KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- When 28-year-old Keri Wing won the Women’s World Pinball Championship in Las Vegas on March 28, some people weren’t surprised in the least.
“She is so amazing it’s ridiculous,” said Artie Scholes, the owner of the 403 Club in KCK. “Her flipper skills are just other-worldly.”
Wing has become a regular at pinball tournaments held at the 403 Club in the city’s Strawberry Hill neighborhood.
You could say she was born to become a pinball wizard.
“We’ve always had pinball machines at my house because my dad collects them,” Wing said.
“Little did we know that she grew up with a basement full of pinball machines,” Scholes said.
In the last couple of years, Wing has been turning heads while steadily climbing the state and national rankings for the International Flipper Pinball Association.
But winning the women’s world title solidified Wing’s lofty position in the competitive pinball circuit.
“It was very surreal, like it didn’t set in for a long time that I had actually won,” said Wing, who lives in Overland Park.
The distinction between men and women competitions in pinball is less about ability and more about encouraging women to participate.
Pinball has been enjoying a renaissance all across the nation after nearly going extinct in the 1990’s.
“Pinball kind of died,” Scholes said. “A lot of manufacturers quit making them.”
But now, a generation raised on screens and high-def video games are coming out in big numbers for this blinking, bouncing arcade game that evokes a simpler time.
“It’s the physics of pinball. It’s way different than any arcade game,” Scholes said. “You can’t replicate the same thing over and over again. You can but there’s a chance it’s not going to work like you think it’s going to work.”
Except so-called "pinheads" with phenomenal skills, like Wing.
“The main thing is going to be ball control,” Wing explained. “You want to be able to catch the ball (on your flipper) and line up your shot and shoot it. And that’s the part that takes practice.”
“She’s got something that a lot of us don’t,” Scholes said.
Wing will get another chance to shock the pinball world next month. As part of an exhibition in Seattle, Wing will compete against the Men’s World Pinball Champion.
“I was a little nervous but I also think it’s just going to be really fun,” Wing said. “So I’m trying to look forward to it and not be so nervous about it.”