ARLINGTON, Texas - When Germany's Birgit Noreiks won her first Professional Women's Bowling Association Tour title in 2017, she knew there were skeptics trying to devalue the performance because it came in a doubles event.
She spent the next four years working and striving to prove her critics wrong, and she did that Thursday night with a win at the 2021 PWBA Go Bowling Classic, the first event of the PWBA Summer Classic Series.
All rounds of the Go Bowling Classic at the International Training and Research Center were broadcast live on BowlTV, and Noreiks earned $10,000 for the victory.
"After the doubles title, I overheard people saying it didn't mean as much because it wasn't a singles win, so I've wanted to prove them wrong and show that I can win a singles event, too," said Noreiks, who won the 2017 Professional Bowlers Association/PWBA Striking Against Breast Cancer Mixed Doubles with Jason Sterner. "I'm really happy about that."
The 35-year-old right-hander entered the championship round as the No. 3 seed and won three matches on the way to the winner's circle, including a 228-177 title-tilt victory over top seed Dasha Kovalova of Ukraine.
Kovalova, a 27-year-old right-hander looking for her third win in 2021, averaged more than five pins better than anyone else in the field over 21 games, but her first strike in the finale didn't come until the sixth frame.
Noreiks was clean, but unable to double, so good count and spares from Kovalova kept the match close.
A 4-6-7-9-10 split from Kovalova in the seventh frame gave Noreiks the opportunity to pull ahead, and she crossed the finish line with four consecutive strikes, starting in eighth frame.
Kovalova was the leader Wednesday after nine games of qualifying on the event's 43-foot oil pattern, and she turned in a 10-2 record in match play Thursday to earn the top spot in the finals by nearly 200 pins. She averaged 213.57 over 21 games and added 30 bonus pins for each win in the 12-game match-play round.
The effort marked Kovalova's third championship-round appearance in four events this year at the ITRC, but she has struggled there under the BowlTV lights, averaging just 173 in her three stepladder games.
She had finishes of 17th, third and fifth at the ITRC during the season-opening PWBA Kickoff Classic Series and went on to win the PWBA Twin Cities Open in Minnesota in April and the PWBA Louisville Open in June as the defending champion.
Despite her success in 2021, Kovalova continues to work on her game, both mentally and physically. Regardless of her finish Thursday, she's happy with her progress.
"I'm happy with how I've bowled so far this week and excited that I made it to the TV show," said Kovalova, a four-time PWBA Tour champion. "I definitely struggled a little my last block, though. I started losing ball reaction, and I was confused on my ball changes, so that's something I'll need to work on. Overall, I'm pretty happy with my performance, and I'm very happy for Birgit. This title was long overdue."
Noreiks earned her spot in the final with a 225-196 win over two-time PWBA Tour champion Jordan Richard of Maumee, Ohio.
The two were nearly even halfway through the match, before a 4-10 split from Richard in the sixth frame turned the momentum in Noreiks' favor. The German star struck on three of her last four shots, including the first shot of her final frame, which locked up the game.
In the opening match Thursday, Noreiks started with a double to grab an early lead, while England's Verity Crawley was slowed by two splits and a washout and struck just twice in the game. Noreiks advanced with a 204-157 victory.
Crawley, who missed the Kickoff Classic Series in January due to visa issues, quickly made her presence on the PWBA Tour known during the second swing of the season by winning the PWBA Greater Nashville Open in June for the first title of her career. She previously had four runner-up finishes.
While climbing the stepladder Thursday, Noreiks made sure to keep her attention on her own game.
"I just really tried to not watch anyone else," said Noreiks, who averaged 207.24 on the way to the finals and posted a 7-5 record in match play. "I wanted to focus on myself and keep doing what I was doing, which was repeating shots and making my spares. I'm really happy with the outcome, of course. I felt like it was about time, and I'm relieved that it happened."
The Go Bowling Classic is one of four events at the 2021 PWBA Summer Classic Series, which has brought players from more than a dozen countries to the ITRC. The field of 12 bowlers in match play Thursday featured competitors from nine countries.
The Summer Classic Series also will include the International Bowling Campus Classic, the BowlTV Classic and the Dallas/Fort Worth PWBA Regional.
All 56 players who competed in the Go Bowling Classic will return to the ITRC on Friday for nine games of qualifying at the IBC Classic. The top 12 bowlers will advance to match play, following the same format as the Go Bowling Classic.
The final national event of the week, the BowlTV Classic, will feature the top 24 players from the Go Bowling Classic and IBC Classic, based on their 18-game qualifying totals.
Total pinfall will drop at the start of the BowlTV Classic, and the 24 advancers will bowl 24 games of round-robin match play to determine the five bowlers for the stepladder finals, based on total pinfall and bonus pins.
The ITRC will host the PWBA Dallas/Fort Worth Regional on Sunday and feature an eight-game qualifying block, with the top four players, based on total pinfall, advancing to the stepladder finals.
Bowlers with PWBA national titles, as well as those who qualify for the BowlTV Classic, will not be eligible for the regional event.
Additional stepladders this week will take place Saturday (International Bowling Campus Classic), Sunday (Dallas/Fort Worth Regional) and Tuesday (BowlTV Classic). They'll all air live on BowlTV at 9 p.m. Eastern.
To learn more about the PWBA Tour, visit PWBA.com.
2021 PWBA Go Bowling Classic
At the International Training and Research Center
1, Birgit Noreiks, Germany, 657 (three games), $10,000
2, Dasha Kovalova, Ukraine, 177 (one game), $5,000
3, Jordan Richard, Maumee, Ohio, 196 (one game), $3,500
4, Verity Crawley, England, 157 (one game), $2,500
Match No. 1 - Noreiks def. Crawley, 204-157
Semifinal - Noreiks def. Richard, 225-196
Championship - Noreiks def. Kovalova, 228-177
(21 games, 30 bonus pins for a win, 15 bonus pins for a tie)
1, Dasha Kovalova, Ukraine, 10-2, 4,785. 2, Jordan Richard, Maumee, Ohio, 10-2, 4,602. 3, Birgit Noreiks, Germany, 7-5, 4,562. 4, Verity Crawley, England, 5-7, 4,504.
DID NOT ADVANCE
5, Julia Bond, Aurora, Ill., 4-8, 4,489, $2,000. 6, Valerie Bercier, Muskegon, Mich., 7-5, 4,482, $1,750. 7, Daria Pajak, Poland, 6-6, 4,427, $1,650. 8, Shalin Zulkifli, Malaysia, 6-6, 4,423, $1,600. 9, Diana Zavjalova, Latvia, 7-5, 4,420, $1,550. 10, Lauren Pate, Fairview Heights, Ill., 4-8, 4,312, $1,500.
11, Rocio Restrepo, Uniontown, Ohio, 4-8, 4,305, $1,450. 12, Sydney Brummett, Fort Wayne, Ind., 2-10, 4,212, $1,400.