Nothing Without Work

Natalie Kent is a four-time top-16 finisher at Junior Gold

by Rod Williamson

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It was a sweltering, humid August day in Nashville. Cloudless, the temperature had long since passed 90 and was staring at triple digits. Dogs were chasing cats and they both were walking.

It wasn’t ideal conditions for Vanderbilt’s annual freshman photograph but when 1,600 student schedules are involved, administrators have to go with the game plan. It was orientation, and the show must go on.

Among the sweaty newcomers was Natalie Kent, struggling to get acclimated to weather in the south. Back home, the cool breezes of Lake Ontario were drifting over her hometown of Newark, New York. There was nothing cool on this day aside from being a new Vanderbilt Commodore. She made a rookie mistake, not comprehending what can happen when temperatures are broiling more than 30 degrees in excess to your comfort zone.

“I hadn’t eaten breakfast or had anything to drink when I showed up for the class picture,” Kent remembered. “It was super hot, and we were wearing black t-shirts. I love everything about the south, but I’m not used to the heat, and I fainted. I was back up in 30 seconds, they told me.”

It was a red-hot start to what promises to be a red-hot college bowling career. Kent was one of the nation’s premier junior bowlers. After all, she had been bowling since she was 2 and just happened to have a brother (Jacob), who won a national championship at Robert Morris a decade ago… and a mother (Chrissy Beamish), who won a national championship at Wichita State…and a Hall of Fame father (Doug), who has won 10 Professional Bowlers Association championships. Oh, by the way, her uncle, Parker Bohn, is PBA star (he married Chrissy’s sister).

Natalie had also gotten some friendly advice upon arriving on campus from Brittni (Hamilton) LeGeorge, a former Commodore star, now an academic counselor in the athletic department who is originally from Webster, New York, near Newark. In fact, Natalie’s dad helped with Brittni’s game years ago.

Is it any wonder this young woman bowls? It was made clear to her early on that bowling was not a necessary avocation. Until middle school, Natalie played softball and volleyball, but in eighth grade, she decided it was time to focus on bowling.

“My parents always told me it was okay if I didn’t want to bowl,” she recalled. “They said they were fully supportive of me if I didn’t want to bowl, but I decided there was a lot in this for me.”

“Coming from a really small town, it would be a lot easier to make it somewhere in bowling than it would be in softball,” Natalie said. “Focusing on that, I knew there was a lot of scholarship money; there was a lot that can benefit us as bowlers. I wanted to focus on that.”

Natalie grew up in her parent’s bowling center, but when your last name is Kent, outsiders can have their expectations.

“Of course, there are some pressures,” she admitted. “People sometimes say things, such as ‘you’re only good because of your parents.’ It’s something our family ignores because we don’t look at it that way. Nothing happens if you don’t put in the work.”

Her father, Doug, first showed her the bowling ropes. Chrissy is a top athlete, planning to play college tennis before tearing her ACL. The rides home after tournaments were interesting.

“Dad would talk to me about the physical side of the game,” Natalie remembered. “Mom would help with the mental side. She’d be the one to console me if things hadn’t gone well.”

She fondly remembers those days in the family bowling center.

“The best part of the bowling center was the relationships I made there,” she stated, “The league bowlers, the employees—I made really good relationships with the regulars. That was the most special part of the bowling center for me.”

Natalie considers herself easy-going, ready to go with the flow if plans change. Her bucket list includes visiting Greece and swimming with the pigs in the warm waters of the Caribbean, something she saw on a previous trip but didn’t have the time to enjoy.

Natalie also takes some time to smell the roses. On an introductory questionnaire, she mentioned noticing Vanderbilt’s abundance of squirrels, not something typically listed among a freshman’s observations.

And she loves the view from her beautiful new dormitory room.

“Out of our window we can see the skyline and it’s so pretty at night. I enjoy looking at the city lights when its dark. And the sunsets, they are magnificent.”