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Kelly Kulick earns top seed for Sonoma County Open finals



2016PWBATour02Finalists.jpgStatistically, Kelly Kulick of Union, New Jersey, had a terrific 2015 season on the Professional Women’s Bowling Association Tour, but there was one thing missing – a win.

Now, she’s in position to get that hurdle out of the way early in 2016 as the top seed for the stepladder finals of the Nationwide PWBA Sonoma County Open, which will be taped May 26 at The Orleans Bowling Center in Las Vegas and air Tuesday, June 14 on CBS Sports Network.

No. 1 through No. 4 seeds from right to left: Kelly Kulick, Shannon O’Keefe, New Hui Fen and Jennifer Higgins.

Kulick averaged more than 216 over 24 games Friday and Saturday and worked her way up the leaderboard at Double Decker Lanes in Rohnert Park, Calif., needing every possible frame along the way to find her way to the top.

She secured the No. 1 seed with a 183-171 position-round win against Latvia’s Diana Zavjalova, who started the event with a perfect game and stayed among the top two in the standings until a final-frame split allowed Kulick to pass her.

“I’m absolutely elated to be in this position and to be off to a strong start this season,” said Kulick, who was in the top five in all statistical categories last year and led the PWBA Tour with six championship-round appearances.

“I’ve been getting stronger and more confident on these shorter oil patterns, and I’m also getting more comfortable each week with these longer formats again.”

While Kulick was passing Zavjalova in Group A’s half of the match-play field, Team USA member Shannon O’Keefe of O’Fallon, Illinois, was surging to the top of the Group B standings to lock up the No. 2 spot for the televised finals.

Three additional players from each group advanced to an on-site group stepladder Saturday, with Singapore’s New Hui Fen and Jennifer Higgins of Westerville, Ohio, climbing their respective ladders to join Kulick and O’Keefe on the show.

In the Group A stepladder at Double Decker Lanes, New needed a mark in her final frame to defeat Zavjalova, and she delivered three strikes for a 213-198 win.

The Team Singapore standout earned the chance to face Zavjalova by defeating United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer Leanne Hulsenberg of Pleasant View, Utah, 201-200. Hulsenberg could’ve struck on her first shot in the 10th frame to win but left a 10 pin.

Higgins, who made back-to-back TV shows at the Queens in 2013 and 2014, downed Singapore’s Jazreel Tan, 185-163, to advance to the finals.

In the opening match of the Group B stepladder, Higgins threw four consecutive strikes in frames five through eight to give herself enough of a cushion in a 207-202 win over Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, New York.

Saturday’s competition kicked off with a six-game block that narrowed the field from the 32 cashers to the top 12 players for round-robin match play.

The match-play finalists were split into two groups, each featuring six players. Each group bowled six games of match play, including a final position round, to determine the top seeds and advancers to each group stepladder final.

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PWBA Sonoma County Open – Cashers’ Round

Players with position, hometown and 18-game total; top 12 advance

1, Diana Zavjalova, Latvia, 4,027
2, Jazreel Tan, Singapore, 3,961
3, Kelly Kulick, Union, N.J., 3,946
4, Danielle McEwan, Stony Point, N.Y., 3,928
5, New Hui Fen, Singapore, 3,889
6, Shannon O’Keefe, O’Fallon, Ill., 3,887
7, Leanne Hulsenberg, Pleasant View, Utah, 3,864
8, Maria Jose Rodriguez, Austin, Texas, 3,797
9, Liz Johnson, Cheektowaga, N.Y., 3,791
10, Jennifer Higgins, Westerville, Ohio, 3,774
11, Josie Earnest, Nashville, Tenn., 3,752
12, Shayna Ng, Singapore, 3,751

Missed Cut:
13, Clara Guerrero, Pflugerville, Texas, 3,734, $1,300
14, Felicia Wong, Canada, 3,724, $1,200
15, Sandra Gongora, Mexico, 3,721, $1,200
16, Ashly Galante, Palm Harbor, Fla., 3,689, $1,200
17, Anggie Ramirez-Perea, Austin, Texas, 3,675, $1,200
18, Daphne Tan, Singapore, 3,664, $1,200
19, Kayla Bandy, Salisbury, Md., 3,647, $1,200
20, Amanda Greene, Romney, W. Va., 3,643, $1,200
21, Elysia Current, Ephrata, Pa., 3,631, $1,200
22, Rocio Restrepo, Louisville, Ohio, 3,625, $1,200
23 Erin McCarthy, Omaha, Neb., and
(tie) Jacqueline Carbonetto, Blauvelt, N.Y., 3,590, $1,200
25, Kristina Wendell, Kingston, N.Y., 3,581, $1,200
26, Samantha Schaden, Baltimore, 3,558, $1,200
27, Jasmine Coleman (a), Manteca, Calif., 3,555, $1,200
28, Missy Parkin, Laguna Hills, Calif., 3,550, $1,200
29, Kaidee Sutphin, Mount Dora, Fla., 3,513, $1,200
30, T’nia Falbo, Greensburg, Pa., 3,501, $1,200
31, Bryanna Cote, Red Rock, Ariz., 3,500, $1,200
32, Wendy Macpherson, Henderson, Nev., 3,486, $1,200.

PWBA Sonoma County Open – Match Play Results

Players with position, hometown, match play record and 24-game total

Group A
1, Kelly Kulick, Union, N.J., 5-1-0, 5,356
(earns No. 1 seed for stepladder based on total pinfall)
2, Diana Zavjalova, Latvia, 1-4-1, 5,333 (advanced)
3, New Hui Fen, Singapore, 4-1-1, 5,292 (advanced)
4, Leanne Hulsenberg, Pleasant View, Utah, 2-4-0, 5,203 (advanced)
5, Liz Johnson, Cheektowaga, N.Y., 4-2-0, 5,166 (eliminated; earns $1,600)
6, Josie Earnest, Nashville, Tenn., 1-5-0, 4,871 (eliminated; earns $1,600)

Group A Stepladder
Semifinal: New def. Hulsenberg, 201-200
(Hulsenberg finishes tied for seventh; earns $1,900)
Final: New def. Zavjalova, 213-198
(New earns No. 3 seed for stepladder based on average; Zavjalova finishes tied for fifth; earns $2,100)

Group B
1, Shannon O’Keefe, O’Fallon, Ill., 4-2-0, 5,344
(earns No. 2 seed for stepladder based on total pinfall)
2, Jazreel Tan, Singapore, 3-3-0, 5,300 (advanced)
3, Danielle McEwan, Stony Point, N.Y., 2-4-0, 5,277 (advanced)
4, Jennifer Higgins, Westerville, Ohio, 5-1-0, 5,262 (advanced)
5, Shayna Ng, Singapore, 4-2-0, 5,090 (eliminated; earns $1,600)
6, Maria Jose Rodriguez, Austin, Texas, 0-6-0, 5,005 (eliminated; earns $1,600)

Group B Stepladder
Semifinal: Higgins def. McEwan, 207-202
(McEwan finishes tied for seventh; earns $1,900)
Final: Higgins def. Tan, 185-163
(Higgins earns No. 4 seed for stepladder based on average; Tan finishes tied for fifth; earns $2,100).

Televised Stepladder Finals

(Will be taped May 26; will air June 14 on CBS Sports Network)

First Match: No. 3 New vs. No. 4 Higgins
Second Match: No. 2 O’Keefe vs. Match No. 1 winner
Championship: No. 1 Kulick vs. Match No. 2 winner

Herbert Bickel

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