LAS VEGAS - United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer Leanne Hulsenberg left the 2019 World Bowling Senior Championships with four gold medals, and each came with its own unique series of emotions.
The 52-year-old right-hander made her final climb to the top tier of the medal stand in the tournament-ending Masters event Monday at the South Point Bowling Plaza after defeating Sweden's Susanne Olsson, 2-1, in a see-saw best-of-three final.
Some spare-shooting miscues along the way nearly cost Hulsenberg the title, so she fought back the best way she knows how - by delivering nine strikes in the deciding game to win 268-176.
"Once you've been bowling for a few days, the old bowler in you kicks in, and you really want to complete your week," Hulsenberg said. "Your competitiveness comes out, and you're bowling for yourself, and it was kind of a nice finish for the event. I really wouldn't have been disappointed if I lost because all the matches were so close, and the bowlers are so great, but it does feel great to finish strong and have it end the way it did."
Hulsenberg started the opening game with three strikes, which gave her a comfortable lead heading into the final frames, despite leaving, and failing to convert, a 4-6-7 split in the sixth frame.
Additional unforced errors in the final two frames - a missed 3-6 combination in the ninth frame and a missed 10 pin in the 10th frame - gave Olsson a chance to win with a final-frame double.
Olsson struck on her first shot for her first double of the match, but she left a 9 pin on her second offering. Converting the spare left the game in a 181 tie and forced a series of one-ball roll-offs to determine who'd have the early advantage.
Both players left single pins on their first shots and struck on their second. Hulsenberg finally ended things with a strike on her third shot. Olsson left a 2 pin to fall behind, 1-0.
Olsson was dominant in Game 2, striking on seven of her first eight shots, while Hulsenberg missed a pair of single pins on the way to a 243-193 loss.
"I quickly had to put away my disgust from having two opens to almost give her the first game and change my mindset for the roll-off," Hulsenberg said. "It was a great roll-off, and I was fortunate. Overall, the whole match was great. She bowled well, played multiple parts of the lanes and changed balls. She made it very tough."
Hulsenberg said it took her some time to get comfortable in the Masters medal round, which started with a three-game match against her Senior Team USA teammate Sharon Powers.
After each won a game, the finale came down to the final frame, where Hulsenberg delivered a strike and a nine-count for a 212-209 victory. Powers won the first game 197-191, and Hulsenberg took the second game, 186-179.
"I didn't have the best feel in the semifinal, so I never got comfortable, but I was able to try some things and find something that worked, and I was fortunate to advance," Hulsenberg said. "Then, the adrenaline kicked in. Your nerves get going, and your hands get clammy, and you have to remind yourself to relax. When that happens, the spare shooting is the first thing to go. I get quick with my feet and yank it through."
Hulsenberg finished the week with gold medals in doubles, team, all-events and Masters. She did not make the medal round in singles, which also was motivating in itself.
The doubles win with Tish Johnson was redemption from a runner-up finish at the 2017 World Senior Championships in Munich, the team title with Johnson, Powers and Lucy Sandelin was a complete team effort and the second consecutive all-events gold medal was a nice bonus.
All four Masters semifinals and both finals went the maximum three games.
In the other women's semifinal, Olsson defeated Germany's Martina Beckel, 2-1 (234-184, 203-211, 213-191).
In the men's championship match at the South Point Bowling Plaza, Sweden's Tomas Leandersson stepped up needing a mark in his final frame to defeat Finland's Mika Koivuniemi, and the Swede struck to claim the gold medal.
Leandersson won two consecutive games by scores of 224-209 and 200-194 after dropping the opener, 204-156.
To earn his shot at the gold medal, Leandersson had to outlast four-time World Senior Championships participant Ron Mohr of the United States (238-224, 226-242, 221-204).
Koivuniemi, the all-events silver medalist this week, defeated teammate Kimmo Lehtonen in the other semifinal (201-209, 278-190, 226-211).
Mohr, Lehtonen, Powers and Beckel each received bronze medals for their Masters finishes.
"I'm really tired, but very pleased with our week," Mohr said. "We got the team gold, which is what we set out to do, and today was a nice way to end the event. I worked really hard to even get to the medal round and went up against one of the best bowlers in the world. I made it three rounds, which is great. I'm happy overall with two golds and a bronze, and I don't think I could've asked for much more than that."
The Masters event included the top 24 finishers in the all-events standings, based on their 18-game pinfall totals. All players this week bowled qualifying games in singles, doubles and team (six games each).
The top eight in the all-events standings each received a first-round bye, and the No. 9-24 qualifiers were seeded into a traditional bracket. The eight leaders were added to the mix starting in Step 2. All matches featured a best-of-three format.
The 2019 World Senior Championships began with nearly 260 competitors from 41 countries, who bowled for medals in singles, doubles, team, all-events and Masters competition.
To be eligible, bowlers must be 50 years of age or older during the year of the event.
The 41 countries represented this week in Las Vegas were Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, England, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malta, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, United States, Ukraine, Venezuela and Wales.
The United States topped the medal table this week with 11 medals, including seven golds, and was followed by Sweden (eight), Germany (five), Finland (four), Australia and Norway (three), Canada (two) and Malta and Japan (one).
Lennie Boresch Jr. was the top performer for the Senior Team USA men with gold medals in singles, doubles (with Mohr) and team, along with a bronze medal in all-events. Johnson added a singles bronze medal to the women's haul.
For more information on the 2019 World Senior Championships, visit WorldBowling.org.