Thursday, September 17, 2015

The 2015 PWBA Tour Season - the Good, the Bad and the Memories

Looking back on my first PWBA Tour experience, there were definite highs and lows and many amazing memories made all along the way.

My fondest bowling memory by far was the PWBA Sacramento Open. Although the first day of the tournament was definitely the longest day of bowling in my entire life (we started with a 9am practice session and didn't leave the pro-am until after midnight), it was also the most invigorating. 

It was one of the biggest spectator crowds of the season, with hardly any room to walk inside the center. I got to throw out the first ball of the tournament, alongside Hall of Famer Betty Morris and a 7 year old little girl. Then, the roar of applause and cheering we received prior to starting the event nearly brought me to tears as it sunk in...the PWBA Tour was back!

In my home state and in front of my husband, parents, in-laws and friends, I went on to qualify for the stepladder finals and finished in 3rd place. 

I went on to make back-to-back stepladder finals also finishing in 3rd place at the next event - the PWBA Lubbock Sports Open.

Stepladder Finalist for the PWBA Lubbock Sports Open

I then hit a very rough patch as I started my LONG journey on the road. I left July 23rd and didn't return home until September 4th. Struggling with a few injuries after the first 2 events, I missed cashing in 3 tournaments in a row. 

Being injured, emotionally drained, homesick and combining all of that with having a lot of personal issues going on at home, it made for a definite rough few weeks. 

I must say that I wouldn't have stayed sane if it wasn't for my amazing roommates who were there for me through it all. I will forever be grateful to them for everything: our long car-ride conversations, late night chats, making me practice my Spanish and all of our fun "off days" made for one memorable first year out on the PWBA Tour. 

My Roommates: Maria Jose Rodriguez, Clara Guerrero and Sandra Gongora

After several sports massages, KT Tape, foam rolling, lots of stretching and my body just generally getting used to the shear amount of games we bowl, I finally physically started feeling better. I cashed in Lincoln, Nebraska and then came in 8th in Minnesota and 10th in Detroit, moving me up to 8th place in the point standings going into the U.S. Open. 

Despite my disappointment with my overall performance this season, I did manage to come in 12th place in the overall points standings and qualified for the Top 16 PWBA Tour Championship. 

Although I struggled for a majority of the season, I also learned a lot from my failures. I know where my weaknesses are and have quite a few things to work on going into next season.

However, the real story is this...women's bowling is back and it's bigger and better than ever!

Stay tuned! 

To check out all of the season-long stats for the PWBA Tour, click here.

PWBA Tour Championship

Despite having a rough tournament at the U.S. Women’s Open, I did manage to qualify as the No. 12 seed for the Top 16 finals of the Smithfield Foods PWBA Tour Championship.

Prior to the tournament, I was able to go home for a few days after 6 ½ very long weeks out on tour. While home, I got in some much needed rest, relaxation, beach time and of course a lot of practice.

Then it was off to the International Training and Research Center in Arlington, Texas for the culmination of the PWBA Tour. 

Luckily, at this event, my husband Drew was able to come and cheer me on. After an early morning and rushing around all day, we arrived and had our official practice session, followed by a reception and pro-am. 

The pattern for the PWBA Tour Championships was a 37’ pretty flat pattern. 

This event had a unique format in that the top 16 finalists were seeded into a bracket. The top 2 point leaders – Stefanie Johnson and Liz Johnson  were automatically seeded onto the televised finals. The No. 3 seed Kelly Kulick and No. 4 seed Diana Zavjalova both received a one round bye.

Each match was a Best of 5 single elimination format, meaning that the first bowler to win 3 games would advance to the next match and the loser would be eliminated from the tournament. 

Top 16 Finalists for the PWBA Tour Championship

I faced Shannon O’Keefe in the first round of matches. We bowled on lanes 5-6 which proved to be a tough pair. In the opening game, we both started out strong each throwing a turkey. Things quickly changed as Shannon had the front 7 strikes. I, being too far back and since total pins didn’t matter, decided to switch from my Track Paradox to try some other options for game 2. She easily won the first game 179 to 258.

Then in game 2, I switched to my New Columbia 300 Swerve and started out again with a turkey and had the lead until I left a very unfortunate pocket 6,7 which quickly changed the match. I had some carry issues and Shannon started stringing strikes and I ended up losing game two - 201 to 218.

In a do or die situation, I started out the next match throwing a great shot for a 2, 8, 10 and then chopping the 3, 6, 10. With what little ball reaction I had quickly diminishing, I changed back to my Paradox on the left lane and stayed with my Swerve on the right lane to try and pull the game out for a win. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, as I strung strikes from the 8th frame to the 1st shot in the 10th, but couldn’t get the 2nd strike in the 10th to put some pressure on Shannon. She won game three - 191 to 211 to quickly knock me out of the tournament.

Congratulations to Danielle McEwan for qualifying as the No. 5 seed, winning all of her matches and running the stepladder finals to win her first PWBA Tour Title! 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The U.S. Women's Open

Waking up early to catch a morning flight after bowling 16 games the day before (and throwing a majority of more than one shot a frame) was a bit tough. However, I made it safely to Newark, NJ (sleeping the entire flight of course.) thank goodness I can sleep on planes! 

Being the first to arrive out of my roomies, I got the rental car and then had a couple of hours to kill. So what did I do? Coincidentally there was an outlet mall only 7 minutes away and off I went. The rest of the day was a lazy Sunday, resting up for the start of the U.S. Open. 

Prior to the start of the practice session the next day, my roommates and I had a little fun celebrating the last week all together. 

My Roomies - Maria Jose Rodriguez, Clara Guerrero and Sandra Gongora
The lane pattern for the U.S. Open was 39' using the ice oil. The lanes seemed very playable and I had a variety of bowling balls that looked good. However, that quickly changed when the tournament actually started. 

Moving from pair to pair at Brunswick Zone Carolier Lanes is always difficult because each section of the house can be very different from the last. Having bowled there enough times, I had my notes on the center ready and was open minded about lane play. 

Well, the first block of qualifying started out about as bad as it can get. Not being able to stay out of trouble and leaving split after split after split using 3 or 4 different balls, I shot 120. I can't even remember the last time I bowled a games that low. 

Although I was slightly in panic mode after game 1, I knew that this tournament was a marathon not a sprint. So I had plenty of games to make up for it. Unfortunately the rest of the block didn't go much better. I missed too many spares and didn't execute consistently enough. I ended up shooting -152, even with shooting 235 my last game.  

After a disastrous Day 1 of qualifying, I definitely needed to get my mind off of bowling and have some fun. So the girls and I went to NYC. It was Sandra's first time there and she was very excited. I played tour guide (although I've only been to the City 3-4 times prior.)

We went to Times Square. Then headed over to Radio City Music Hall and Rockefeller Center and went to the Observation deck at the Top of the Rock, 67 stories high. I had been to the top of the Empire State Building, but not Rockefeller Center. We had so much fun and got some amazing pictures. We ended the night walking along the famous 5th avenue and had some yummy NY pizza before heading back to NJ. 

The next day, we bowled on the burn squad, meaning they did not re-oil the lanes after the previous squad's 8 games of qualifying. I can't remember the last time, I bowled a burn squad when there would be a total of 16 games bowled without a re-oil. 

Luckily, I started out steady and kept the ball in play shooting +98 for that block, which was high for our entire squad. That put me at -54 overall. I used my Track LX16 and a newly drilled pin up Warrior for most of the block. 

After bowling, we had a quick dinner and then went to sleep, as we had to then turnaround and bowl our final 8 games of qualifying early in the morning.

All I can say about the final block of qualifying is that I did not match up, missed too many spares and did not execute to my ability. Even though the lanes were extremely challenging, which I love, I couldn't seem to get anything together. 

I ended up in 60th place at this year's U.S. Women's Open and missed the cut to the cashers round of 51 people. 

Am I disappointed? Of course! But with failure, comes learning and with learning and hard work comes success. I guess if we always bowl well all of the time, then the wins wouldn't be as sweet. 

Even with my disastrous performance at the U.S. Open, I still managed to qualify for the Top 16 Players Championship next week in Arlington, Texas. A few days of rest at home, as well as a lot of practice and then I'm off again for the last stop of the PWBA Tour.

Stay tuned...

A Fun Week in Detroit

After the PWBA Minnesota Open, I flew directly to Detroit. My roomies had the treacherous 17 hour drive from Minnesota back to Austin, Texas, before then flying to Detroit. 

During this time I was able to visit with a couple of my friends from Detroit as well as their furry friend Wrigley. 

They played tourist and gave me a tour of Birmingham and the greater Detroit area. It was an absolute blast and I greatly appreciated the hospitality! 

Later that week, prior to the PWBA Detroit Open, EBI set up a pro-am event with the ladies of the Detroit Athletic Club (DAC). 

On Tuesday night, we got to attend the Detroit Tigers baseball game and low and behold they were playing my Angels! I absolutely love Tiger stadium. I also thoroughly enjoyed going to the game, especially since the Angels won! 

On Wednesday morning, I had a much needed massage and enjoyed the amenities of the DAC. We then attended the yearly draft for the ladies' leagues and then bowled in the pro-am event at the 8-lane bowling center. 

I want to sincerely thank Tom Reaume for the gracious hospitality and all of the ladies from the DAC for such a fun night! 

The next day we started competition for the PWBA Detroit Open. We bowled on a 35' flat pattern using Kegel Fire oil. 

The lanes were tough and spare shooting was extremely important. I shot 198, 221,170, 222, 180 and 204 for -5 on the block. I used a Paradox, drilled with the pin very close to my axis, and an LX16. 

On our short break, I fixed one of my balls and quickly had lunch and then we were back out on the lanes again. Needing a good block to make the top 16, I had a horrific start, shooting 158, 187 and 189. But then brought it back shooting games of 223, 199 and 235 for -14 overall and qualified in 12th position for Matchplay. During the block I used two Paradox's. The same one I used the first block as well as this one. 

If you've been keeping up with my blog, then you should see a theme going on...paradox, paradox and yes paradox. I can't say enough good things about this ball! You definitely need one in your arsenal! 

During the first round of Matchplay, I started off very well, winning 5 out of 8 matches and being very close to the top 4 stepladder finals. The lanes were pretty different from block to block all tournament long, so during the first round of Matchplay, I used my Columbia 300 Disorder and N'Sane Antics as well as a Track LX16. 

 Needing a big last 8-game block, I unfortunately couldn't get matched up and only won 2 out of 8 matches. The ball that worked the best was a Columbia 300 Eruption Pro Orange. I finished the tournament in 10th place overall.

We then immediately flew to Newark, NJ for the start of the U.S. Women's Open. 

Until then...