ROHNERT PARK, Calif. - Slow and steady easily could've described Josie Barnes of Hermitage, Tennessee, and her climb up the leaderboard at the 2021 U.S. Women's Open over the last five days, but it was an explosive finish that rocketed her to the top of the standings and guaranteed her a chance to bowl for the biggest prize in the history of professional women's bowling.
The championship round of the 2021 U.S. Women's Open will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Eastern. The winner will take home the second major title of the 2021 Professional Women's Bowling Association Tour season, the event's coveted green jacket and iconic trophy, and a record $100,000 top prize.
As the top seed for the finals, Barnes is guaranteed at least $50,000.
The 33-year-old right-hander entered Monday's position round at Double Decker Lanes 65 pins behind Singapore's Cherie Tan and needing to win the final game by 36 pins on a pair of lanes she'd struggled on a few games before.
Barnes was able to strike on five of her last six shots, including three in her 10th frame, to force Tan to throw a double of her own to maintain the lead. The 33-year-old left-hander left a 7 pin on her first offering to fall short, 214-174, and the 30 bonus pins for the win pushed Barnes ahead by five pins.
"I didn't have any expectations coming into this week because my season was pretty subpar, and I never really gave myself a chance to think about what this would feel like," Barnes said. "I bowled in the 160s on that last pair a few games before, so I didn't know if I'd be able to get enough to go around Cherie. Halfway through the game, when I knew I was going to make the show, my thoughts shifted a little bit. I just told myself to focus on making shots my daughter would be proud of, and that kept me calm the rest of the way."
After 56 games across four oil patterns, Barnes finished with a 12,003 total, which included 30 bonus pins for each of her 16 wins in match play. She averaged 205.5 for the week and rolled to a 16-7-1 record.
Over the previous six rounds, she was 56th, tied for 32nd, 19th, 13th, fourth and fifth, respectively.
Tan, who was the leader after four of the seven rounds, will enter the stepladder as the No. 2 seed. She had the highest overall average among the 24 bowlers in match play (207.29) and posted a 13-11 record on the way to a 11,998 total.
Shannon Pluhowsky of Dayton, Ohio, qualified third with 11,950, Latvia's Diana Zavjalova was fourth with 11,926 and 2021 PWBA Rookie of the Year front-runner Stephanie Zavala of Downey, California, used her own clutch finish to secure the fifth spot with a 11,875 total.
Barnes' daughter, Lisa Ruth, with husband, Kyle, may not be old enough to completely understand what's happening, but she'll likely be thrilled to see Barnes on TV, and she'll definitely be excited to welcome her home, win or lose.
Also knowing she has the security of a full-time job at home takes some of the pressure off Barnes, who is looking for her first major victory and fourth PWBA Tour title overall.
"I'm going to try to keep the same mentality I've had all week, which has been to give what has been a pretty crummy season a respectable finish," said Barnes, the associate head coach for the Vanderbilt bowling program. "I'm humbled and appreciative of the support and security I have at home with my family and my job, but I also can admit that $100,000 sounds pretty amazing. Plus, it's the U.S. Open. Who wouldn't love to win the U.S. Open?"
Tan is a two-time PWBA Tour champion and won the 2019 PWBA Players Championship for her first major.
She and Pluhowsky were two of the three left-handers in the 71-player field this week at the U.S. Women's Open, while she and Zavjalova each are looking to become the first foreign player to win the event since Japan's Shinobu Saitoh accomplished the feat in 1982.
Pluhowsky, the 2006 United States Bowling Congress Queens champion, was the runner-up at the 2016 U.S. Women's Open after surging from 24th place to the top seed for the TV show. She's still looking for her first win since the relaunch of the PWBA Tour in 2015.
Zavjalova, a two-time winner at the USBC Queens, is searching for some redemption after finishing sixth at the U.S. Women's Open in 2019.
Zavala, who already has collected two wins this year during her rookie campaign, is less than 500 miles from home and looking to ride the momentum of her own exciting position-round win Monday.
The 25-year-old struck in the ninth frame, and on the first shot of her 10th frame, to outdistance two-time reigning PWBA Player of the Year Shannon O'Keefe of Shiloh, Illinois, for the No. 5 spot in the championship round.
Zavala had split two consecutive times on the left lane, which is where she finished the match. The two were just one pin apart heading into the final game.
Zavjalova and Zavala will face off in the opening match Tuesday, marking the PWBA's return to the national TV spotlight for the first time since 2019. The winner will advance to meet Pluhowsky.
All rounds of qualifying and match play were broadcast on BowlTV.com.
The full field, representing 15 countries, bowled 24 games across three days and three oil patterns, before the cut to the top 24 for Round 4 and match play. A fourth lane condition was introduced for Round 4, match play and the championship round. Patterns this week ranged from 36-46 feet.
Defending champion Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, New York, finished eighth this week, missing the stepladder by 107 pins.
The overall prize fund for the 2021 U.S. Women's Open is nearly $284,000.
For more information on the U.S. Women's Open, visit BOWL.com/USWomensOpen.
2021 U.S. Women's Open
At Double Decker Lanes
Rohnert Park, Calif.
(56 games, 30 bonus pins for a win, 15 bonus pins for a tie)
1, Josie Barnes, Hermitage, Tenn., 16-7-1, 12,003. 2, Cherie Tan, Singapore, 13-11-0, 11,998. 3, Shannon Pluhowsky, Dayton, Ohio, 12-12-0, 11,950. 4, Diana Zavjalova, Latvia, 15-9-0, 11,926. 5, Stephanie Zavala, Downey, Calif., 16-8-0, 11,875.
TELEVISED STEPLADDER FINALS
(Will be live on CBS Sports Network on Tuesday from 7-9 p.m. Eastern)
Match No. 1: Zavjalova vs. Zavala
Match No. 2: Pluhowsky vs. Match No. 1 winner
Semifinal: Tan vs. Match No. 2 winner
Final: Barnes vs. Semifinal winner
DID NOT ADVANCE
6, Shannon O'Keefe, Shiloh, Ill., 14-9-1, 11,826, $9,000. 7, Bryanna Coté, Tucson, Ariz., 15-8-1, 11,801, $7,500. 8, Danielle McEwan, Stony Point, N.Y., 14-10-0, 11,768, $6,500. 9, Liz Johnson, Niagara Falls, N.Y., 15-9-0, 11,762, $6,000. 10, Valerie Bercier, Muskegon, Mich., 13-8-3, 11,761, $5,500. 11, Shayna Ng, Singapore, 12-12-0, 11,719, $4,250.
12, Birgit Noreiks, Germany, 15-9-0, 11,669, $4,000. 13, Clara Guerrero, Colombia, 11-12-1, 11,659, $3,750. 14, Dasha Kovalova, Ukraine, 11-13-0, 11,568, $3,500. 15, Missy Parkin, Laguna Hills, Calif., 11-13-0, 11,561, $3,400. 16(tie), Lindsay Boomershine, Perry, Utah, 9-15-0, and Breanna Clemmer, Clover, S.C., 9-14-1, 11,368, $3,250.
18, Verity Crawley, England, 12-12-0, 11,341, $3,100. 19, Jordan Richard, Maumee, Ohio, 8-16-0, 11,326, $3,000. 20, Misaki Mukotani, Japan, 9-14-1, 11,286, $2,900. 21, Taylor Bulthuis, Coral Springs, Fla., 13-10-1, 11,225, $2,850. 22, Daphne Tan, Singapore, 5-19-0, 11,165, $2,800.
23, Maria Bulanova, Russia, 9-15-0, 11,086, $2,750. 24, Daria Pajak, Poland, 6-18-0, 11,027, $2,700.