In 1987, Orlando's Sue Holton parlayed a $5 bill into a free trip around the world with the first Team USA before subsequent injuries forced her out of the game she loves so much.
"Back then, you could pay $5 and enter local qualifying for the national team, before it was called Team USA, and, hopefully, go on an international trip, and I did just that," Holton said. "I didn't realize then how far $5 could take me."
Holton, 50, is a 1972 Dixie Hollins graduate and was a member of its bowling squad the year the Pinellas County High School League was chartered. She attended St. Petersburg College for two years on a bowling scholarship, then moved to Orlando and took a job at the post office. During a flag football game on the beach in 1984, Holton blew out her left knee.
"It was a dumb thing to do, and I was surprised that it happened because we were just playing around," she said.
In 1986, Holton advanced through local, state and regional Team USA qualifying before moving on to the national finals in Milwaukee. "Up to that time, the team that won the national title qualified as the international team," Holton recalled.
She finished third behind winner Cora Fiebig, the national amateur champion. Sandra Jo Shiery, Nellie Glandon, Kathy Wodka, Karen Bender, Holton and Fiebig became the first women's Team USA in 1987. The men formed their first squad, led by PBA pro Rick Steelsmith. Their journey was to the 1987 Federation Internationale des Quilleurs World Championships in Helsinki, Finland. The FIQ is the governing body of international bowling, and its former president, Jerry Koenig, resides in Clearwater.
"I won two gold medals," Holton said. "Our gals won the team title, and I won the trio competition with Bender and Glandon."
The women captured eight gold medals and set five world records. "It was my first experience at an FIQ event, and I was shocked," Holton said. "There was this whole, big stadium packed with folks yelling and screaming."
After Helsinki, the squads flew to Leningrad, Russia, for exhibition matches before Holton flew back to Orlando. "I was worn out and needed a rest, but I had to compete the next day for the state Team USA qualifier and I didn't do well," Holton said. "I went to the nationals, but didn't try out. I had been working for the post office all this time, and it was a struggle to work my schedule in with Team USA travel."
The Team USA dream was over, and Holton settled into her job and league bowling. Then, during the 1999 Florida State Women's Tournament, she fractured her right knee. Holton's bowling days were over, but "I accomplished everything I wanted to do in my career," she said.
WARRIORS LEAD: Osceola's No. 2 squad heads the coed handicap junior varsity division after five weeks of competition in the Pinellas County High School League. Palm Harbor, East Lake and Northeast continued their dominance of the girls scratch competition. Largo, Dixie Hollins and Seminole are the handicap leaders. Boca Ciega, Osceola and Northeast are the top teams in boys scratch play. Dunedin, Northeast and Seminole rule the handicap division.