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Liz Johnson poised to repeat as PWBA Player of the Year

It’s not a shock to see United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, New York, looking to earn player-of-the-year honors on the Professional Women’s Bowling Association Tour for the second consecutive year as the 2016 PWBA heads into its final event.

The 2016 Smithfield PWBA Tour Championship takes place Sept. 1-4 at Uptown Alley in Midlothian, Virginia, and Johnson (pictured above) will enter the season-ending event leading the points list that determines PWBA Player of the Year.

As the points leader, she has one of the two automatic spots on the PWBA Tour Championship live TV show on CBS Sports Network on Sunday, Sept. 4, at 2 p.m. Eastern.

2016PWBA07RocioRestrepoColombia native Rocio Restrepo (right) of Louisville, Ohio, has earned the other semifinal spot and is the only player with a chance to overtake Johnson, who holds a lead of just over 10,000 points.

“I had no idea what 2016 would bring after having an amazing season in 2015,” Johnson said. “That was very tough to top. The potential of getting back-to-back player of the year shows me I can still compete, grind out and succeed at the highest level, week in and week out, playing on all types of conditions. I am very proud of that.”

Johnson has 104,650 points heading into the Smithfield PWBA Tour Championship and her points are set. Restrepo, meanwhile, still can add to her 94,025 points total based on her performance in the finals of the PWBA St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open, which will air on CBS Sports Network on Tuesday at 9 p.m. Eastern.

Restrepo made the stepladder finals of the PWBA St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open as the No. 2 seed and is guaranteed at least 10,000 points (already are part of her 94,025 total), but she could add an additional 2,000 points with a runner-up finish, or 5,000 more with a victory, to stay in striking distance of Johnson heading into the PWBA Tour Championship.

“That would be like the icing on the cake for this season,” Restrepo said about potentially winning player of the year. “I have had an amazing year so far. All these 16 years of training, sacrifices, dedication, injuries will be all worth it. I am excited to have a chance this year for player of the year, but what I have accomplished so far means everything to me.”

Restrepo missed a few events in 2015 to take her out of the races for player and rookie of the year, so she was determined to bowl every event this season.

“I honestly think that I learned a lot from last year,” said Restrepo, who won the 2016 PWBA Greater Detroit Open for her first career PWBA title. “I understood my equipment better, I knew what to expect. Most importantly, I now know I belong competing amongst the best of the best.”

Johnson also made a decision to dedicate herself to the 2016 PWBA season. Following the World Bowling Women’s Championships in December 2015, she retired from Team USA to focus on PWBA and Professional Bowlers Association events.

“I needed a balance on and off the lanes because I didn’t want to get burned out from traveling so much,” Johnson said. “I have been doing this for a long time, so I think that helped me focus on tour.”

Winning the PWBA Las Vegas Open helped kick-start her season, though Johnson admits it wasn’t one of her best tournaments as she struggled with her spare game. It would not be the first time she would struggle in 2016.

She described her performance at the PBA/PWBA Striking Against Breast Cancer Mixed Doubles as “probably one of my worst performances of my career” and followed it the next week by winning the U.S. Women’s Open.

“This season was tough, as the field and talent just keeps getting stronger and stronger,” Johnson said. “To be in the position I am in now, for a potential back-to-back player of the year, is something I never imagined, and I am just so proud of myself for being able to keep my head up and grind it out when things got tough.”

Restrepo expressed a similar sentiment, saying her season would not have been as successful without the support of her husband, parents, sponsors, coach and the fans.

“This would not be possible without the words of encouragement from every single one of them,” Restrepo said. “They have motivated me to be better in all aspects of my life. I don’t take anything I have done and accomplished for granted. I feel blessed to have a career in bowling and having the opportunity to touch the life of many others with what I do. I strive every day to be a better version of me.”

The 16-player PWBA Tour Championship field includes all eligible champions from the 2016 season with the remaining spots filled from the points list.

Competition starts Sept. 2 with the opening matches in the single-elimination match-play bracket. The best-of-five contests will be broadcast live on Xtra Frame, the exclusive online bowling channel for the Professional Bowlers Association, leading up to the TV finals on Sunday, Sept. 4 at 2 p.m. Eastern.

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Author: Herbert Bickel
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