Beth Owen-Cipielewski began bowling with her parents when she was 7, earning herself the nicknames B.O., Bo and Owen. Now at age 49, she is just weeks away from an Olympics-like honor: competing for Team USA in the Tournament of the Americas, Aug. 1 through Aug. 7, in Fort Lauderdale.
In 1979, Owen-Cipielewski left Chicago and moved to Dallas, where she bowled professionally and opened her own bowling school, Technibowl. “My life … just revolved around bowling,” said Owen-Cipielewski.
She not only ran the school but also taught bowling alongside six other instructors for 15 years. At the same time, she competed in major bowling competitions.
Her big break came in 1995, when she beat out 43,000 other women to win the Women’s International Bowling Championship, in Tucson, Ariz. That victory earned her stardom in the sport.
In 2003, her sister, Jill Pedigo, called Owen-Cipielewski and asked her what she thought about moving to Sarasota and buying a restaurant. Owen-Cipielewski was not quite sure she was up for the challenge. “I mean, how does a professional bowler turn into a restaurant owner?”
Her sister was persuasive, however, so Owen-Cipielewski and her family moved to Sarasota and helped take over the Siesta Key Oyster Bar. After a year and a half of running the popular Ocean Boulevard establishment, known by its acronym, SKOB, she realized she no longer could stay away from bowling. “I missed it!”
“I joined some leagues. … It took me a couple of years to meet some good bowlers and nice people to travel and compete with,” said Owen-Cipielewski. “Finding those kind of people really makes a difference.”
She began going to bowling competitions with the group whenever possible.
Last October, an old teammate called her to ask if she wanted to get the rest of the team back together to bowl in the Women’s International Bowling Competition set for April 2011 in New York. She was eager to accept. “We didn’t do terrible,” she says of the event, “but we didn’t win.” Owen-Cipielewski then bowled in the Florida Men’s State Tournament, “and I did great in that!”
Owen-Cipielewski and teammate Paula Wenzel followed that up with the Women’s State Tournament in Naples, winning the doubles championship. “It was the only title I had not had in a tournament,” Owen-Cipielewski said, “and it was always a goal of mine to win every kind of bowling title.”
Bowling was once again more of a priority, though she did not stop working at SKOB.
“About three weeks ago, I had just caught up on some work and … checked my emails and there was an email from someone from Team USA asking me if I would like to compete in the Senior division of the Tournament of the Americas,” Owen-Cipielewski recalled. “Within seconds, I wrote back, ‘Yes,’ and then I thought, ‘Why did I do that?’”
Owen-Cipielewski realized she wanted to do it for her family.
“My parents are ecstatic,” said Owen-Cipielewski. “My dad wants to come, and my kids want to come, and my husband (Keith) will be there the whole time.”
She conceded yet another big reason for wanting to participate: “This is the closest thing to the Olympics for bowling. This is my chance to have that Olympic feel!”
With the tournament only a few weeks away, Owen-Cipielewski is participating in numerous scrimmages and admittedly taking a physical beating to make certain she is as prepared as possible.
“I’m so happy; I will have done everything you can do in the sport of bowling. This is my finale and I’m just trying to make it a big one.”
Contact Rachel S. O'Hara at email@example.com.
JUST THE FACTS
Bowling balls get names just in the movies: “People will say they have their favorites and they may say (one) is their lucky ball.” Her favorite is her spare ball.
Misconception: “People don’t realize that bowling is such a technical game.”
Comparing one sport to another: Owen-Cipielewski admits the sport is a lot like golf in one respect. A professional bowler has 10 bowling balls in a set, just as golfers have numerous clubs. “(The balls) all do something different, just like golf clubs”.
License plate: Owen-Cipielewski has had the same license plate for 26 years, no matter what state she has called home: Bowl Me. When she married her husband, Keith, also a bowler, they got another plate for their family car: Bowl Us.
Perfect game: Owen-Cipielewski was 30 when she first bowled a perfect game (a score of 300). “I bowled three perfect games that year.” Overall, she has bowled 13 perfect games.
Fame: “At Sarasota Lanes, the guy behind the counter knew who I was. That was pretty cool.” However, people usually Google her name after seeing her play a few frames once they notice how different her style of play is compared to the styles of many of the people around her.
The big 5-0: “I turn 50 on Aug. 22 and I plan on wearing my medals to my birthday party,” says Owen-Cipielewski. “Once I am officially 50, I can bowl on the Men’s Senior Tour. We’ll have to see how the body holds up.”