Beat the Champions winner Wilhelmina Brown simply glowing

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Wilhelmina Brown and husband Donald Powell celebrate in front of Brown’s new Ford Focus after her 985 gave her first place in the BTC women’s finals Sunday at Lan-Oak Lanes in Lansing. | Jean Lachat/For the Sun-Times

Wilhelmina Brown lit up Lan-Oak Lanes in Lansing.

‘‘Friday night I came in [to practice], and they had cosmic bowling, so I was bowling in the dark,’’ said Brown, an administrative assistant for Goodwill Industries.

On Sunday, the 59-year-old Chicagoan saw her way to consistent games — 216-207-279-204 — to go with 79 pins of handicap for a 985 to win the women’s finals of the 55th Beat the Champions.

Deborah Hargrave finished second with 952, which included 86 pins of handicap.

Brown took control in the third game. She opened with the front eight before leaving the 7-pin on the ninth ball.

‘‘I think I was a little slow with it,’’ she said. ‘‘But the relief was making the spare. Then I went back and stayed aggressive with my shot.

‘‘I wasn’t even thinking about the car. I was just thinking it would be nice to roll 300 in Beat the Champs.’’

All 32 finalists receive prizes. The top prize for both the women and the men (whose finals are at Elk Grove Bowl next Sunday) is a Ford Focus from the Chicagoland Ford Dealers.

Hargrave, a service manager from Park Forest, found a consistent shot.

‘‘The last pair, I changed balls, just trying to carry the 10-pin,’’ she said.

Said Brown: ‘‘The shot all day was consistent. I didn’t move at all. Out of four games, I think I had four opens all day.’’

One open was the 10-pin on the final ball, leaving some worry for Brown.

‘‘The reason I was [worried] is because I admire Erica Merritt,’’ Brown said. ‘‘The only advantage I had over her was I had some cap and she didn’t it.’’

Merritt, who finished third with 937, only had 10 pins of handicap.

In BTC, bowlers who average below 210 receive 90 percent of the difference as handicap.

This was a raucous crowd, especially supporting Brown.

‘‘My husband [Donald Powell] must have called everybody in the city,’’ she said.

BTC, cosponsored by the Sun-Times and the Chicagoland Bowling Proprietors Association, has raised more than $2.7 million from more than 5.7 million entries in its first 54 years. Speaking of money, Brown earned $500 for her league — Leveaux Crockett on Wednesdays at Skyway Bowl — because it has 100 percent participation in BTC.

NOTES: Experience mattered for the four women who previously bowled in the BTC women’s finals. Erica Merritt’s third-place finish came in her second BTC.

‘‘I just watched my speed — I didn’t want to overpower it,’’ said Merritt, a marketing manager for the World’s Finest Chocolate.

Christina Daniello, who finished 15th last year, tied for eighth (872) with Earlean Henry. Other repeat finalists were Genevieve Schwabe (fifth) and Tracy Woodward-Schwind (13th).

υ Sheila Barney-Shannon brought quart containers stuffed with butter pecan cookies for all the finalists as a goodwill gesture and clever marketing for 26.2 Realty. She finished 29th (750).

υ Maggie Suchoski, who wore her St. Ambrose sweater — she was a bowler and a double-major in philosophy and physics there — was the only scratch bowler. She finished 11th (854)

υ Only 334 women ‘‘Beat the Champ’’ during contest week in December, topping the 689 that Diandra Asbaty rolled for the target score. Their commemorative pens will be sent shortly.

Follow me on Twitter@BowmanOutside.

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