Bowling chief Jessie Phua makes way for new blood
SBF chief to be succeeded by former bowler Teo after 19 years at the helm
With her busy schedule, Singapore bowling chief Jessie Phua rarely bowls, and reckons she would get teased by the national keglers with her claims that she "would be over the moon with 160 or 170" pinfalls.
But few would disagree that the 66-year-old deserves top marks for turning the sport around to become global powerhouses in almost two decades at the helm.
At the Singapore Bowling Federation (SBF) annual general meeting yesterday, Phua stepped down as its president and passed the baton to former national bowler Valerie Teo - no election was held as there was no contest.
Phua told The Straits Times: "Sport needs new energy, it needs new creativity. I'm getting old, I'm getting tired. We need fresh blood to give sport a different life and energy. All sports need this to keep reinventing itself for future challenges."
Apart from the SBF, she was also the first woman president of the Federation Internationale des Quilleurs (FIQ), bowling's world body, from 2007 to 2011.
As she looked back on her successful 19-year tenure as the SBF's longest-serving chief, Phua thanked her team.
The Singapore National Olympic Council vice-president added: "I'm happy, proud and relieved that I managed to deliver all that I promised, and more than what I expected.
"I do not claim any of this credit. This was possible only because I was able to bring on board a team of passionate, able and willing volunteers and staff, who believed in the journey and worked alongside me."
Phua made her first foray into bowling in 1990 "by default" when her husband Jimmy took over Marina Superbowl and renamed it Victor's Superbowl - after good friend Victor Tham's death - and asked her to manage the centre.
In 1994, she was appointed youth development programme chairman of the Singapore Tenpin Bowling Congress - SBF's predecessor - and was its vice-president from 1995 to 1997.
She recalled how frustrated she had been on her travels when she saw regional countries were strides ahead e with youth development systems, before she struck jackpot after a conversation with then-Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who was guest of honour at an event.
Bowling soon became an extra-curricular activity in schools, which led to a wider talent pool.
Phua returned to the fray in 2002 to challenge for the presidency and edged out former Member of Parliament Chng Hee Kok by 7-6 votes.
After taking over, she put her foot down to weed out smoking and gambling at bowling centres and successfully overhauled the sport's seedy image.
At the lanes, Phua counts Singapore's three-gold showing at the 2002 Asian Games as a special highlight as they were bowling's first Asiad gold medals.
More success followed as SBF went on to develop world champions and medallists in the men's, women's and youth categories.
National bowler Shayna Ng, who was the all-events world champion in 2015, hailed Phua as a "committed, dedicated and fearless" leader who helped the bowlers develop through tough love and high standards.