Alternative country music star Steve Earle does a popular tune called “I Ain’t Ever Satisfied,” and when you look at the career of USBC Hall of Famer Anne Marie Duggan and the things she has had to say about it over the years, you almost start to wonder if Earle had her in mind when he wrote it.
Reporters who expected to find a gleeful Anne Marie Duggan (then Anne Marie Pike) after she bowled the first 300 game of her career at the Houston Classic, a stop on the 1983 Ladies Professional Bowlers Tour, found instead a disgruntled bowler who could think only of the one Brooklyn strike she threw that game.
“Pike’s first response was to say it was tainted by a crossover hit,” R.F. Corderman of The Pacific Bowler reported. “‘I threw a Brooklyn,’ she said. ‘It was in the eighth or ninth frame. I was a little disappointed because, when I rolled a 300, I wanted them all to be good shots. It’s perfect, but not totally perfect.’”
Perfection might work for lesser players, but for one of the few players who won three majors in women’s bowling – the U.S. Women’s Open, the USBC Queens and the Sam’s Town Hammer Players Championship – mere perfection doesn’t quite cut it.
The Houston Classic was Duggan’s first tournament as an LPBT member; by the time the week came to an end, it was also her first LPBT title. If her complete lack of jubilation over the achievement suggested anything, it was that one good week of bowling is hardly enough to appease a bowler destined for the Hall of Fame.
“The lanes were just good for me,” she told Corderman. “I had a really nice shot.”
As for those who expected more than a nod to the good shot the lane man laid down that week after winning her first title at just 20 years old, well, that was their problem.
“I don’t jump around,” she said at the time. “I keep my feelings inside, but I’m sure people could tell I was happy.”
Maybe so. And maybe when she had much the same to say about winning her third major on the ladies tour in 1995, when she nabbed that Sam’s Town Hammer Players Championship title after wins at the Queens and U.S. Women’s Open, people understood by then that you don’t spend much time being satisfied when greatness is your calling.
“I just had a good shot on both lanes,” she said then, “and I got more confident as I kept striking.”
That’s all. Just another good shot, a few more strikes than the next player. Now on to next week.
Never mind that Duggan had just climbed the ladder from the fifth seed to knock off Robin Romeo, Lisa Wagner, Aleta Sill and Kim Adler – three USBC Hall of Famers and the other a 15-time LPBT titlist – to win her third major. She just “had a good shot” that day, just like all the other days when she left the building with a trophy and a five-figure check in her hands.
These days, Duggan’s life after the tour is one in which she spends more time at her pro shop in Edmond, Okla., than she does on the lanes. The woman who once bowled as many as 100 games of practice a week squeezes in what games she can between customers, and her days as a fulltime touring pro grow more distant in the rearview mirror of her life each day.
“I bowl a few leagues a week, but I can’t bowl as much as I did when I bowled for a living,” Duggan, now 48, explains. “I get down there and customers walk in and I don’t have any employees, I run my own shop. So when customers walk in, I have to go help them. They are my priority now, not bowling.”
Yet the player who once said you can only hope to get a shot at a Queens title “once in your career,” the one for whom bowling is no longer a top priority, nonetheless found herself back in the Queens finals for the third time last year, five years after placing second at the same event in 2005.
And, once again, it wasn’t Duggan herself who made it there – it was, you know, just a good shot that week.
“I just liked the shot,” she says of her resurgent performance in El Paso. “That never hurts. When you like the shot and you match up good and you’re able to play where you like to play, that’s huge. You don’t hear bowlers say that too often because we want to take the credit when we bowl good.”
For Anne Marie Duggan, credit is overrated, and no week is a good week unless your name is on the trophy when it’s over. That, of course, is the way she views her performance last year, a return to the spotlight she admits was “pleasantly surprising.” But, as always, it’s the things she didn’t do that she talks about now, the misstep here and there that allowed Kelly Kulick to keep her at bay and go on to win.
“It was a lot of fun and I had a really good shot, but I did not have a good game on TV,” she says. “I stuck on the right-hand lane almost every time, and I am disappointed that I wasn’t able to block that out and do what I needed to do to handle it. It was fun to be on TV again, but I still have that little bit of competitiveness in me that wants to win. Otherwise I wouldn’t enter the tournament.”
Clearly, Duggan still believes she can win; she will be among the bowlers who show up at the Oncenter in Syracuse for the 2011 USBC Queens this week. And after last year’s performance, who can blame her? But that doesn’t mean she’s counting on it.
“It’s a challenge to bowl against people for whom bowling is their first priority when bowling is not my first priority,” she says. “I’m giving up an edge there, but I feel like I can pull back on my experience from the years I spent bowling competitively and do well. I have more experience than most of them and I have been in that situation many more times than they have. It is not their fault; it’s just that there is no tour now.
“I keep myself in good shape and I feel strong physically,” Duggan continues. “Another thing that helps is that I don’t feel the pressure of competing that I felt in the week-in, week-out grind of the tour. I am not thinking ‘Oh, man, I need to make a paycheck, I need to do well, I need to keep my points up.’ It is more fun for me now. I have had my time in the limelight, so when another opportunity comes along today, it’s just like ‘Oh, OK, this is cool.’”
And if the opportunity of the 2011 Queens lands Duggan with a second tiara, you can bet she will tell you it didn’t have much to do with her. It was just another “good shot,” just another chapter in the story of a Hall of Fame career whose final page is yet to be written.