Bowler Robin Romeo started 1989 with dim prospects. She awoke in early January to find that she couldn't raise her bowling arm. The doctor called it a slight shoulder separation, caused by a bump or a pull.
After a three-week layoff from the lanes, her fortunes took off in the other direction. She won the national championship, had the most titles, set the all-time single-year high earnings record and had two performance streaks that also are records in women's pro competition.
"It was the best of years," she said in her trophy-filled Van Nuys living room.
Things can even get better.
The award for U.S. woman bowler of the year is within reach. Selection to this honor by the Bowling Writers Assn. of America is to be announced in January.
The National Academy of Sports lists her among finalists for U.S. woman athlete of the year.
On the 1989 tournament trail, the 5-foot-4 Romeo won the Canoga Park Classic, the San Diego Classic, the Fairlanes Open at Washington D.C., the Midwest Open at Rockford, Ill., and the U.S. Open at Addison, Ill. The latter is symbolic of the national individual championship in bowling.
Her five titles led the LPBT cross-country tour. She finished with earnings of $113,550 to break Lisa Wagner's single-year record of $105,500, set in 1988.
Only Romeo and Wagner, of Palmetto, Fla., have won more than $100,000 during a year in women's pro bowling. Romeo's 210 average (for 1,000 games) was second to Wagner's 211 average (934 games) in 1989.
A record pro streak of cashing in 80 consecutive tour tournaments is still alive for Romeo. Her record of making 77 straight pro tournament finals, a streak that started in 1984, was broken this year when she missed the cut at Houston.
Romeo has been Southern California woman bowler of the year four consecutive years but never did so many of biggest and best things happen.
She talked about "a new surge of confidence to win" and blanking out thoughts of making mistakes--like rushing a step, allowing a wrong fractional turn of the hand at delivery or letting a distraction spoil concentration.
She spoke of humming inside her head to chase away distractions.
"I remember early in the year at Canoga Park Bowl, a critical point in a match. I had to have a strike. When a sharp sound came out of the crowd that could have spoiled my concentration, I strangely and suddenly began to quietly hum 'Two Hearts.' It's the one Phil Collins sings. It relaxed me. I got that strike."
Romeo said she has been humming "Two Hearts" in every tournament since. And "Nothing Is Going To Stop Us Now," from the movie "Mannequin," recently joined her repertoire for use in the heat of competition.
Romeo is Brooklyn born. Ray and Joan Romeo raised and schooled their daughter in Mamaronek and had her bowling at 6 in nearby New Rochelle. At 10, she won a New York state junior title.
At 13, she partnered with world-record setter Bev Ortner in a pro-junior am event and "I was so impressed it was after that I decided on wanting one day to be a professional bowler though I was averaging only 169 and hadn't yet scored a 200 game in competition."
At 18, she averaged 200 in league for the first time, then at 19 joined the Women's All-Star Assn., winning a WASA title against top East Coast bowlers before the family moved to Southern California in 1979.
Romeo was an instant winner on the California-based Worldwide Women Pro Bowlers tour. The first of her 12 career titles on the national pro tour was in 1981 at Bradenton, Fla. She rolled 26 consecutive strikes to set a women's world record in 1982 and became the first woman to score more than one 800 series (three games). Her 216 average in 1984 set a world's individual mark for a trio league.
Major triumphs kept coming here and there--in 1986 winning the WIBC (Women's International Bowling Congress) Queens Classic and the prestigious WIBC All-events, in 1987 setting the WIBC Tournament doubles record with Connecticut partner Laura Grant.
Romeo, who has bowled 12 perfect games in her career, has two brothers and two sisters, one of whom is Tori, 27, who joined the national pro tour this year.
Tori, a leading candidate for 1989 LPBT rookie of the year, travels the tour with Robin in the latter's van.
"It's gone a good many miles across the country to tournaments," Robin said. "Only the other day, I drove to a stop at Sepulveda and Victory and was singing my favorite tune out the window. The driver next to me gave me a strange look. He didn't know how important 'Two Hearts' is to me."