By Jim Goodwin on Jun 11, 2019 11:10:14 PMRobin Romeo celebrated her 62nd birthday last week. In 1989, when she won her first major pro title at the BPAA U.S. Open. She was 31 . . . so it was literally a lifetime ago, but she remembers it well.
"I remember that I won the week before at the Fair Lanes in the Baltimore/DC area, and our group got to the event in Chicago very late and almost missed the practice session," she said. "I also recall that I was bowling as well that year as I ever bowled, and winning the Open was such a big deal for me, especially because the conditions were so difficult."
Difficult indeed . . . only three players in a field of 240 averaged over 200. There have been years where scores were high, but most U.S. Opens on both the men's and women's tours were set up to challenge the players with tough patterns and long formats, and this one fit that bill to a tee.
In 1989, the lanes were especially tough, but Romeo played her simple and effective game, made her spares, and emerged as the #1 seed going into the live televised finals. Joining her on the show were veteran Nikki Gianulias who was bowling on her 4th consecutive TV finals that week, non-titleist Michelle Mullen, Romeo's best friend Jeanne Maiden (would become Naccarato a few years later) and U.S. Amateur Champion Patty Ann.
If you are one of those fans who appreciates shot making and tight matches when spares count, this is the BowlTV Vault show for you. As bowlers we have all encountered that thread-the-needle condition where if you hit 12, you are in the pocket . . . but if you hit 10, you miss the headpin. This was the order of the day.
Mullen became the crowd favorite on this show because she lived close by and had many friends and family in the crowd. And although she had not yet won, she put on a stellar performance in climbing the ladder to meet up with Romeo in the title match. It seems that this show may have given her the confidence she needed to really compete, winning her first title the following year and a major of her own in 1995.
It was also a little bittersweet for Romeo because the event came at the end of a long swing and her family could not get a flight in time for the show. Normally, her dad, Raymond, and mom, Joan, were in attendance when she had a chance to win, but she did share the victory with her sister, Tori, who was on tour at the time, and with her best friend, Jeanne.
The matches were low scoring and tight . . . and the 10th frame of the championship match reflected the conditions of the entire week . . . you have to watch to see what happens.
Faces in the crowd are always fun to see in these classic shows, and in this one, we get to the rare sight of LPBT President and Chairman John Falzone and John Sommer sitting side-by-side; and presenting the check, trophy and green jacket are BPAA President Don Hillman, Executive Director Chief Wapensky, and Seagram's VP Vince Partridge.
Romeo picked a good time to win . . . thanks to title sponsor Seagram's Coolers, the event carried a $200,000 prize fund with $40,000 on top, much bigger money than the tour had ever seen until then.
It was also the best of many great years for Robin Romeo. She won five titles in 1989, set a money record, and was an easy choice for Player of the Year. This was her 11th of 17 titles in her Hall of Fame career.
As a fan of big Texas Hair, we also loved watching this show to see Robin with her best Farrah Fawcett hair style . . .
"I remember looking in the mirror in the morning in those days and thinking how good we looked," she said with a smile.