Story and Photo Courtesy of Brad Laux of The Ledger Independent
If you do not think competitive bowling is a big deal in Fleming County, you obviously were not at Double S Entertainment on Monday night at 6 p.m.
Without much fanfare outside the county, the Panther and Lady Panther high school teams have been quietly building a successful bowling program.
And in front of about 80 people, the community had a chance to celebrate an area high school sporting first.
Like Fleming County, Union College is trying to become a budding star in the world of bowling, so when first-year Lady Bulldog coach Bradley Piper first saw Jasmine Barbee this winter, he knew she would be a natural fit for his program.
So on Monday night, Barbee became the first Fleming County High School bowling team member to sign a college scholarship.
"She is the type of player you want to build a successful program around," Piper said. "She has the positive attitude I want. She may not knock down every pin every time, but she always gives it her all, unlike some players who have the talent to bowl a couple of good frames, but aren't consistent."
Barbee has more than just drive, she also has college-level talent. This past season, she was ranked among the top 15 girls' singles players in the state after bowling a 171 game average. Barbee and her teammates, two of which will join her on the collegiate circuit next year, helped Fleming County win the 8th Region title, boast a 20-1 record and advance all the way to the final eight at the state championships.
"She reads the lane well and she has the delivery and posture that it takes to be a good bowler," Fleming County head coach Gary Shannon said. "She has the concentration skills that are needed, plus she is very coachable."
Shannon noted that her hard work ethic and her dedication help set Barbee apart.
Piper noticed those qualities as well.
"Jasmine is a consistent bowler and she always has a smile on her face," he said. "Also, she has the willingness to learn new things."
When Barbee told him that she wanted to eventually become a professional, Piper said that goal would mean "lots and lots of practice." Barbee responded, "I would be dedicated to do that."
Barbee has been bowling regularly with her grandfather, George Lands, for the past five years, but she did not think about the possibility of taking her talents to the next level until this December when Piper saw her competing at a tournament in Lexington.
"I didn't intend to bowl in college, but then when I started to get pretty good I thought it would be awesome (to do it)," she said.
Union was the only college Barbee considered for bowling. And once Piper discovered her, Barbee became sold on the idea.
"I had heard about Union, my pastor told me about it. It's affiliated with the Methodist church, and I'm a Methodist, and I thought it would keep me strong in my faith," she said. "Union gave me more of a home feel. The size was smaller and it was not like at a big school where you are a number, not a face. But, the (Union) coaches were the driving force (in my decision)."
The bowlers at Double S Entertainment are a family, something that Barbee really enjoys about participating in the sport and hopes will carry on to college.
"The people (in attendance at the signing) have bowled here since I started. My family is very supportive and proud. They are probably more excited than I am," she said. "I thought it was pretty cool to be the first to get a scholarship and I hope my teammates want to bowl in college."
Barbee may be a trendsetter when it comes to Fleming Countians receiving a college bowling scholarship, but she does not think of herself as a role model.
"I thought it would be awesome (to get a scholarship), but I hadn't thought much about it until Gary got emotional (at the signing ceremony)," she said. "But there's no pressure. It won't matter if I get there and I bowl a 90. The people here will support me no matter what and will be proud of me."