Being female is not a handicap, it’s a bonus

Jenny Wenger bowling

By Helen Tamblyn-Saville, BTBA Communications Manager & Chair of Women’s National Council

Tenpin bowling is a great sport. One of the things that makes it so great is the community. Yes, bowlers argue, disagree, moan. We unite in sharing frustrations. We complain that the lanes are too easy, we complain that lanes are too hard. We complain about handicap not being fair. You name it, we do it. And it’s not coming from a bad place. It comes from a deep love of the sport and our desire for it to be done right.

The bowling community is also great at pulling together. The mainstream media attacks one bowler, the media has attacked us all. A bowler wins their first title and the bowling community is delighted for them.

That’s why it was so disappointing to see the headline “Handicap Pins Help Sweden’s Jenny Wegner win Brunswick Euro Challenge over Anthony Simonsen” following Jenny’s first EBT title in Munich over the weekend. This headline, reeking of sour grapes and casual misogyny, came from the PBA. And the bowling community made no secret of its disgust.

“Why must the headline read this way? Come on PBA. Show her a little more respect. She earned this win against a tough field of the best bowlers in the world. Congrats Jenny!”

“When was the tournament won? I thought it was this weekend? It surely can’t be though as this headline was clearly written in the 1930’s. Whoever wrote it should genuinely be out of a job before the day is out.”

“PBA really??? We should celebrate our winners to push the sport forward not give people unused to the rules or not, reasons to disparage any winner. We already struggling to bring girls into our sport at youth level and you issue an article with a headline like this.”

Jenny herself spoke out.

“Thanks for all the support guys! It doesn’t bother me too much, I just think it’s really disrespectful to write an article like that.

I do think that some of the ladies on the European tour are way too good to have bonus pins. There’s a lot of women that can easily compete on the same level as the guys. But rules are the rules. I win my first EBT title and it just feels like I got punched in the face…

The PBA had previously published an incorrect result, naming Anthony as the winner, forcing them to make a quick edit. This perhaps may explain why they felt the need to highlight the eight pins to add context to their original error, and to be fair to the PBA, the headline was later amended to Sweden’s Jenny Wegner wins Brunswick Euro Challenge over Anthony Simonsen.

We spoke to PBA Commissioner, Tom Clark. “There was no intent to take away from Jenny’s accomplishment so when we noticed people were upset with the wording we changed it. No matter what we think of the rules, Jenny was awesome and just played by the rules, nothing was her fault so if anyone took it that way we apologize.”

Nevertheless, the article still begins with the following:

“Thanks to the assistance of eight handicap pins awarded to all women bowlers in the tournament, Sweden’s Jenny Wegner won the PBA International-World Bowling Tour Brunswick Euro Challenge Sunday at Dream-Bowl Palace, thwarting a 10th frame comeback bid by tournament leader Anthony Simonsen.”


Before continuing, it’s important to highlight that this is a bonus and not a handicap. They are not the same thing. It may sound like splitting hairs, but a handicap is calculated and applied across all competitors. A bonus is awarded for fulfilling a set criteria. The EBT awards female competitors eight pins a game bonus, a rule that everyone is aware of upon entering. The debate as to whether or not it should apply at all is one for another day.

That very first sentence in the article immediately belittles her achievement and fantastic bowling. It removes the focus from Jenny’s ability and instead credits it to the bonus pins. Jenny is a World Cup Champion. She admitted herself to not focusing on the last shot because she did not need to make the spare. She had already won. Every bowler who has talked about this on social media has praised her for her win. So why did the PBA feel the urge to take the focus away from her bowling and place it on the bonus instead?

Sour grapes? Anger that the eight pin bonus rule still applies? Simple disappointment that PBA star Anthony Simonsen, who had also put in a stunning performance didn’t win? Jeff Richgels in his article on “The 11th Frame” explains that the rule surrounding the bonus is changing under WBT rules, with the bonus no longer applicable in the finals in WBT events. This year’s Euro Challenge was not one of the events getting rid of the bonus pins in the final stages as it was already committed under previous rules.

Whatever it is, in a sport that is seen as a minority sport on the world stage, a sport that is fighting for inclusion in the Olympics, a sport fighting for greater participation, especially from women, it’s sad to see achievements shot down in the first line of an article, from a body that hopes to make bowling “the next global emerging sport.”