Vandalia Community High School graduate and current assistant bowling coach at Vanderbilt University Josie Earnest added to a long list of accolades last Sunday, winning a Professional Women’s Bowling Association championship.
Earnest, the daughter of Larry and Lisa Earnest, who have been owners Vandalia Bowl, bears five gold medals and an NCAA Championship among other accolades, but the PWBA title held its own special significance.
“This one is pretty darn cool, because it’s my first professional title,” Earnest said. “I was kind of in shock. I didn’t even know how to react, because I was the third seed going in.
“My first match was against a Hall of Famer who was player of the decade and that type of thing,” she said. “I was really fairly nervous, I try not to think about it too much when I’m competing, but it’s still a big deal.
“You do all the things and bowl all these tournaments and compete with the ultimate idea of being a professional bowler, but you just don’t know if your time will ever come,” Earnest said. “It was pretty cool to kind of finally see that dream come true.”
No. 3-seeded Earnest began the day against No. 2-seeded Clara Guerrero, rolling strikes in six of the first eight frames to ultimately prevail, 238-214.
The championship match was not as close, with Earnest defeating Clara O’Keefe, 229-180, highlighted by a string of four strikes by Earnest.
Earnest is not new to high-level bowling competition, but dealing with the pressure of being televised for a national audience is something she says she might not ever get completely comfortable with.
“This was only my third time professionally competing on TV, and I don’t know if you ever get used to it,” Earnest said. “Some how I am pretty good at being able to tunnel vision it and not pay attention to what’s going on around me, but I don’t know if you ever get used to it.
“You just try to find your coping mechanism and realize that it’s just you and the lanes and a game,” she s“I actually turned to him (my coach) before I started the day and said, ‘I’m pretty nervous, but the sun will come up tomorrow, right?’ and he said, ‘Yeah it will’ and then I said, ‘OK, then I can get through it.’”
While bowling has been a part of Earnest’s life from an early age due, to her parents owning a bowling alley, it wasn’t always the clear path for her.
“My parents bought it (Vandalia Bowl) when I was 3, so I have been kind of doing it forever,” Earnest said. “I didn’t really start taking it seriously probably until I was 11 or 12. That’s when I started bowling in the big state tournaments and doing well.
“That’s kind of when my parents sat me down and said, ‘You have two choices – you can either practice and get good at bowling and have your school paid for, or you can not care and go get a real job and pay for your own college.’ That’s when I really took a liking to it, because it wasn’t a hard answer,” Earnest said.
“They are obviously a huge part of my development and my success,” she said. “My dad was my coach growing up, my mom bussed me around and bowling was their life, too. There are so many people that have invested into all of my success throughout the years.”
Earnest credits her time spent on Junior Team USA in high school to getting recognition from colleges and ultimately earning her a full scholarship to Vanderbilt University.
At Vanderbilt, she helped lead the team to a 2007 NCAA championship, earning MVP of the tournament. During her four years at Vanderbilt, Earnest earned National Bowler of the Year twice and four All-American selections.
After graduating Vanderbilt, Earnest said she was unaware of her next step, but a talk with her bowling coach at Vanderbilt made up her mind, and she is now entering her seventh year as assistant bowling coach at Vanderbilt.
“I really had no (interest) to coach out of college, but I also didn’t really know what I wanted to do,” Earnest said. “The coach came to me after I graduated and said, ‘Hey, we have this position opening up; would you be interested?’ and I said, ‘I don’t know how good I’ll be at coaching, but yeah.'
“I feel like I have a lot more to offer the school and they have done so much for me, its kind of a good way to give back to them and then we’ll see if I’m OK at it. And here I am starting my seventh season; it’s exciting.
While coaching limited the time Earnest spent practicing individually at first, she said it's a big factor in her own development.
“I actually think the coaching has helped me to develop my skills even further,” Earnest said. “There was a time when I wasn’t getting to bowl much at all because of coaching. But, I was able to develop parts of my game that I wasn’t quite aware of were weak just from watching other kids and trying to help them improve.
“I think it has really benefited me, because I get to coach kids, but I also have to listen to myself tell these kids things and say, ‘Oh, you know that might actually work for me, too.’ I think it's kind of two-fold.”
With her first professional title under her belt, Earnest has just one more pro event this season before she returns to coaching and preparing for next summer’s pro season.
“It was actually one of the last tournaments of the season, so I have the final major that I qualified for because I won this event,” Earnest said. “I will go compete in that, but the rest of it will be getting ready looking toward next season, because it (the season) just takes place over the summer.
“I’ll spend the next couple of months getting sharp and resetting my goals for the next summer.”
Earnest was also recently announced as a representative of the United States at the 2016 Pan American Bowling Confederation Adult Championship, which will take place Sept. 19-23. aid.