Ashley (Cox) Purkey made bowling a love of her life. Now, the former Alton High standout is trying to make it a fulfilling career.
She’s participating in the Professional Women’s Bowling Association Tour and trying to carve out a niche for herself in the PWBA competition.
“The PWBA re-started again last year and this is my first year on the tour,” said the 31-year-old Purkey, a propulsion engineer at Boeing in St. Louis. “There are 14 stops on the summer tour and they were all over the country. It’s really exciting to be on the tour.”
The events started April 28 in Las Vegas and ended Aug. 7 in Chicagoland’s Addison. The Smithfield Tour championship unfolds Sept. 1-4 in Midlothian, Va.
Purkey picked her spots the way she converted her spares — smoothly. Because she holds a regular job, her PWBA competition is secondary. Nevertheless, Purkey has a sponsor that pays for some of her expenses, including clothing.
“I competed in seven of the stops this year,” she said, pointing to action in Detroit, Chicago and Green Bay, among others. Purkey cashed in one check for $1,200 for a Top 32 finish; thus, she’s making some progress.
“There’s not enough money to compete on the tour full time, but I love it,” Purkey said. “It’s a great opportunity for me.”
The PWBA is attempting to regain its luster after losing gloss when it ceased operations in 2003. The league had been around since 1960. It came back to life in 2015.
“When I heard it was coming back, I wanted to compete in it,” Purkey said. “I was bowling in some leagues in St. Louis and there were a lot of good friends from college still bowling.”
All she had to do was register for the PWBA.
“You had to have a 190 average to bowl in it,” Purkey said. “Honestly, I think it will keep growing. I’m planning on competing in it for the next three or four years. At least, that’s the plan.”
Bowling has become a natural activity for her and it’s easy to see why. Purkey, has been doing it for a long time and enjoyed her share of success.
“I started bowling when I was 5 years old, so basically I’ve been doing it all my life,” Purkey said. Dad, Jay, got her involved as well as older sister Whitney, a 2001 AHS graduate.
It was Whitney Cox reigning as the IHSA girls’ state bowling champion in 2001 following her sixth-place finish in 2000. Ashley placed sixth in 2002 and sixth in 2003, her senior season. When Ashley was a sophomore, she bowled with Whitney.
AHS coach Jeff Woszczynski benefited from having both sisters propel the program. Alton qualified for state in 2001 and 2003, finishing 10th each time. They kick-started the success the Redbirds enjoyed on the lanes after that. Overall, the boys and girls have gone to the state finals 14 times, beginning 15 years ago.
“And Ashley just missed medaling at state her sophomore year,” Woszczynski said of 2001. “When Whitney won state, everything changed for her about bowling.
“Ashley has always been a very determined bowler. She even married a bowler (Kevin Purkey) and he’s a very good bowler.
“I give Ashley a lot of credit for taking a shot on the bowling tour,” Woszczynski added.
During her prep days, Purkey said she maintained a 215-to-220 average. She went on to bowl collegiately at Wichita State and the Shockers won the NCAA championship in 2007. Now, Purkey sports a 225 average.
“I’m passionate about bowling and I’ve always wanted to be a pro bowler,” she said. “Coach (Woszczynski) stimulated my interest in bowling. He was a good coach and we had some good teams.”
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