Bowling Down Barriers: Woman's Pro-Bowling Victory is One for the Books

Kelly Kulick becomes first woman to win top-level bowling event.

Jan. 26, 2010— -- When Kelly Kulick sends pins crashing, she's also smashing a glass ceiling. Kulick, 32 and from Union, N.J., bowled down an epic barrier last weekend, winning the 45th Tournament of Champions, one of professional bowling's most prestigious events. She's the first woman ever to win a top-level men's bowling tournament.

She did it in style, with four straight strikes to open the match and a final score of 265. For you non-bowlers out there, that's really, really good. Good enough to make her opponents absolutely miserable.

After the match, Kulick said, "I always imagined this would happen. This would be a dream come true, and I live it today."

Kelly is no stranger to the bad-shirt, bad-shoes, beer-gut world of bowling. She was the first woman ever to qualify to play on the tour.

For Kulick, it's been a lifelong dream. "I just knew from fifth grade on that this is something I wanted to do as a career," she said.

She concedes that her male competition tends to be physically stronger, so she changes her technique. "I kind of think of myself as Grace Kelly on a bowling lane," Kulick said. "You glide through the approach."

But there's no chance this male-dominated world would make her nervous. Not when she has worked at her father's auto body shop for years, putting fenders on cars with the best of them. And though she's now bringing in pro-bowling prize money, she still works at the shop.

Would anyone at the shop bowl against her? Co-worker Antonio Carrera had an easy answer: "No way, she'll cream me."

And now, Kulick has creamed everybody and earned the praise of another pioneer, Billie Jean King, the female tennis great and founder of the Women's Sports Foundation. In a statement King said, "It serves as a motivational and inspirational event for girls and women competing at all levels around the world."

Winning the PBA Tour title gives Kulick a $40,000 prize and a two-year exemption to continue playing on the tour.

But more than that, she recognizes the significance of her win.

"It will always be carried with me," Kulick said, "throughout my entire career, throughout my lifetime. This is always going to be remembered, this is PBA hall of fame, this is hall of fames everywhere, maybe a Jeopardy question."

Kulick once told ABC News, "The pins don't recognize who is throwing the ball, whether it is a girl or a guy."

The pins may not recognize her, but now history and the record books certainly will.