Asbaty Strikes Down Bowling Stereotypes
Diandra Asbaty is a bowler. It says so on her IRS
return. But when she meets people for the first
time, they often express surprise.
"They say, 'You don't look like a bowler,' " she
says, laughing. "I get that all the time. I say,
'Well, what does a bowler look like?' And they talk
about The Big Lebowski or any movie where the
bowlers are overweight guys who drink too
Asbaty, 25, doesn't drink, isn't overweight and
is not a guy. She is 5-5, 130. But she throws a
mean game mean enough at times to beat many
of the trim guys on the Professional Bowlers
Tuesday she'll begin competition in Milwaukee in
the United States Bowling Congress Masters, a major
on the PBA tour and an open tournament, meaning
amateurs such as herself can play. Last year Asbaty
was first among seven female entries and 25th
overall, ahead of more than 500 men.
"I like bowling against men," she says. "I don't
look at them any differently than women. Bowling is
bowling, and I know what it takes. And it is a lot
a lot mental. People have this
misconception that bowling is all about strength.
"I bowl with a 15-pound ball, and it's so much
about timing and balance and being fluid. We want
our arm swings to be as loose as possible. You
don't want big muscles in your bowling arm. ... We
want the weight of the ball to swing our arm. Less
Asbaty (pronounced as-BAY-dee) says all this
with the earnest zeal of a missionary evangelizing
for her sport. Women's professional bowling went
under in 2003 when the PWBA ceased operations after
40 years. The U.S. Bowling Congress took over
ownership and is looking for sponsors to revive it
in the years ahead.
Most everyone has bowled, Asbaty says, yet not
many know about the sport at its highest
The same people who tell her she doesn't look
like a bowler also "tell me they think it's really
cool that's what I do," she says. "And then they
tell me their high score. That always happens.
Everybody's got a bowling story, you know."
Hers goes like this: Diandra Hyman, at 5, began
bowling with her grandmother. Often stayed up until
midnight on school nights as a teen practicing at
smoky local lanes. Married bowler John Asbaty and
is living happily ever after in Chicago a
fairy tale in size 7 bowling shoes.
Betty Soy bought a bowling ball as a Christmas
present for her granddaughter, Kassy Hyman, when
the girl was 5. Soy often took Kassy to the lanes
in Dyer, Ind., for a children's league Saturday
mornings and sometimes Kassy's little sister,
Diandra, would come along. She wanted to bowl, too,
but she was three years younger. When Diandra
turned 5, Grandma bought her a bowling ball.
"I'm so happy I bought that ball," says Soy, 78.
"Turned out pretty well, didn't it?"
Asbaty eventually quit her pee-wee soccer team
to give more time to bowling. The sisters got
better and better over the years.
"I didn't realize I could actually go somewhere
with bowling until I was 12 or 13," Asbaty says. "I
wanted to be the best I could be, and I knew to be
that, you have to put in the time."
Local leagues had the lanes in the evenings, so
their father, Dennis, began taking his girls
bowling at 9:30 or 10 at night. They would bowl
until around midnight.
"We had a really strange schedule," says their
mother, Kandi. "The kids would come home from
school and I would make them do their homework and
take a nap before dinner. I was the one who had to
be the bad guy."
Dennis Hyman runs a family auto supply business
on Chicago's South Side with three brothers. When
his girls were young, he would drive about 30 miles
home to Dyer and take his own nap after dinner
before squiring them to the lanes.
Didn't his friends think that schedule was a
little crazy? "I'm sure they thought it," he says,
"but they never said it."
His daughters' talent attracted top coaching and
soon the girls traveled to youth tournaments in the
"People would tell us we were really good
and we actually believed them," says Kassy, the
bigger star then. She went to Wichita State, where
she was an all-America bowler.
"When I picked Nebraska, I decided maybe it was
time to break out of the shadow and become Diandra
instead of Kassy's little sister," Asbaty says.
"Now I'm Diandra's big sister," says Kassy
Golden, 28, who lives in Colorado Springs with her
husband, Scott, and daughter Blaize, 3, who bowls a
Colorado Springs is where Asbaty comes one week
a year to practice at the Olympic Training Center
with her teammates on Team USA, although bowling is
not an Olympic sport. Team USA competes in the Pan
Am Games and other international competitions.
Only amateurs can compete on Team USA. Amateur
bowlers are allowed to earn prize money (Asbaty won
$1,200 for 25th place at last year's Masters) and
sign endorsements (she has several small
John Asbaty bowled for William Patterson College
in New Jersey when he met his future wife, who
bowled for Nebraska. He later transferred to
"My first thought when we met was, 'Wow. She's
really cute,' " he says. "And my second thought
was, 'Wow. She's a really great bowler.' "
They settled in Chicago, where she can be near
her parents and two airports and where he is a chef
at Alinea, a fine downtown restaurant.
She is also 90 minutes from the high-tech
research facility behind the U.S. Bowling Congress
headquarters in suburban Milwaukee. She often goes
there to practice on lanes that can be adapted to
the exact oil pattern and synthetic surface she
will encounter on international trips.
"I usually drive to Milwaukee with about 45
balls in the car to test the different lane
conditions," Asbaty says.
That's 675 pounds of bowling balls. How many
does she own? "Probably 70, but I'm trying to cut
She takes six balls on international trips.
"Sometimes I'm at the airport thinking, 'Why didn't
I take up pingpong?' "
The U.S. Bowling Congress is glad she didn't.
Its leaders want to make her the face of the game.
She sits on the USBC board of directors and was
recently named its spokesperson for youth bowling.
She was the cover girl for the inaugural issue of
U.S. Bowler magazine, which goes to its 2.5 million
members. And her powerful, graceful form is the
focus of a TV commercial promoting the USBC.
Asbaty says she is looking forward to the
six-day Masters tournament that begins Tuesday. She
has fond memories of last year's.
"Last year, at the Masters, I made a couple of
the cuts in the head-to-head matches," she says.
"After one of them, a man from the crowd came up to
me and said, 'You know, I was watching you bowl,
and you gave me chills.'
"I was amazed. To be able to affect someone
emotionally, someone I don't even know, was just so
amazing to me. I get chills myself just thinking
Source: USA Today, November
15, 2005, www.usatoday.com/sports/bowling/2005-11-14-asbaty_x.htm
Related Issue: Notable
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