Historic title match forever connects Kim Terrell-Kearney and Trisha Reid

ARLINGTON, Texas - By the summer of 2008, Kim Terrell-Kearney of Greensboro, North Carolina, was putting the finishing touches on a professional bowling career that earned her a place in the United States Bowling Congress Hall of Fame two years later.

Her appearance at the U.S. Women's Open in Romeoville, Illinois, was part of a limited competition schedule, and her performance was memorable and historic for many reasons, including the fact that her title-match meeting with Trisha Reid of Columbus, Ohio, marked the first matchup of two Black athletes for a major professional bowling title.

Both women were at far different places in their careers, but both admit that at the time, they didn't realize the significance of the storyline. Instead, their focus was on claiming the $25,000 top prize and coveted green jacket.

Kearney, then 42, was aiming for her 10th professional title and second win at the U.S. Women's Open, which would make her the 10th bowler to win the event multiple times. Reid, a 23-year-old left-hander, was 19 years her junior and kicking off her own pro career with her U.S. Women's Open debut.

It wasn't until after claiming the title that Kearney was able to begin putting the magnitude of the moment into perspective.

KimJacketTrophyForWeb300x169"We did some interviews and a national TV appearance after the fact, and I don't think either of us realized before that the importance of the event or that it would remain such a relevant moment in bowling history for the African American community," said Kearney, who defeated Reid in the match, 216-189. "It's something people still revisit and share year after year, and there's such an incredible pride in having been a part of it. It turned out to be so much more than just a trophy and prize money."

Kearney and Reid were two of more than 180 participants at the 2008 U.S. Women's Open, and their journey into the record book included 32 games across four challenging lane conditions and a single-elimination bracket that featured the top 16 bowlers based on their 32-game pinfall totals.

The big bracket was divided into four sub-brackets, with each being featured on its own TV show. The last show of the five-part TV series included the winners of each sub-bracket vying for the prestigious title.

In addition to the U.S. Women's Open, 50 participants elected to pay a separate entry fee and use their U.S. Women's Open qualifying scores toward the Professional Bowlers Association Women's Tour Trials. The top 12 players who entered advanced to the PBA Women's Series, which was to feature seven events conducted alongside PBA Tour stops.

At the time, the Professional Women's Bowling Association was on a hiatus that lasted from 2003-2014 and ended with the relaunch of the PWBA Tour in 2015.

The field that week in Romeoville included Team USA members, former professional stars, international standouts, collegiate champions and top amateurs.

Though Reid was well known locally and regionally in Ohio, she felt like one of the most inexperienced players among the top 16. Her focus from game to game and round to round simply was to keep pace with the best in the world and establish herself as a national contender.

"At the time, I really had tunnel vision and was just there to perform," Reid said. "I was new to the scene and wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. During the event, and bowling against Kim, I never felt any extra pressure because I was a woman or because of how I looked or because I was left-handed or anything. I was just focused on making shots and making spares and being a bowler. Looking back, I now understand the importance of it all."

Following the event, Reid was flooded with congratulations, photo and autograph requests, interview opportunities and many chances to talk to other bowlers about the experience.

However, while she was appreciative of the attention, she also was confused by it. After all, she was the same bowler with the same talent before the TV shows.

"When I was at other events, like TNBA (The National Bowling Association) events or other local tournaments, people started looking at me differently, even though I was the same person they'd bowled with and against before," Reid said. "Even now, within the Black community, people still describe it as bigger than I knew and talk about how special it was for me just to make that first show."

During her time competing in the PBA Women's Series events that followed, Reid no longer had Kearney by her side, since Kearney already was on a new career path and chose not to participate in the extra opportunity.

Reid said that at times, she felt lonely and isolated, both because she never had the chance to build the relationships the other players had created through collegiate and international bowling, and because she was the only African American bowler in the Women's Series.

She did have the support and guidance of PBA player Billy Oatman, whom she'd met at a past TNBA event, but her main focus remained on finding her way as a bowler in an unfamiliar landscape, rather than any responsibility she might have as a Black woman at the top of her sport.BillyOatmanForWeb300x300

"I had so much going on and just wanted to find my way as a bowler, so I didn't realize, or have a chance to focus on, any of the other things," Reid said. "Hopefully, in the midst of doing well, I was able to inspire others, but I wasn't consciously working to rally the African American community or anything like that at that point. If anything, when you see someone who looks like you doing something, it makes you realize you also can do it if you work hard, so hopefully I inspired some people in that way."

Now that she's no longer in the moment and some time has passed, Reid has a clearer picture of how she can use her success and experience to motivate and help others find their way to the spotlight.

She'll continue to chase her own bowling goals and dreams, as they fit into her main career in hospitality management, but the bigger picture is much different than it was 12 years ago.

She hopes to spend time working with TNBA leadership to educate the bowlers about the variety of non-TNBA events that are out there for women, including the USBC Queens, U.S. Women's Open and other PWBA Tour events. In fact, it was success on the TNBA stage that earned Reid her spot in the 2008 U.S. Women's Open.

Reid, a member of the Ohio State USBC Hall of Fame Class of 2020, also is going to bring her efforts closer to home, now that she has moved back to the Columbus area after a stint in Michigan.

Her plan is to get involved in coaching in the Columbus Public Schools, where she wants to influence students who may not realize you can aspire to be a professional bowler.

During her own high school years, Reid's bowling was limited to weekend leagues and events. At school, she was a cheerleader and top student, graduating second in her class.

Her academic pursuits first took her to Bethune-Cookman University in Florida and then to Ohio State, but collegiate bowling, often a natural steppingstone for top young bowlers, never ended up being part of the plan.

As she guides the next generation of bowling talent, including African American competitors, Reid knows they'll be able to look up to bowlers like Team USA member Gazmine Mason, who is using her success on the lanes to bring attention to bowling and the African American community, too.

TrishaReidForWeb300x169"I see GG out there, and it reminds me a lot of my time on tour," Reid said. "Hopefully, it's so much different now, and it's super cool that she's able to do the things she does. It also gives me a different perspective of my own experience. As you grow up and have different life experiences, it changes how you look at things and process them. In this case, something happened to me in 2008, and as I've grown and the world has changed, I see it differently. At the time, it was so overwhelming. Now, I hope I can use that experience to help others."

Kearney also has turned her focus to helping others, something that already was in the works when she laced up her shoes at the 2008 U.S. Women's Open.

At the time, she also was winding down her career as a competitor with Team USA and was serving as the head women's bowling coach at Delaware State.

She since has moved on to North Carolina A&T University, along with an assistant coach role with Team USA, but her goals are the same.

"I always wanted to be a coach and help people realize their dreams and goals," Kearney said. "I had so many people in my life doing that for me, and it would be impossible to measure the amount of gratitude I have for them. I always wondered how incredible it must feel to do that, and I wanted that feeling."

On one hand, just competing in the 2008 U.S. Women's Open was a chance for Kearney to teach her student-athletes some valuable lessons. Looking back, the significance of her match with Reid might've had an unplanned special meaning for any African American competitors watching them on TV.

"Just being at that tournament was a chance for me to be the player I was asking my bowlers to be by shoeing up each day and giving it my best," Kearney said. "I love coaching for that reason. And, while my ultimate goal is to see all bowlers reach higher levels of success, I realized later the tournament was much bigger than that."

After her own standout collegiate career at San Jose State, Kearney headed to the PWBA Tour, where she immediately was welcomed by another African American star and someone she already looked up to, Cheryl Daniels.

Daniels was there to offer advice about how to be successful at the highest level, and those are messages Kearney still tries to impart on her young players.

"When I was in college, Cheryl was my role model, even though the difference in our ages wasn't that much," Kearney said. "She was out there and was throwing it great, and she was winning. Initially, she was just someone on TV, but when I got out there, she pulled me aside to offer me some advice about life on the PWBA Tour."

Years removed from full-time competition, Kearney can look at players like Reid and Mason and know the African American community is well-represented on the sport's biggest stages.KimActionForWeb300x169

Mason is just getting started with her career on the adult version of Team USA and continues to excel in PWBA Tour competition. During her time at the University of Nebraska and on Junior Team USA, Kearney was there to offer guidance, just as Daniels had done for her.

"I'm so proud of GG's efforts and the things she has done to show young Black women that there's a place for them at the higher levels of bowling," Kearney said. "I'd like to believe that like Cheryl reached down and helped me, I was able to have some impact on GG, who now is doing the same thing and reaching far wider than Cheryl, Trisha or I even realized we had the power to do."

This telling of Kearney and Reid's story is part of an ongoing digital media campaign recognizing different groups, organizations and bowlers that make up the USBC membership, while also bringing attention to topics that affect the world on a larger scale.

USBC will continue to expand its diversity and inclusion topics and welcome the opportunity to showcase the people and other areas that are important to the members.

If you know someone who is a standout or inspiration in one of the areas listed above, or you'd like to suggest a topic close to you, please let us know more by sending an email to PR@bowl.com.

For more information about USBC and its programs and partnerships, visit BOWL.com/Diversity.