There's more to bowling than just a heavy ball and some pins.

Strike! 

There's more to bowling than just a heavy ball and some pins.

For most of us, bowling is a way to kick back, change shoes and revel in that time-honored tradition of hitting things with balls. (This, after all, is the unifying theme when it comes to most popular sports.) For the women competing in this weekend's Professional Women's Bowling Association Regional Tournament, however, there's a lot more on the line.

Take Stephanie Simon, for example. She's been bowling since she was six, had her own ball since she was ten and been serious about the sport since she was twelve. She wants to win the tournament.

She'll be up against hotshots, though. Carolyn Dorin-Ballard recently won the Greater Cincinnati Open and was the 2001 PWBA Player of the Year, setting a record with eleven tournament victories. Her sister, Cathy Dorin-Lizzi, is also coming. Dorin-Lizzi has one career title and five regional crowns.

But Simon isn't intimidated. She's at her home alley -- Gladstone Bowl -- and she'll have a lot of people in the crowd cheering her on. She generally bowls between 196 and 216, but her high score is 300. "My husband always told me if I ever string a lot of strikes in a row and get eleven of them, take a deep breath, move a little bit over and exhale," she says, remembering that perfect game. "I did, and I kind of pulled the ball a little bit. I left a couple of pins, but then one of the pins came off the side and knocked them all down. Since that was my first 300, I started jumping up and down. I guess I embarrassed my husband quite a bit."

When talking to a real bowler, you come to certain realizations. First off, bowlers, in general, don't like the movie Kingpin. It's totally unrealistic. Also, they put slippers over their shoes if they have to hit the concession stand during a tournament -- in case someone might have spilled a soda or something. And you know that feeling you get when you're bowling in a lane next to people who clearly know what they're doing -- that those people must have been laughing at me the whole way home feeling? Apparently we're just paranoid. "Bowling is a fun sport, it's a family sport and it's a great way to relax," Simon says. "Everybody's got to start somewhere. I never judge anyone."

Also reassuring is that even the best bowlers throw the ball in the gutter sometimes -- Simon says it occasionally happens in pro tournaments. Simon's funniest bowling moment came when she was competing in a tournament with people you usually see bowling on television. Simon had to go all the way from one end of the bowling alley to the other, so she put on her slippers but forgot to take them back off. When she went to bowl, instead of sliding along the floor, she felt like her feet had landed in cement. She fell flat on her face in front of all those people. To her surprise, the big-name bowlers were the ones who approached her to tell stories of their own bowling mishaps.

But Simon doesn't want any mishaps this weekend. This weekend, she means business.

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