Vermilyea overcomes several obstacles while chasing dream of pro tour victory
A number of forces have threatened to keep Amanda Vermilyea from pursuing her dream as a professional bowler, but she is proving to be tough to stop.
Her 12th-place finish in the Twin Cities Open last week at Cedarvale Lanes in Eagan was the most recent step toward Vermilyea’s goal of winning a Professional Women’s Bowling Association tournament.
Since coming out of the University of Nebraska with a can’t-miss label (she was MVP of the 2005 NCAA Tournament), Vermilyea has had to come back from spinal fusion surgery and two brain surgeries. Oh, and a pandemic that wiped out the 2020 PWBA season.
The Apple Valley resident’s performance last week at Cedarvale Lanes – her home bowling center – gave her reason to believe things are headed in the direction she wants. She has committed to the next three PWBA tournaments, including this week’s event in Lincoln, Nebraska.
That will require some time off from her job as a senior administrator at Prime Therapeutics in Eagan, but Vermilyea said her employer backs her bowling ambitions.
“Actually, they like to see me out there competing,” she said last week on practice day for the Twin Cities Open. “They know my goal is to win a PWBA tournament and bowl on TV, and they’re very supportive.”
Vermilyea finished 39th in the Twin Cities Open in 2019, the last time the tournament was held. She bowled consistently in the 2021 tournament, averaging 210.33 over 24 games. Her best game was 237 and she bowled 236 twice. She was as high as ninth place after 18 games of qualifying before dropping back to 12th and earning a check for $1,400.
Vermilyea was one of eight Minnesota bowlers in the 65-player field but the only one to cash by finishing in the top 32.
Dasha Kovalova of Ukraine defeated Missy Parkin 268-173 in the final game of the stepladder finals to win the first-place check of $10,000.
Vermilyea has been bowling well for several months now. She bowled the fifth 300 game of her career on April 11 at the Minnesota Women’s State Tournament, a two-month team competition that concludes this weekend. She led her team to a 1,071 game, recognized by the United States Bowling Congress as the second-high single-game score ever by a four-woman team.
It wasn’t easy to stay sharp. Bowling centers in Minnesota were closed for long stretches last year because of COVID-19 outbreaks. With her family (Vermilyea and her husband Erik have an 8 1/2-year-old son) and her job as priorities, finding places to practice became a chore.
“It was very difficult,” she said. “During the second shutdown (last fall) I wound up driving to Wisconsin to practice, 30-45 minutes each way. I wasn’t able to get in the practice I wanted. I was hoping to compete in some PWBA tournaments in Arlington, Texas, in January, but I just didn’t feel like I was ready.”
She’s ready now, following a trying 2020. Vermilyea had surgery to remove a brain tumor in 2014. In late 2019 she had seizures and after going for an exam found that the tumor had returned. What’s more, it couldn’t be removed completely because doing so could damage the part of her brain that controls speech. She had another operation in February 2020 and the condition will have to be monitored the rest of her life.
It’s unlikely she would have competed much in 2020 because of the operation, but the tour’s suspension left players looking for ways to stay in shape. Tournament bowling can be a physical grind; the top 32 finishers in the Twin Cities Open bowled at least two dozen games over two days of competition, not counting the practice day.
“Shannon O’Keefe, who won the Twin Cities Open in 2019, has a home gym,” Vermilyea said. “Verity Crawley (a top-10 finisher at last week’s tourney) found a way to throw a ball in her house. I did a lot of walking, and I felt like I was ready when I was able to get back in a bowling center.”
Asked before the tournament what would make the week a success, Vermilyea said, “of course all of us want to win the tournament, but I think I’m better off if I take it one step at a time. Make the first cut, then the second cut, and if I do that, try to reach the stepladder (finals).”
She checked a couple of the boxes last week. This week, Vermilyea hopes, it’s on to the next step.
Mike Shaughnessy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.