By Jim Goodwin on Apr 29, 2019 4:40:19 PMIn 1997, Michelle Feldman made the bowling world stand up and take notice.
By 1997, the Professional Women's Bowling Association Tour had become a place where there was no question that the most talented women bowlers in the world could be seen . . . but no one expected what happened in the 1997 PWBA Southern Virginia Open.
This week's Bowl TV Vault release takes us to that event to witness history, and a 21-year-old that everyone said 'had potential' came of age by rolling the first ever 300 game on national television by a woman in bowling. Michelle Feldman was a happy go lucky young lady from New York that people were paying attention to because she had the courage and the game to start bowling on the pro tour in 1994 at the tender age of 18.
In 1996, she won her first title in Claymont, Delaware, and she was learning how to become a good spare shooter. Everyone could see that she had the most powerful strike ball the tour had ever seen; and when she mastered the spares, the sky was the limit.
Coach Fred Borden, who was calling the TV action that day with partner Jan Schmidt, said he was "flabbergasted" that Feldman did not have many 300 games before this one, but it was only her third in four years on tour.
"She created an angle of entry that made the pins go sideways instead of back in the pits," said Borden. "When you can do that - it is like what Belmonte does today - she was the first woman I saw that does that, and she carried more wall shots than anybody ever did. And her release is so smooth, she is like a thumbless bowler; so clean at the bottom allowing her fingers to rotate the ball."
PWBA Tournament Director Rick Ramsey said that the television crew was caught off guard that day because it had never happened before, and the lane condition appeared to be pretty tough until the championship match between Feldman and Carolyn Dorin-Ballard.
The title game that day also provided one of the most interesting contrasts ever. In Ballard, fans and viewers were seeing the straightest and most accurate player in women's bowling while Feldman was the undisputed most powerful. In the video, she shares with Schmidt that she developed her aggressive style by bowling with the boys . . . "and I learned to beat them most of the time," she said.
Ramsey also shared that the normal procedure for a show was to pause for commercials after the fourth and seventh frames, but it did not happen that day.
"When Michelle had the front four, producer George Smith decided to keep going," said Ramsey. "And this surprised even the players because they were used to that break, and after she got the front seven, there was no way we were going to stop. It made it even better to keep the momentum and excitement going."
Feldman gave up bowling for a living 12 years ago when she and her partner became the owners of Falcon Lanes, a 12-lane center in Auburn, New York. She recently told Bowlers Journal International that she misses the competition, but her first obligation is to be at home for her grandparents and her business. "I just can't put in the time and energy to compete, [but] those 10 years on tour, I wouldn't trade them for the world," she said.
The bowling ball Feldman used for her historic 300 game is on display in the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame in Arlington, Texas.