After the fifth frame of the final game of the U.S. Open last Saturday in Garland, Texas, Dede Davidson found herself down 99-84 to fellow lefthander Dana Miller-Mackie. So Davidson did what anyone who finds her muse on the pop charts would do: She started humming. With the melody of Mary J. Blige's Sweet Thing purring in her throat, Davidson strung together five strikes in the last three frames to beat Miller-Mackie 213-194.
If this hadn't been such an important game, Davidson might have skipped the humming and burst right into song. After all, the game was being taped for a national TV broadcast, and what better way to launch what Davidson, 26, hopes will someday be a new career. Not that she's ready to give up bowling just yet. Especially not now, with her fourth pro title and a check for $18,000 in her pocket. That payday puts Davidson's 1993 winnings at more than $23,000, which catapults her into the top 10 money winners for the year on the Ladies Pro Bowlers Tour.
"My checkbook is going, Yes! Yes!" says Davidson, who works part-time for an engineering firm in Redwood City, Calif. "This tournament came down to the last frame. I think this is the most exciting win I've ever had."
For Davidson this year's Open was an improvement over last year's on several counts. In 1992 she missed qualifying for match play by one spot. As the alternate she had to keep score for the qualifiers. And though she won the tournament talent show, she thinks her rendition of a particularly gritty Pat Benatar tune may have permanently injured her singing voice. "I even went to a doctor to get my voice fixed," she says, "but he couldn't do anything."
As a result Davidson has had to drop out of the range of her idol, Anita Baker, and settle into the lower, raspier tones of Melissa Ethridge. But that hasn't stopped her singing ambitions. She owns a small amplifier and recently traded one of her bowling balls for a microphone.
Davidson started singing when she joined the school chorus in the second grade, which is about the same time she started bowling. According to official family history, Davidson and her twin sister, Marissa, began bowling at the age of eight at the Plaza Lanes in San Jose, where their parents, Lori and Dave, bowled in leagues. According to the twins' older sister Twylla, however, the two took up kegling about three years earlier, using their father's 16-pound ball and three tall plastic piggy banks in the hallway of their home.
Both twins were promising bowlers, but "there was something special when Dede picked up the ball," says Twylla. At 10, with two years of bantam experience under her belt, Dede told her mother she was going to become a professional. A year later she rolled a 299, a record that still stands for bantam girls. At 16 Dede bowled her first 300, but since she did it on April 1, she had a hard time getting anyone who wasn't there to believe her, including her mother. "I kept saying, 'That's right Dede, April Fool,' " says Lori. Dede has since bowled 12 more perfect games.
With her parents' consent she joined the pro tour at 17. At the end of the 1985 season she was named Rookie of the Year. Since then, tournament wins have been scarce, which makes the Open victory, Davidson's second grand slam title, sweet indeed. Alas, it could be sweeter. "If only I could hit those high notes," says Davidson, who, naturally, likes to celebrate with song. "I just can't sing like Anita anymore."
If it's any consolation, Dede, Anita can't bowl like you.