ARLINGTON, Texas – As a 21-year-old Professional Women’s Bowling Association Tour rookie in 1996, Liz Johnson of Deerfield, Illinois, won her first U.S. Women’s Open title and the tour was immediately put on notice as the young rookie set the stage for what was sure to be an incredible career.
Now, Johnson, 43, will head to Plano, Texas, next week seeking her fourth consecutive and sixth overall U.S. Women’s Open title.
The U.S. Women’s Open will take place July 31- Aug. 6 at Plano Super Bowl. The event’s stepladder finals will be televised live Aug. 6 at noon Eastern on CBS Sports Network.
The event brings about a different challenge in terms of the format, as it takes 56 games to determine the five players who will make the stepladder finals. It’s designed to be tough and presents a specific challenge for the best players in the world.
While each year presents a unique challenge, it’s a challenge Johnson has met five times because of something she learned during her first win.
“I remember it being such a long tournament,” Johnson said. “That’s how a U.S. Women’s Open is supposed to be. It’s not supposed to be a cakewalk. It’s supposed to be a tough condition, and a marathon, like any other major tournament. What I’ve learned from my first event that’s made me so strong to now is patience, and you don’t take anything for granted.
“Try to get nine or a strike on 10th frame fill balls instead of six because that could be the difference in making a cut or making a TV show. It starts from the very first game, all the way to the 50th game. If you have a good game, awesome. If you have a bad game, shake it off and leave it there. You make every shot and every pin count. I think that’s what I’ve learned from 1996 all the way to 2017.”
The 2017 PWBA Tour season has been a great one for Johnson, as she leads the tour in points, earnings, match-play appearances, television appearances and is tied for the lead in cashes. She claimed her 20th and 21st professional titles earlier this season, including her ninth major, and has been the top player since the relaunch of the PWBA Tour.
Even she is somewhat surprised with the way the season has unfolded, considering the level of difficulty on Tour.
“I never would’ve thought this season, to this point, could’ve been any better than the 2015 and 2016 seasons,” Johnson said. “For as good as those two years were, this is probably the healthiest I’ve felt. One year was a knee, one year was an elbow, but this year has been pretty good.
“The fact that all of the patterns have been so tough week in and week out has been physically and mentally draining. But, so far, it’s been pretty amazing this year, finishing second at the (USBC) Queens, winning another major at the (Go Bowling) Players Championship and having two titles with seven shows. We still have a couple more weeks and hopefully I can finish it out strong.”
Johnson, a United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer, is the reigning two-time PWBA Player of the Year and could become the first player in PWBA history to win the award in three consecutive seasons. With a commanding lead in points, a solid showing at the U.S. Women’s Open could all but lock up the honor.
“Obviously, it’s not here yet, but I feel it can show age is just a number,” Johnson said. “You can be 25, you can be 35 or you could be 43, but you have to stay healthy, take care of yourself and be strong. I’ve had a good balance with my bowling life and my non-bowling life, and it’s helped me not get tired and burned out this year. Last year, I started to get a little burned out and that may have slowed me down toward the end.
“This year, I feel really good mentally. But, staying healthy is the key. When I’m home, I’m in the gym three to five days a week. I’ve had back issues most of my life, so I have to make sure I stay active physically. Whether it’s a physical therapist, massage therapist, chiropractor, they’ve always been keys to my success throughout my career.”
While Johnson has the inside track on player of the year, Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, New York, enters the U.S. Women’s Open riding a wave of momentum, and, if all goes to plan, could challenge Johnson for PWBA Player of the Year.
McEwan, a two-time PWBA champion, would need an excellent showing at the U.S. Women’s Open and she also has qualified for the television finals of the PWBA Orlando Open, PWBA St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open and the Nationwide PWBA Rochester Open. All three shows will be taped at Plano Super Bowl on Aug. 6. to air during the month of August.
She recently teamed with Kelly Kulick to win the silver medal in doubles at the World Games in Wroclaw, Poland, and McEwan said she now is feeling the best she’s felt physically compared to any point during the season.
It could be a big week for McEwan, who has two career top-five U.S. Women's Open finishes, and could potentially set up a “winner take all” scenario at the season-ending Smithfield PWBA Tour Championship in September at Richmond Raceway in Richmond, Virginia.
Prior to the kickoff of the U.S. Women’s Open, several PWBA players will be in action this weekend at the Storm PWBA/PBA Striking Against Breast Cancer Mixed Doubles tournament at Copperfield Bowl in Houston. The 18th edition of the event, also known as “The Luci,” runs from July 27-30, and features the best male and female bowlers, amateur and professional, in the world.
All qualifying and match play rounds of the Striking Against Breast Cancer Mixed Doubles and the U.S. Women’s Open can be watched live on Xtra Frame, the online bowling channel of the Professional Bowlers Association.
U.S. Women’s Open
At Plano Super Bowl, Plano, Texas
(All times local)
Monday, July 31: Practice session and Pro-Am
Practice Session 1
8 a.m. – A squad
8:50 a.m. - B squad
9:40 a.m. – C squad
Practice Session 2
11:30 a.m. – B squad
12:20 p.m. – C squad
1:10 p.m. – A squad
Practice Session 3
3 p.m. – C squad
3:50 p.m. – A squad
4:40 p.m. – B squad
7 p.m. – Pro-Am
Tuesday, Aug. 1: Qualifying Round One (Eight Games)
8 a.m. – A Squad (fresh)
1:15 p.m. – B Squad (burn)
6:30 p.m. – C Squad (double burn)
Wednesday, Aug. 2: Qualifying Round Two (Eight Games)
8 a.m. – B Squad (fresh)
1:15 p.m. – C Squad (burn)
6:30 p.m. – A Squad (double burn)
Thursday, Aug. 3: Qualifying Round Three (Eight Games)
8 a.m. – C Squad (fresh)
1:15 p.m. – A Squad (burn)
6:30 p.m. – B Squad (double burn)
The field is cut to the top 1/4
Friday, Aug. 4: Qualifying Round Four (Eight Games)
10 a.m. – Squad bowls eight games of qualifying (fresh)
The field is cut to the top 24
6 p.m. – Eight games of head-to-head match play (burn)
Saturday, Aug. 5
10 a.m. – Eight games of head-to-head match play (fresh)
5 p.m. – Eight games of head-to-head match play (burn)
Top five advance to TV stepladder finals
Sunday, Aug. 6
11 a.m. – Live stepladder finals on CBS Sports Network