Local bowlers find Pro-Am is right up their alley

January 24, 1994|By Don Vitek | Don Vitek,Contributing Writer

Debbie Kilian and Ron Overton are proof that you don't have to be great bowlers to make a mark on the national Pro-Am bowling circuit.

Although neither had an average above 150, both scored high enough at an Annapolis qualifying tourney in November to earn a spot in the $10,000 Merit Pro-Am National Finals, held last month in Reno, Nev.

"It was a strange way to begin a bowling career," said Mr. Overton, a claims adjuster for the Maryland Auto Insurance Fund who lives in Annapolis. "Two years ago, my dad passed on and some friends took me out to get my mind off it. They took me bowling, and I've stayed with it."

Mrs. Kilian, who lives in Crownsville, said she was treated like a queen in Reno.

"And, of course, the chance to meet and bowl with so many of the pros that you see on television was just fantastic."

Qualifying for the Merit Pro-Am took place at more than 1,100 Bowling Proprietors' Association of America centers and drew from a field of more than 900,000 bowlers.

By topping a field of 80 men and women from throughout the state, Mr. Overton and Mrs. Kilian earned all-expenses-paid trips to Reno that included hotel accommodations, $150 for expenses and the guarantee of a minimum prize check of $700.

"It was a fantastic trip," said Mr. Overton, 23. "The country out there is beautiful, everyone was nice and I was able to bowl with guys like Dave D'Entremont, Don Moser, Dave Traber and George Branham III. They were all nice, but Branham was just super nice."

Mr. Overton, who has been bowling for two years, carried a 147 average last season.

Mrs. Kilian, in just her second season, entered the contest with a 134 average.

"My average has started to climb," said Mr. Overton, who bowls in two leagues, the Wednesday King Louie Special and the Saturday Live league at Annapolis Bowl. "I've had some lessons from Mike Warboy, who has a pro shop in Crofton, and I've gotten some help from the other bowlers at the center."

He finished 31st at Reno, earning $750.

Mrs. Kilian, 32, discovered bowling by helping her aunt.

"Last year she asked me to fill in for a bowler," she explained. "That got me started, and this fall it was natural to return to the league."

As a bowler in the Thursday Morning Strikes and Spares league at Annapolis Bowl, she's increased her average from 134 to its present 154.

A part-time secretary for husband Jay's business, Kilian Contractors, she plays first base and the outfield for softball teams run by her father, Sammy Wells.

"Jay and I have traveled to different softball tournaments, but I've never been treated any better than at the bowling tournament. Everyone was so nice. I didn't even get much kidding about my Mickey Mouse ball."

Mrs. Kilian finished in 15th place and picked up a check for $1,000.

The format for the event had the amateurs bowling a four-game block by themselves on Dec. 1, then pairing with a professional for a four-game block on Dec. 2. Winners were determined by combining the eight-game total, plus handicap, with the professionals' scores. Mr. Overton's eight-game total was 1,475. Mrs. Kilian bowled 1,680.

Professionals on hand included Anne Marie Duggun, who just set a new women's three-game series record with 865, Robin Romero, Dede Davidson, Carol Gianottoi, Ron Williams and Eric Forkel.

"It was a great experience, even if I didn't bowl very well the first day. But then the second day I was averaging in the 160s," Mrs. Kilian said.

Since their performance in Nevada, both bowlers have continued improving. Mrs. Kilian and her husband earned a spot at a state doubles tournament at Bowl America, Glen Burnie, while Mr. Overton has hired a coach, Leila Wagner, and improved his average to 172.

"I'm practicing a lot," he said.

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