Plenty of talented female competitors have dreamed of trying their luck on the PWBA Tour. But Amanda Vermilyea is no ordinary dreamer.
Her debut on Junior Team USA in 2003 was the first of eight combined appearances on Team USA between the junior and adult squads. She won national titles with the Nebraska Huskers in 2004 and 2005, earning MVP honors during that latter title run and setting the record for highest average at an NCAA Championships event (251.75).
In 2007 and 2008, she made back-to-back shows at the U.S. Women's Open. It seemed Vermilyea was destined to realize her dreams of ranking among the greatest female bowlers in the world and maybe, if the ladies’ tour ever resumed, achieving her lifelong dream of winning a PWBA Tour title.
By 2009, however, she was diagnosed with a rare spinal condition that was plaguing her with paralyzing migraines and seizures. She subsequently underwent a spinal fusion surgery that left her almost entirely without range of motion in her neck. In 2014, she underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor.
Despite these setbacks, she returned to competition and, in 2019, averaged 235 for nine games in the USBC Women's Championships to finish 5th in its prestigious Diamond All-Events (which USBC Hall of Famer Kelly Kulick won that year).
Then came further health setbacks. Though Vermilyea thought her brain tumor had been removed in its entirety in 2014, she learned in early 2020 that it only partially had been removed, and that the part that remains cannot be worked on because of its location within the region of her brain that enables speech.
“It is a very slow-growing tumor, so I am thankful there,” Vermilyea said.
In the meantime, doctors diagnosed her with what they call a "functional neurological disorder" that continues to cause seizures.
Yet, despite all this, the member of the 2020 Nebraska Athletic Hall of Fame class announced on the Jan. 4 edition of “The Morning Bolt” show her intent to resume her lifelong dream of winning a PWBA Tour title. Vermilyea plans at least to bowl the PWBA Twin Cities Open, which is scheduled to be contested April 22-24 at Cedarvale Lanes in Eagan, Minnesota, the town in which she happens to work as an administrative assistant with Prime Therapeutics. Vermilyea also expressed interest in bowling the PWBA Lincoln Open, the PWBA Cleveland Open, and the USBC Queens.
If you missed the July 2019 episode of The Bowlers Journal Podcast during which Vermilyea discussed her inspiring performance at that year’s USBC Women’s Championships, you can listen to it now here: https://soundcloud.com/user-658733792/podcast-amanda-vermilyeas-inspiring-comeback-from-cancer-spinal-surgery
We will have much more about Vermilyea’s remarkable comeback story in the February issue of Bowlers Journal International.