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Bowling for scholarships

Scholarship money is available even for bowling, as Antelope senior Amanda Fry found out
By: Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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There once was a TV show called “Bowling for Dollars.” It didn’t involve high school students trying to earn scholarships, but students really can bowl for dollars now.

Yes, there are bowling scholarships available. Antelope High School senior Amanda Fry earned one. She recently signed a national letter of intent with Vanderbilt University, an NCAA bowling power — the 2007 champion and reigning national runner-up to Maryland-Eastern Shore.

“So many people don’t know how much scholarship money there is in bowling,” said Rocklin resident Debbie Haggerty, Fry’s coach and the director of the youth program at Fireside Lanes in Citrus Heights. “Bowling has a ton of scholarship opportunities, especially for girls.”

Bowling is a sanctioned collegiate sport, and the NCAA crowned Nebraska its first champion in 2004.

The very rules that apply to football and basketball recruiting apply to bowling lanes. Schools can watch and follow bowlers but can’t make verbal contact until July 1 before the student’s senior year of high school.

Fry started bowling at the age of 6, as a Bumper Buddy at Fireside Lanes. She’s been a scratch bowler since she was 11. Haggerty introduced Fry to the North Pointe Junior Gold Championships when she was 11 and said Fry was on the radar when she was 12.

“That’s the crown jewel to be exposed to colleges and make Team USA,” Haggerty said.

“We’ve been to Buffalo, Ft. Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Indianapolis,” said Karen Fry, Amanda’s mother, crediting Haggerty for educating the family on collegiate bowling and scholarship opportunities. “When we first got into bowling, we never realized there were scholarships involved, and I don't think a lot of people know that.”

Rod Williamson, director of communications for bowling at the university in Nashville, Tenn., said Vanderbilt holds the sport in the same regard as “tennis, golf or even basketball,” and the athletes are as well taken care of as football and baseball players.

“We fly to meets. They have great uniforms. We have a deal with a bowling products company. It’s a pretty first-class deal,” Williamson said Wednesday. “We recruit nationally. We’re looking at blue-chippers. Amanda Fry is certainly one of those. Coaches have been following Amanda for a couple of years. She was highly, highly recruited among NCAA bowling teams.”

Fry also played softball and volleyball, but her passion is bowling. The top schools had their eyes on Fry, a southpaw who older brother Billy says benefits because of the fresh oil on the left side of the lanes. Academically, she benefits from a 3.94 grade-point average at Antelope.

She made unofficial visits to Fairleigh Dickinson in New Jersey, ranked No. 3 behind Maryland-Eastern Shore and Vanderbilt in the first National Ten Pin Coaches Association poll of the season, and No. 12 Delaware State. Fry also visited No. 7 Sam Houston State in Texas.

Fry said once NCAA rules allowed contact, she received items from Vanderbilt every two or three weeks. She made an official visit to Vanderbilt in September and described the energy in Nashville as “incredible.”

“I knew I was a city girl. There was always live music everywhere, and I’m a country fan,” she said. “The school was beautiful. Everywhere, somebody had on something that said Vanderbilt. I loved having the school support. That was something I really wanted to be a part of.”

Contact Bill Poindexter at billp@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at BillP_RsvPT.