SOUTH GLENS FALLS, N.Y. - Two-time Professional Women's Bowling Association Tour champion Liz Kuhlkin of Schenectady, New York, is excited to represent upstate New York this week and hopes to break through for her first title of the 2021 season at the PWBA Albany Open.
The Albany Open will begin Thursday at Kingpin's Alley Family Fun Center with the event's official practice session, and competition will get underway Friday with two six-game qualifying rounds.
The top 32 athletes will advance and bowl another six-game block Saturday to determine the top 12 players, and a final six-game round will determine the four players for the stepladder finals, based on pinfall totals for 24 games.
The finals of the Albany Open will take place Saturday at 6 p.m. Eastern, with the winner taking home $10,000. All qualifying rounds, and the stepladder finals, will be broadcast live on BowlTV.com.
Kuhlkin, a 27-year-old right-hander, lives about 45 minutes from Kingpin's Alley Family Fun Center but is very familiar with the 42-lane center. She has competed in multiple events at the venue and is eager to bring her hometown crowd to see the top bowlers on the PWBA Tour.
"This is not my home center, but I've been to this center many, many times," said Kuhlkin, a four-time Team USA member. "I've bowled a lot of tournaments here, and I'm excited for this event to take place in the Capital Region. Our area just loves bowling, and we have a rich history in the sport. I think it's going to be cool for everyone to see the support upstate New York has for professional bowling."
The 2018 U.S. Women's Open champion will use those previous experiences at Kingpin's Alley Family Fun Center to her advantage when she can, but she's still going to stick to her same process in approaching the tournament.
"It's certainly beneficial to know some of the characteristics of the center before you walk in the door," Kuhlkin said. "I'm still going to treat this like any other tournament on tour, though. Things can happen, and the pattern can play a certain way, but I have that information in my back pocket if I need it."
Kuhlkin made her season debut at the PWBA Twin Cities Open in April, and she's quickly found her rhythm. She's recorded three top-10 finishes in five events in 2021, including a third-place finish at last month's United States Bowling Congress Queens, the first major of the season.
She was in the mix for a second consecutive championship-round appearance at last week's PWBA BVL Open in Farmingdale, New York, ultimately finishing in eighth place.
Kuhlkin's strong performances have helped her jump to 16th place on the PWBA's season-long points list, despite missing the first three events of the season at the PWBA Kickoff Classic Series in January.
She knows she'll have to make her way to the winner's circle if she wants a legitimate shot at the points-based PWBA Player of the Year award this season, and she feels confident and ready to put herself in that position each week.
"It was a tough decision to miss the events in January, but I'm sticking by it and glad I did it," Kuhlkin said. "I knew when I made that decision, looking at points and player of the year, I was going to have to win. With how I've been bowling, I feel that's very possible for the next couple of events. I hope the home crowd and extra support this week can give me that boost I may need to get to the top, but I feel like I'm at the point of my career where I'm out here to win."
In addition to the on-lane success, Kuhlkin also has been working to make healthier choices, and she feels that also has helped during her recent run on tour.
"I made a change in my lifestyle as far as my health and how I'm taking care of myself," Kuhlkin said. "I have lost 15 pounds since the (PWBA) Lincoln Open, and I feel it. I feel stronger and have had more stamina while competing, and I don't think it's a coincidence that I've been bowling so well. I'm looking forward to continuing the success this week with the hometown crowd."