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Bowler swaps music trips for shot at PWBA Tour

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It should not come as a surprise that Danaka Heekin was bowling in Saturday’s U.S. Women’s Open pre-tournament qualifier at Boardwalk Bowl in Orlando, Florida, as she’s made every stop of the PWBA Tour season in 2018.

Heekin (featured photo) was among the 26 bowlers to earn her spot in the field for the U.S. Women’s Open, which kicks off Monday with the opening round of qualifying. Xtra Frame, the online bowling channel of the Professional Bowlers Association, will carry all preliminary rounds, with CBS Sports Network having live coverage of the stepladder finals on Saturday, June 30 at 5 p.m. (Eastern).

Brenda Padilla (left) of Mansfield, Texas, led the eight-game qualifying event with a 1,676 pinfall total (209.5 average). The former Team USA member, who made a 2-10 split and three washouts to shoot 160 in a game that could have been much worse, said she just had to tell herself to stay in the moment.

For the complete PTQ results, click here.

“My key was to tell myself to make this your best shot now,” said Padilla, who worked with her sister, former Team USA coach Jeri Edwards, and USBC Gold coach Fred Borden earlier in the week. “It was really good to work the kinks out in a real setting instead of practice. I feel really good about my game right now.”

For the 25-year-old Heekin, Saturday’s qualifier was the continuation of what has been a unique learning experience. A competitive bowler in high school, she left the sport only to return a few seasons ago to bowl league with her dad.

“I have a really big support system at home, that just think I’m the best and wonder why I ever stopped bowling,” said Heekin, who lives in Woodinville, Washington. “I thought, ‘Why not go out and try and see how good you are against the best?’ I wanted to see where I was and then hoping, moving forward, to get a coach and maybe a sponsor.”

She said she’s feels lucky for the opportunity to be competing against the best women bowlers in the world. While she admits to being very competitive, she also wants to have fun along the way.

“To not get too hard on myself, I make individual goals,” she said. “It’s hard to be mad at yourself when you’re seeing improvement, even when you have setbacks, which I do. I just keep a good attitude; it just makes everything more enjoyable.”

While she has received some equipment and jerseys, she has been funding her dream of bowling on the PWBA Tour. She also happens to have a pretty large base of friends throughout the country and have leaned on them, when possible.

Heekin is a big fan of music festivals and has traveled all over. She said she works all winter and spring to earn the funds to travel and she has met many people and make many friends during her trips.

This summer, she told her friends she planned to bowl the PWBA Tour instead. They have not only come out to cheer her, but have helped her with housing during her time as a pro bowler.

“That’s one of the reasons I came out here, because I have a lot of people who believe in me,” Heekin said.

The U.S. Women’s Open will be her final tour stop this year, but that doesn’t mean she’s giving up on bowling professionally.

“It’s a learning experience this year, but I’m thinking about coming back next year,” she said. “I had no expectations, just have fun and see how I did against the best in the world. I know I can put it together and I think I have what it takes. I’m just lacking experience and a little bit of coaching.”

Her expectations for the U.S. Women’s Open?

“To bowl better than I did today,” Heekin said. “My expectations are to have fun because I bowl my best when I’m having fun.”

Competition at the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open starts Monday with the first of three days of qualifying. Competitors will bowl 24 games over three days, and the field then will be cut to the top 36 players for an eight-game cashers’ round. The 32-game pinfall totals will determine the 24 bowlers for round-robin match play. The 56-game totals, including 30 bonus pins for each win in match play, will decide the five players for the stepladder finals.

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Herbert Bickel

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