl has been in retirement from the grind of the PWBA tour for close to 20 years. “I’m keeping busy,” said Daniels in an interview with Foster. Daniels career on the PWBA tour earned her 10 professional titles, including the 1995 U.S. Open.
Cheryl is also an accomplished singer with a couple of albums to her credit. You can still catch an impressive interview with Martha Reeves (Martha and the Vandellas) and Cheryl Daniels from the Good Morning America television program on January 30th, 1994:
Cheryl has all the qualifications to be in the PWBA Hall of Fame (she’s already in the USBC Hall of Fame – inducted in 2002). Unfortunately, Cheryl was one of the top bowlers of that era who suffered by the virtual shutdown of women’s pro bowling from 2003 to 2015. What could have been…
Does Dede Davidson Like Split Pea Soup?
How many people do you know from Buellton, California? Well, for anyone that lives in the state of California, you probably know of their most famous product — Andersen’s Split Pea Soup! As a child I remember my parents saving up for a vacation every other summer. In the summer of my 5th, 7th and 9th years, that meant a trip to Disneyland!
My dad would combine the trip with what he referred to as “calling on the trade” for his chosen profession of printing and thermography. We traveled up and down the coast along Highway 101 (Interstate 5 had not yet been completed). My job was to look for landmark roadsigns. One of those was Andersen’s Split Pea Soup. They started from about two hundred miles away from Buellton. It was always the same message — “Only ___ miles to Andersen’s Split Soup!”
There’s no bowling center in Buellton, so I’m sure that most of Dede’s success must have been completed while living in Woodland Hills, a part of the San Fernando Valley. Davidson has nine victories on the PWBA Tour, including the “Triple Crown” (USBC Queens in 1991, Women’s U.S. Open in 1993, and the Sam’s Town Invitational in 2000). Dede, like Cheryl, is already a member of the USBC Hall of Fame, having been inducted in 2012.
A Grand Slam for Bowling
So, there you have it. Four women that have the qualifications, either in superior performance, meritorious service, or as a pioneer. I’ll be voting for all four of them.
Special thanks to Aaron Smith of the USBC and PWBA, and to Eric Hartman for his incredible documentation of all the different women’s professional bowling organizations over the years at 11thframe.com.
Photos of Cheryl Daniels and Dede Davidson provided by bowl.com
Leila Wagner photo provided by Leila Wagner
You must be logged in to post a comment.