High School Sports


Q2 AOW: How Billings West's Hope Bunk earns rare D1 bowling scholarship

Bunk Bowling 21.png
Posted at 1:10 PM, Nov 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-24 15:10:51-05

BILLINGS - Q2's Athlete of the Week recently did something rarely seen in Montana.

West High's Hope Bunk last week signed to bowl at Youngstown State University in Ohio. It's noteworthy because, as coach Rich Foran says, it's extremely rare for Montanans to earn Division 1 bowling scholarships. And he's been trying to help statewide youths for 12 years.

"Just to get the college to look at a couple of them is nearly impossible," Foran told MTN Sports. "I know of two girls who have gotten to bowl in college. (But) not a D-1 school."

Hope's first Junior Gold National Tournament was at age 10. And that's where Youngstown's coach more recently spotted her placing 22nd out of nearly 1,000 entrants.

"He didn't approach me there because he didn't want to ruin my concentration, which was really nice of him," Bunk recalled. "But he reached out afterwards."

So, starting this fall she'll become a Penguin — Youngstown State's mascot. And grades shouldn't be an issue. Bunk is solid in school, especially favoring math.

"We'll go to practice, and she'll have her homework sitting out," Foran said.

Bunk plans to major in electrical engineering which, ironically, as one of her high school teachers pointed out, ties in nicely with her passion.

"Bowling requires a lot of math and angles and just understanding that," explained Bunk, who's been a staple at bowling alleys since elementary school following her older brother.

At home, she's acquired more bowling balls than she can count — they're often included with tournament registrations — and donates most of them to kids eagerly engaging in the sport.

Traveling to tournaments all over the country by motor home, Bunk's first serious competition was actually close to home just a couple years ago in Ronan.

"That was my very first adult women's scratch tournament that I ever bowled in, and I actually took first place," she said.

The win qualified her to hit the Women's Professional Bowling Tour as a high school sophomore. But, thanks to COVID, it turned out to be a no go.

Bunk has also made the cut in multiple men's scratch tournaments, but her talents extend beyond the bowling alley.

Sitting in the West High band room, she shows why the saxophone is another passion — specifically the baritone.

"The slow pace, but meaningful harmony, is what I'm really into," she said. "I like how low it gets."

Bunk was hoping to play the sax in college, but, "with bowling, we're out of town every weekend. Actually, Thursday to Sunday, so I wouldn't have time to play in the band."

She's also learned to love poetry thanks to her English teacher last year at West.

"I just got really into it because it was really personal and in depth. Once you're into it, you couldn't really get back out of it."

The assignment was to write four poems, then choose which she'd like to have published in a book. She originally kept her thoughts close to the vest.

"It was private," said her mother Dani Bunk. "When she came out with it, her father and I were like, whoa."

"You can make it your own," Hope explained of writing poetry. "You can have periods or commas, or you don't have to. You can make it paragraphs or just one big slab right there (on paper)."

So, as she balances poetry, saxophone, and bowling, naturally she also has time to work for her mom at Subway, a luxury Dani enjoys.

"When people don't show up, you wake them up in the summertime and say, hey, guess what, we're working today," Dani said with enthusiasm.

But Hope admits she was eager to work from the start.

"Yes, definitely, because I wanted money to buy things, like bowling balls."

Of course her first thought was to buy bowling balls, confirming that most all of her roads lead right back to the lanes.