By Jim Goodwin on Aug 26, 2019 12:00:29 PM
Nikki Gianulias is one of only a few players with a career that spanned three professional organizations. She won her first title in 1979 in Hendersonville, Tennessee, under the original PWBA Banner and was named Rookie of the Year. She then added 18 more titles when the group was called the Ladies Pro Bowlers Tour, and she finished her 24 years on tour with the new PWBA, which started in 1998. In 1982, she was the Bowling Writers Association of America (BWAA) Bowler of the Year.
Nikki's 19th title brought her full circle to her first, when she won the Lady Ebonite Open in Columbia, Tennessee. This week's BowlTV Vault release shows why she is respected as one of the best of all time . . . and if you like surprise endings, you are in for a real treat with this video.
When we spoke with her this week from her home in Cranston, Rhode Island, she remembered the last title of her career very well and had nothing but praise for the players of today.
"I'll never forget that one," she told us. "Because it ended with one of the best breaks of my career. Some people dwell on the ones that got away, and I had plenty of those, but this was not one of them."
Nikki was one of the first super stars of women's pro bowling, and her smooth stroke and unique follow through was distinctive. She started as the 1978 Alberta Crowe Star of Tomorrow, and ended as a member of the USBC and PWBA Halls of Fame. We remember her hall of fame acceptance speech as one of the best ever. She also won the Robby Sportsmanship Award and High Average awards in 1986.
Nikki says she has not touched a ball since the PWBA closed its doors in 2003, but she vows to pick it up again someday. Injuries sidelined her for a few events the last couple of years of her tour life, and she took time off to heal. Recently, she has taken up golf, and with no physical problems she may try bowling again soon.
"I'm thinking about bowling again," she said. "I love to watch the pros on TV, and I am amazed to see how the sport has changed and how talented most of the players are, especially the international players." But she also keeps tabs on her former tour mates like Leanne Hulsenberg, who grew up close to the area Nikki was from in Northern California. "Boomer is a great bowler. I love her game," she said.
Her favorite player on the men's tour is Jason Belmonte. "How can anyone not love him?" She says. "He is so exciting to watch, and he seems like a great guy."
Hulsenberg is also one of the finalists featured on this video. She wins her first match with a little eight-bagger but falls to Nikki in the semifinal match. Lisa Bishop, in her rookie year, is also in these finals, along with Australia's Carol Gianotti.
When we told her about Robert Smith using the two-handed style to overcome some of his injuries, she was intrigued, and said "I may just try that myself when I start bowling again."
We would buy a ticket to watch that comeback.