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24th Malta Open Championships
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It may not roll off the tongue as well as a Top 40 hit, but it accurately describes the last four months for the competitors on the Professional Women’s Bowling Association Tour, which is about to put the finishing touches on a memorable season with the upcoming 2016 Smithfield PWBA Tour Championship.
Counting the trips home between events, when many of the tour’s players returned to work a few days at their “regular” jobs before hitting the road again, PWBA Tour regulars easily logged tens of thousands of miles this summer.
Just driving from stop to stop, from the season-opening PWBA Las Vegas Open to each of the 14 events this year, would have meant traveling nearly 10,000 miles, all while balancing work and home life, practice, and so much more.
But when the operation goes smoothly, there are rewards. Now, almost as if they’re cashing in on the PWBA Tour’s own frequent flier program, 16 of the year’s top performers have earned invitations to the season-ending Smithfield PWBA Tour Championship, which will take place at Uptown Alley in Midlothian, Virginia, from Sept. 1-4.
The 16-player field will include all eligible champions from the 2016 season, and the remaining spaces in the bracket will be filled from the points list.
Along with the $20,000 top prize and dream-come-true possibilities enjoyed by last year’s winner, Danielle McEwan (pictured) of Stony Point, New York, who claimed her first Tour title and major championship, the event has some great built-in storylines.
The 2016 PWBA Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year races will be decided on the lanes at Uptown Alley. Four countries – Colombia, Latvia, Singapore and the United States – will be represented at this year’s event. Several bowlers in the field will be in search of their first major titles, while others will be searching for their first official PWBA victories.
For McEwan, who earned her spot at the 2016 PWBA Tour Championship when she won this year’s PWBA Wichita Open, the scenario is a little bit different, as she’s now a Tour veteran with two complete seasons of experience on her side.
“Last year, it was almost impossible to set goals for the season because I had absolutely no idea what to expect from the first year of the Tour,” said McEwan, whose best regular-season finish in 2015 was a runner-up effort at the PWBA Topeka Open presented by Prairie Band Casino & Resort.
“I was just thrilled it was back and that I had the opportunity to compete in it. I was very happy to have accumulated enough points just to make it to the Tour Championship in the first place. Then, to be able to cap it off with a major win was unbelievable.”
Winning one of the 13 tournaments (as a PWBA member) this season also was a stress reliever for Team USA member Bryanna Coté, the only player to qualify for the inaugural Tour Championship in 2015 without making a championship-round appearance.
She took advantage of her first PWBA TV appearance by winning the PWBA Lexington Open (pictured right with the trophy) and guaranteed herself a trip to Midlothian. In fact, winning likely was her only route, after a slow start to the 2016 season.
“After struggling the first half of the season, it felt good to make my first show, but I also knew going into it that I had to win in order to make the Tour Championships, which is the ultimate season-ending goal of mine,” said Coté, who defeated Kelly Kulick of Union, New Jersey, 228-178, on CBS Sports Network for her first career win.
“Being able to focus on the task at hand and coming out with a win and bid into the Tour Championship was icing on the cake. It made me realize to never count yourself out, no matter how bad things may start. There’s always next time, and there was.”
Competition from the 2016 Smithfield PWBA Tour Championship will be broadcast live on Xtra Frame, the exclusive online bowling channel for the Professional Bowlers Association. The event will feature single-elimination head-to-head matches, with the finals being broadcast live on CBS Sports Network on Sept. 4 at 2 p.m. Eastern.
The top two players on the 2016 PWBA points list earn automatic spots on the TV show, while the third and fourth seeds will earn first-round byes based on their standing on the points list. The remaining 12 players will kick off the competition Sept. 2 with the first round of best-of-five matches.
For more information on the PWBA, click here.
3 – Shannon O’Keefe
2 – Liz Johnson
1 – Cherie Tan
Clara Juliana Guerrero
Top 20 with position and total points
1, Liz Johnson, 104,650
2, Rocio Restrepo, 94,025
3, Danielle McEwan, 92,875
4, Shannon Pluhowsky, 90,040
5, Clara Guerrero, 89,450
6, Shannon O’Keefe, 87,815
7, Kelly Kulick, 86,425
8, Stefanie Johnson, 78,530
9, Diana Zavjalova, 75,250
10, Jennifer Higgins, 56,025
11, Hui Fen New, 52,250
12, Amanda Greene, 50,595
13, Maria Jose Rodriguez, 50,300
14, Bryanna Cote, 45,055
15, Erin McCarthy, 49,927.5
16, Lindsay Boomershine, 49,620
17, Missy Parkin, 47,840
18, Carolyn Dorin-Ballard, 45,682.5
19, Leanne Hulsenberg, 44,267.5
20, Sandra Gongora, 43,572.5
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