From novice to Triple Crown winner in three short years. That's the saga of Pam Jones on the tenpin lanes.
"It was three years ago that my sister-in-law, Agnes King, asked me to sub when she needed a fifth bowler for her team," the Baltimore native and Woodlawn resident said. "I really didn't want to do it. I'd heard all the stories about the smoky, noisy ol' bowling alleys with guys in dirty T-shirts drinking beer out of a bottle, and I didn't want any part of it."
That's the picture of bowling for people who haven't been in a bowling center in the past generation. That it's completely untrue hasn't stopped it.
"I was just completely stunned when I walked into the center," Jones said. "Here was this lovely carpeted interior, no smoke hanging in layers, men and women neatly dressed and, in fact, very little noise."
That night, the first on the lanes for Jones, she averaged "about 130, I guess, just throwing the ball straight down the middle."
The scores didn't mean a thing.
"I just fell in love with the game. Here I was a complete beginner and everyone tried to help me. I couldn't believe that even the other team would actually cheer for me when I did something right. The stereotypes just weren't there."
Jones knew immediately that she wanted to get better.
That season she continued to bowl (with a house ball and rented shoes) in a single league.
In that first year of league play, her average jumped from the 130s into the 140s.
"I remember I was so proud that I finished with a 146 average. The next season I signed up for two leagues."
She was getting serious.
"The next season [1993-94], I bowled in the Monday CSX league at Timonium, the Tuesday Mixed at Fort Meade, the Wednesday Woodknockers at Woodlawn and the Thursday Mixed at Normandy. And I subbed in other leagues -- a lot!"
Jones is bowling in the Fair Lanes Summer tour, a tenpin tour that covers four centers.
Jones is investing in the high-tech bowling balls that are on the market. Her newest purchase, a Piranha (reactive resin), is pushing her average up.