Bowling: Brandi Branka shining in women’s and men’s league
By Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org April 13, 2014 10:08PM
Brandi Branka | Supplied photo
Updated: May 15, 2014 6:16AM
When one of the women bowlers in the Wednesday night St. George Mixed League at Orland Bowl was injured in a car accident in December, Brandi Branka was asked by the team to fill in for the second half of the season.
Some sub she turned out to be.
“At Orland, a lot of people call me the ringer,” Branka said. “I came in just as a sub, and they’re like, ‘You got this ringer to come in and bowl for you.’ It’s funny.”
Branka is entering the final few weeks of the 2013-14 season at Orland with an incredible 237 average. She also is one of a few women who bowl in the Tuesday Night Men’s League at Pioneer Lanes in Plainfield, where she carries a 217 average with a two-ball arsenal of a Storm IQ Tour and a Roto-Grip Disturb.
When it comes to bowling, she’s hardly an overnight sensation.
“I’ve been bowling since I was 2,” Branka said. “I guess I just like the competitiveness. I’ve been involved with sports throughout my grade school and high school. I’m a very competitive person.”
Branka, 23, is a Momence resident. An aspiring sports coordinator/recreational supervisor, she was a three-sport athlete — volleyball, basketball and track — at Bishop McNamara High School.
In basketball, she was a point guard. During her freshman, sophomore and senior years the team made it to the state finals, and during her junior season the team made it to the Sweet Sixteen.
Even though Bishop McNamara didn’t have a team, it was bowling in junior leagues all through high school that punched her ticket to college.
“My dad (Bob) would videotape me and save all of my accomplishments from the tournaments I bowled in, and he sent my scores in (to college coaches),” she said. “My senior year I was bouncing back and forth between doing basketball or bowling in college, and my guidance counselor actually found some colleges for me in bowling.
“I went to visit McKendree University (in Lebanon, Ill.) and Lindenwood University (in St. Charles, Mo.) and I loved those two the most. But McKendree attracted me more, because I went to a small school in high school and McKendree is a small college. I very much like that atmosphere.”
During Branka’s junior year at McKendree, the Bearcats reigned as the NAIA national champions. Branka was named Most Valuable Bowler for the tournament. During her junior and senior seasons she was a first team All-American.
“The coach there was Gary White, and he was a really good coach that I loved,” Branka said. “He was like as second father to me and would do anything he could to help any of his girls.”
She since has bowled in three PBA regionals, and last summer was 17th in the USBC U.S. Open in Columbus, Ohio.
There still were a few skeptics in May when Branka, who was bowling in a summer league at Pioneer Lanes, was asked to be a sub by one of the men’s teams at Pioneer Lanes.
“Everyone was like, ‘She’s not that good. She can’t bowl,’ ” Branka related.
Her answer was a career-high 299 game and 812 series.
“Then they were like, ‘Oh, you’re actually pretty good,’ ” Branka said, laughing.
She got a full-time spot.