Former Natchez bowler to compete for USBC senior title

Published 11:58 pm Sunday, December 10, 2017

NATCHEZ — Cheryl Leblanc may be going to the USBC Senior Championship bowling competition in Reno, Nevada, this August, but she got her start on the lanes here in Natchez.

“I started bowling I think in ‘78 here,” Leblanc said. “This is where I learned to bowl.”

What started out as a pasttime with friends has become a serious competition for Leblanc, who now lives in Cleveland but returns to Natchez often to visit family.

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To date, Leblanc has participated in 45 state tournaments, 16 national tournaments and nine magic age tournaments.

When she won the Mississippi State United States Bowling Congress Women’s Magic Age Tournament on Nov. 12 at Harmony Lanes in Cleveland, Leblanc said she was just coming off a losing streak.

Bouts of pneumonia and other minor illnesses had weakened Leblanc’s game, but she said she knew her bad luck was at an end before she ever put on her bowling shoes.

“When I walked in my other two buddies, they said, ‘You’ve got this glow about you. This is the first we’ve seen you so happy in a while,’”Leblanc said.

It may have been something of a home field advantage, but Leblanc said she just felt comfortable. In an effort to keep that good luck rolling, Leblanc said she washed the clothes she wore each night and wore them again the next day.

“I’m not superstitious,” she said. “But I wasn’t risking it.”

By the time the competition was finishd on Sunday, Leblanc had racked up a total of 1,320 points, besting 103 other players on the lanes that weekend.

“I was beaming from head to toe,” Leblanc said. “I can’t believe it.”

When she first began in 1978, bowling was just a fun way to pass the time. Leblanc said she never dreamed she would go to nationals.

“I was invited to join a newcomers league,” Leblanc said. “I started there. I had never picked up a bowling ball in my life.”

Soon, however, Leblanc said she was joining other leagues and buying her own ball and shoes. Leblanc said she’s developed the habit of listening to music while she bowls. She said she liked to slip on headphones and listen to Motown, ‘60s music and a little bit of Bruno Mars. Leblanc said she cannot imagine life without bowling now.

“I am not going to give it up,” she said. “I can’t give it up. They’ll bury me with a bowling ball.”

Outside of the rush of a good win, Leblanc said she loves the community group she found a group that travels to different tournaments in the state.

“We meet all kinds of friendly people,” Leblanc said. “You might meet a stick in the mud every now and then, but if you don’t have fun, why do it? We have fun.”

Leblanc and one of her close friends, Bonnie Taylor made a pact years ago that if either of them ever made it to nationals, the other would go for support. When Leblanc readies for Las Vegas in August, Taylor will be right there with her.

Leblanc said she has been keeping a bucket list of all the things she’d like to do, and winning the state women’s tournament was one of them.

“I have five things that I’ve done on my bucket list,” Leblanc said. “I’ve still got a bunch to do before I leave this world, but this was one of the top.”

Winning the national tournament, Leblanc said, is another item on the bucket list.

“I really want it,” she said. “I’m ready to win.”