HOUSTON, Texas – Remembering back to 1999, when Donna Conners decided to launch a tribute bowling tournament to honor the memory of her late friend, breast cancer victim Luci Bonneau, some people would say the event has now achieved success beyond Conners’ wildest dreams.
But that wouldn’t be true, because Donna Conners dreams big. The on-going success of the PBA-PWBA Xtra Frame Striking Against Breast Cancer Mixed Doubles tournament, sponsored by Storm, has made it the most successful tournament of its kind, but if Conners has her way, it still has room to get bigger and better.
For the third year in a row, bowling fans around the world will be able to follow the event from start to finish, live on PBA’s Xtra Frame online video-streaming service. To subscribe to Xtra Frame, xtraframe.tv. A three-day subscription is available for $3.99, a 30-day subscription is $7.99 and a full year XF Season Ticket costs less than $1.25 a week.
This year’s step forward involves a new home – Houston’s Copperfield Bowl – and a capacity field of 160 teams representing a stellar field of Professional Bowlers Association, Professional Women’s Bowlers Association, collegiate, amateur and international champions from 14 different countries (Aruba, Australia, Colombia, England, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Puerto Rico, Sweden, Ukraine, Venezuela plus the U.S.).
The field will attempt to de-throne two-time defending champions Shannon O’Keefe of O’Fallon, Ill., and Bill O’Neill of Langhorne, Pa. O’Keefe is a PWBA champion who also recently coached the McKendree University women to both NCAA and USBC Intercollegiate Team Championships. She will be trying for an unprecedented fifth women’s title in the tournament affectionately called “The Luci.” She and O’Neill, an eight-time PBA Tour titlist, will be trying for a fourth title as teammates, which would tie the tournament record currently held by Shannon Pluhowsky of Dayton, Ohio, and Tommy Jones of Simpsonville, S.C. Pluhowsky and Jones won the event in 2007, ’08, ’10 and ’11. O’Keefe and O’Neill won in 2013, ’15 and ’16, and O’Keefe also won in 2012 with her husband, Bryan.
While the tournament will feature the strongest mixed doubles field found anywhere in the world, it also will include a number of grassroots league bowlers who have participated in the event since it began in 2000 in support of Conners’ cause. The tournament, which also features an exceptional pro-am, has surpassed $800,000 in contributions for breast cancer research and assistance for those who may not be able to afford proper care.
Balancing her fund-raising goals, Conners continues to enhance the tournament to attract a large contingent of world-class competitors. The $15,000 guaranteed first prize for the winning team is a nice carrot to dangle in front of the players, but bowlers from around the world show up regardless of the prize money to support the cause named for a beloved former competitor. The winners, if PBA and/or PWBA members, also will win PBA and/or PWBA Tour titles.
Amateur bowlers also play a significant role, bowling with PBA and PWBA stars as pro-am partners for a variety of merchandise prizes donated by a number of Houston area retailers, bowling industry companies and the players themselves. All of the activities are aimed at raising money for The Rose, a Houston-based organization that helps women who can’t afford breast care treatment or mammograms, and the Huntsman Group, a cancer research based in Utah.
The tournament gets underway with practice sessions Thursday at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Competition begins Friday and Saturday with qualifying squads bowling seven games. Forty teams will bowl at 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. on each day, with the top 40 teams after all four squads advancing to Sunday’s five-game cashers’ round at 8:30 a.m. After 12 games, the top eight teams will advance to the eight-game round-robin match play finals at 12:30 p.m. Final standings will be based on total pinfall for 20 combined team games (40 individual games).
“My mission statement is that you have to have players to bowl the tournament. If you don’t have the players, you don’t have a pro-am,” Conners said. “If you don’t have a pro-am, you can’t raise money. It’s all about the players. That’s the rule we live by. The players are great; they make it happen.”
For those who would like to support Conners’ efforts, but can’t attend the event, visit http://www.strikingagainstbreastcancer.org/ to make a contribution online.
PBA/PWBA XTRA FRAME STRIKING AGAINST BREAST CANCER MIXED DOUBLES SCHEDULE
Bowl on Bellaire, Houston, Texas, July 27-30
Thursday, July 27
9 a.m. and 1 p.m. – Open practice sessions
Friday, July 28
8 a.m. – A Squad, 7 qualifying games
2 p.m. – B Squad, 7 qualifying games
8 p.m. – Pro-am squad
Saturday, July 29
8 a.m. – C Squad, 7 qualifying games
2 p.m. – D Squad, 7 qualifying games
Top 40 teams after 7 games advance to cashers’ round
8 p.m. – Pro-am squad
Sunday, July 30
8:30 a.m. – Top 38 teams, 5-game cashers’ round
Top 8 teams after 12 games advance to round-robin match play
12:30 – Top 8 teams, 8 games round robin match play
HISTORY OF STRIKING AGAINST BREAST CANCER
(LUCI BONNEAU MEMORIAL) MIXED DOUBLES WINNERS
2000 – Donna Conners/Mark Scroggins
2001 – Amy Dillon/Chris Barnes
2002 – Diandra (Hyman) Asbaty/Dino Castillo
2003 – Genie Franklin/Wes Malott
2004 – Krystal Scott/Russ Wilson
2005 – Rachel Perez/Paul Fleming
2006 – Carolyn Dorin-Ballard/Marc Laracuente
2007 – Shannon Pluhowsky/Tommy Jones
2008 – Shannon Pluhowsky/Tommy Jones
2009 – Carolyn Dorin-Ballard/Parker Bohn III
2010 – Shannon Pluhowsky/Tommy Jones
2011 – Shannon Pluhowsky/Tommy Jones
2012 – Shannon O’Keefe/Bryan O’Keefe
2013 – Shannon O’Keefe/Bill O’Neill
2014 – Missy Parkin/Scott Norton
2015 – Shannon O’Keefe/Bill O’Neill
2016 – Shannon O’Keefe/Bill O’Neill