Prairie State bowler looks to join father as Eagle winner

By Matt Cannizzaro and Daniel Farish
USBC Communications

LAS VEGAS - A lot of bowlers will admit that some of their greatest successes have come when there were no expectations, and all they planned to do was lace up and throw the ball the best they could.

For Jenny Wonders of Roscoe, Illinois, that was the plan heading into the 2019 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships.

As Wonders finished her final frame of singles late Thursday night at the South Point Bowling Plaza, she closed out what might be the greatest success of her competitive career. She's also now the leader in Standard All-Events with a 1,876 total.

Vicente Ada of Bellmawr, New Jersey, previously held the lead with 1,873, posted April 3.

The Standard Division includes bowlers with entering tournament averages of 156-175.

Walking into the tournament with no individual expectations, Wonders hadn't even looked at the leading scores and had no clue what she accomplished.

"I had no clue as I was bowling the final game," said Wonders, who competed in her 12th USBC Open Championships. "I just wanted to bowl the best I could and finish out strong."

The 34-year-old right-hander started off her 2019 campaign Wednesday night with games of 211, 218 and 199 for a 628 series, which helped her team, Culvers of Belvidere 1 of Madison, Wisconsin, to a 3,005 total.

"Our team event was awesome," Wonders said. "Our group broke down the lanes really well, we worked together and picked each other up, made our spares and made it all about one another."

That momentum and teamwork carried into doubles and singles Thursday, and Wonders added sets of 651 in doubles and 597 in singles to secure her spot atop the standings, and she'll now have to wait another 46 days to see if her performance was enough to continue her family's legacy at the Open Championships.

The 2019 event kicked off March 9, and its 122-day run will end July 8.

This year's effort included career-bests for series and all-events for Wonders, who made her tournament debut at the 2002 event in Billings, Montana, and returned to the biggest stage in bowling in 2015 after five years away.

"This came as a surprise, because I don't bowl on tough stuff like this back home," Wonders said. "The last couple of times I've come here, it has been on the heels of some pretty serious health problems, and I wasn't anywhere near 100 percent."

If she can hold on to claim this year's Standard All-Events Eagle, she'll be the third Wonders enshrined in the tournament record book.

Wonders' father, Rich, won five Open Championships titles in the 1980s, and his success helped propel the 45-time tournament participant into the USBC Hall of Fame in 1990. Her uncle, John Wonders Sr., logged his 50th tournament appearance in 2010.

"It would be awesome if I could win an Eagle like my dad," said Wonders, who owns four USBC-certified perfect games. "I know it would be a little different because he did it when there was only one division and not three, but it would be so cool."

The Wonders family also has enjoyed success in bowling off the lanes.

John was a co-founder of the company that made the first Hammer bowling balls, and a family collaboration later led to the creation of Visionary Bowling Products.

As she leaves Las Vegas and heads home, Wonders is satisfied with her performance and glad she held up her end of the bargain.

"I didn't have any expectations," Wonders said. "I just wanted to do my best because this is a quality group of bowlers, and I wanted to hold up my end of the deal. I can leave here feeling like I did that."

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