Florida bowlers rebound from hurricane, compete at 2019 Women's Championships

By Christian Seaborn
USBC Communications

- A group of bowlers with ties to the Florida Panhandle still may be recovering from a hurricane that hit their area last fall, but the storm did not slow down their passion for the sport of bowling as they made their appearance at the 100th edition of the United States Bowling Congress Women's Championships.

The two-team Panhandle Strong contingent of Panama City, Florida, recently competed at Northrock Lanes for the 2019 event, although several of the team members still are trying to rebuild from the devastation of Hurricane Michael in October.

"We love bowling," said Bonnie Atkinson, the organizer of the group. "And that's why we were determined to be at the 100th edition of the tournament this year in Wichita."

The hurricane, which registered as the first Category 5 storm to hit the region and brought winds peaking at 160 miles per hour, directly descended on Panama City.

"I was out of what was left of my house for eight months due to the storm," Kathryn Faucheux said. "But, I was lucky. I was able to rebuild."

Faucheux's teammate, Linda Hobson, was not as fortunate.

"I've been sleeping on my son's sofa for the last eight months," Hobson said. "My home was completely destroyed."

While the devastation to Panama City and the surrounding areas left many wondering what was next, the local bowling community also suffered, as the three local centers have now been permanently shut down due to the damage, leaving approximately 900 league bowlers without a nearby bowling center.

This determined group of bowlers, however, was not going to let those circumstances stop the preparation or trip to Wichita for the Women's Championships.

Since they did not have a bowling center or pro shop nearby, they drove more than 80 miles each way to Fort Walton Beach, Florida, to compete and share in the camaraderie of the sport.

"It was an hour each way just to get to White Sands Bowling Center, so we could practice and get games in for the tournament," Atkinson said. "We did not, and will never, give up."

This year's teams at Northrock Lanes included Atkinson, Faucheux, Hobson, Rochelle Brooks, Lori Bundy, Judy Finch and Lesley Phillips. Wichita's Kelly Parkins joined the group as a substitute.

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