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Mindy Thomas - Making the Ladder: Women's National Duckpin Champion
Goddard Web applications developer Mindy Thomas is also a Women’s National Duckpin Bowling Congress (NDBC) National Champion. Duckpin bowling differs from tenpin bowling in that the balls are smaller, three balls are used instead of two, and the pins are shorter. The game was developed in Baltimore, Md.

At the age of eight, Thomas and her brother began duckpin bowling at the local Boys & Girls Club. Says Thomas, “The league itself was not competitive, although I still wanted to beat everyone.” In her early teens, she started entering state tournaments for kids divided by age division. “When I was thirteen, my brother won the Boys’ State Invitational Tournament and I won the Girls’ State Invitational Tournament. It felt awesome to win against all the other older girls. My mother was ecstatic.” They each won a two-foot trophy. She later won $500 scholarship for college in a national youth team tournament. “I won a few other state invitationals, but the first one was the best one for me since I was so young.”

Thomas moved into the adult leagues early because she wanted more competition. Today she is in two leagues so she bowls two nights a week, which she uses for practice. In 2004, she joined the Pro Tour of the Women’s National Duckpin Association (WNDA) and became the 2004 Rookie of the Year.

Thomas’ first major win in a women’s national tournament, the Ladies’ All-Star Classic, was in March 2008. Participants are invited based on their averages. The first day, they bowl eight games as qualifiers. Only the top 24 bowlers advance to the next day and are put into one of four Divisions. Explains Thomas, “Six people are in each of four Divisions. You bowl five games on Sunday and bowl each person in your Division once. Then the top person in each Division gets put on the ladder which is called ‘making the ladder.’ Your position on the ladder is determined by your win-loss record for those five games. If there is a tie, the total pin fall determines the winner.”

Mindy Thomas with her duckpin bowling trophy.    › Larger image
    Mindy Thomas after her win. Credit: M. Thomas
Thomas was first on the ladder in her Division so she had to beat one more person to win. After winning, says Thomas, “I honestly couldn’t believe it! My mother had had a nervous headache all day. She gets nervous headaches when I make the ladder. She was so relieved and so proud that her headache went away.” She won $2,000 and an 18k gold star pin designed by the jeweler who reset the Hope Diamond for the Smithsonian Museum of National History.

Two months later, in May 2008, she won her first Pro Tour. Explains Thomas, “For every Pro Tour you win, you get a star that you put on your shirt. So I got my first star; a plaque; and $3,000.”

Thomas was ranked “Number One Woman Nationally” for the 2008- 2009 season by the National Duckpin Bowling Congress. “I was surprised that I won,” says Thomas, who received a “big trophy.”

Thomas acknowledges that “duckpins is a head game. There are just so many variables. If I’m doing well, I try to do the same silly little superstitious things between frames such as where I sit. Sometimes I’ll sing a song in my head, probably the last song I heard on the radio. A lot of people say, ‘Don’t think, just throw the ball.’” As for her long term goal, Thomas says, “I’d like to end up in the WNDA Hall of Fame.”

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Elizabeth M. Jarrell
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.