USWO Profiles: Defending Champ Kim Terrell-Kearney

If you're wondering how Kim Terrell-Kearney made the leap from a teenager whose interest in bowling "faded through high school" to a two-time champion who gets voicemails from Billie Jean King, don't worry - so is Kim Terrell-Kearney.

"Yeah, that's a pretty big leap, isn't it?" says Terrell-Kearney, who will attempt to defend her 2008 U.S. Women's Open title this Sunday on ESPN at 2pm EST.

"We didn't have high school bowling in California, so I was kind of an average player then. It wasn't until college that I found my way and things started making sense," the former San Jose State star and PWBA Rookie of the Year explains. "It was a steady transition. College bowling was my thing-I loved the team portion of it, so I kept working each summer and got better. I never really intended to go on tour, though-that wasn't my dream by any means."

As Kim Terrell-Kearney now knows well, there's one strange thing about dreams: If you don't find them first, sometimes they find you. With three major titles to her credit - those two U.S. Opens and a 2002 WIBC Queens championship - the woman who thought she would spend her life as a physical therapist knows exactly where her dreams are found these days. The problem is that they just won't stay put.

Since her days as that young college star who was just trying to make sense of things, Kim Terrell-Kearney's dreams have compiled the itinerary of a traveling diplomat, from her San Francisco youth to the Head Coaching position at Delaware State University and, most recently, to the International Bowling Campus in Arlington, Texas, where she will work under renowned USBC Gold Coach Rod Ross as a coaching specialist. It's the time in between those stops, though, that was especially hard for Terrell-Kearney.

"You miss a lot of birthdays and holidays the normal person takes for granted," she says of her days roaming the country as a full-time player on the now-defunct PWBA tour. "The Fourth of July, those Memorial Day picnics, driving down the highway looking at people cooking in the back yard while we're on our way to Rockford. The traveling remains the hardest part, just being away from my family so much."

But dreams are not the only thing Terrell-Kearney chases around the country and, as a Team USA Member, around the world. She also chases history, defeating Trisha Reid for her 2008 U.S. Women's Open in the first-ever title match between two African American contenders in the history of bowling. It was a good follow-up performance to the last U.S. Open title Terrell-Kearney captured in 2001, when the entire PWBA tour threatened to pull out of the tournament until their prize fund matched that of the Men's U.S. Open - and were rewarded with the largest prize fund in the history of Women's bowling, including a total tournament purse of $300,000 and a first place check for $55,000.

"I am really proud of the fact that we stood together," she said at the time. "I think it was really important. I had a lot of passion for our cause. I just couldn't with good conscience compete in an event that didn't treat us equally."

Terrell-Kearney was not alone in her pride, though, as a congratulatory message left on her cell phone by none other than tennis legend Billie Jean King confirmed.

"It was just the most amazing voicemail," Terrell-Kearney said of the tennis legend's support. "To listen to someone of that caliber as an athlete, just the legendary things she's done in the sport of tennis."

If Kim Terrell-Kearney ever pauses to reflect on her achievements in a sport that was not even her highest ambition when she entered college, she does not linger long over those memories. Instead she sees her new opportunity with the United States Bowling Congress as a chance to learn even more and sees room for improvement as a coach - this after winning Coach of the Year honors for guiding the DSU Women's Bowling Team to a 119-38 record and their first-ever MEAC championship in March.

"I get to work with some of the best coaches in the country, and I will only get better," she says of her new position in Arlington. "And I get to work every day with Rod Ross, who has been my coach and mentor for years."