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Liz Johnson climbs up ladder to claim title in PWBA Players Championship

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United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer Liz Johnson of Deerfield, Illinois, once again confirmed her dominance on the Professional Women’s Bowling Association Tour by climbing the stepladder to win the 2017 Go Bowling PWBA Players Championship.

The 43-year-old right-hander (above with the trophy) opened the championship match Sunday at The Ashwaubenon Bowling Alley in Green Bay, Wisconsin, with six consecutive spares before striking on five of her last six shots to outdistance top seed Kelly Kulick of Union, New Jersey, 228-205.

The $20,000 win marked the ninth major victory of Johnson’s career and fourth since the return of the PWBA Tour in 2015. It also was the second time she’s hoisted the trophy at the PWBA Players Championship (2001) and her second major win at The Ashwaubenon Bowling Alley, where she won the USBC Queens in 2015.

“I can’t believe this, I’m in awe right now,” said Johnson, who was the runner-up to Colombia’s Clara Guerrero in last year’s event. “There’s just something about this house I really like. It treats me well, and I’m incredibly grateful.”

Johnson’s strategy all week in Green Bay included patience and focus on spare shooting, due to the challenge of the lane condition, which wasn’t revealed until the live TV show was on the air.

Spares kept her in the match against Kulick (right), a 40-year-old right-hander, until a ball change on the right lane late in the game earned her a momentum-shifting double.

A washout conversion in the seventh frame of her semifinal match against Lindsay Boomershine (left) of Perry, Utah, kept that game within reach. Johnson was able to fill 20 pins in the 10th frame to sneak by Boomershine, 181-178.

This week’s event was only the third tournament of the year for Boomershine, who had her first child, Aiden, in February and has been plagued by a knee injury.

The 31-year-old right-hander, who had a runner-up finish on the PWBA Tour in 2016, led by 10 pins at the halfway point Sunday against Johnson but opened twice in the back half of the game to give the two-time reigning PWBA Player of the Year the chance to steal the win.

Johnson started the day with five consecutive strikes before a 10 pin ended her run at perfection, but the string was enough to pull away from Malaysia’s Siti Safiyah (right) on the way to a 227-212 victory.

Safiyah, a 26-year-old right-hander who was looking to become the first player from the talented Malaysian contingent to claim a PWBA Tour title this season, struck on three of her last four shots to keep the pressure on Johnson, but the hall of famer started her final frame with a strike to lock up the match.

“Just getting to the show this week meant a lot because it was so tough, and the shot took me out of my comfort zone,” Johnson said. “Once I got comfortable, it was about making the shots, staying down and not over-throwing it. Some shots weren’t pretty, but they fell, and that’s all that matters.”

After finishing 13th in the season-opening QubicaAMF PWBA Sonoma County Open, Johnson went on to qualify for the championship round in six of the next seven events, including five in a row, which is one shy of the PWBA Tour record.

Johnson’s run includes a win at the PWBA Storm Sacramento Open and a runner-up finish at the 2017 United States Bowling Congress Queens. Two of her championship-round appearances will come in the three TV shows being taped for delayed broadcast Sunday at The Ashwaubenon Bowling Alley.

The trio of tapings will include the finals of the PWBA Wichita Open, Pepsi PWBA Lincoln Open and PWBA Greater Detroit Open, scheduled to air on July 4, 11 and 18, respectively.

Johnson qualified for the finals of the Wichita Open and Lincoln Open, where she’ll meet Kulick in the opening match. Safiyah also qualified for the Wichita Open as the second seed.

All 67 competitors at the 2017 Go Bowling PWBA Players Championship this week bowled 18 games of qualifying over two days to determine the 18 bowlers who advanced to round-robin match play.

Total pinfall for 36 games, including 30 bonus pins for each win in match play, determined the four finalists for the live TV finals.

All rounds of competition leading up to the stepladder finals of the 2017 Go Bowling PWBA Players Championship were broadcast on Xtra Frame, the exclusive online bowling channel for the Professional Bowlers Association. For subscription and schedule information click here.

For more information on the Go Bowling PWBA Players Championship, click here.

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2017 PWBA Tour Schedule

Go Bowling PWBA Players Championship (PWBA major)

The Ashwaubenon Bowling Alley in Green Bay, Wis., USA (June 21-25, 2017)

Championship Round:
1. Liz Johnson, Deerfield, Ill., 636 (3 games), $20,000
2. Kelly Kulick, Union, N.J., 205 (1 game), $10,000
3. Lindsay Boomershine, Perry, Utah, 178 (1 game), $6,000
4. Siti Safiyah, Malaysia, 212 (1 game), $5,000

Playoff Results:
First Match: No. 4 Johnson def. No. 3 Safiyah, 227-212
Semifinal Match: Johnson def. No. 2 Boomershine, 181-178
Championship: Johnson def. No. 1 Kulick, 228-205.

Herbert Bickel

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