GREEN BAY, Wis. - Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.
Fortunately, for Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, New York, not only was she good, she also had a certain lucky charm in attendance to help her to victory at the 2016 Professional Women's Bowling Association Wichita Open.
McEwan, who earned the No. 1 seed for the TV finals on the strength of a 1,543 match-play pinfall total, struck in five of the first seven frames en route to defeating Maria Jose Rodriguez of Austin, Texas, 210-171, at The Ashwaubenon Bowling Alley for her second career PWBA title.
Rodriguez was clean through four frames until she left a 4-6 split in the fifth, followed by a 7-10 split in the seventh frame, which stopped her momentum and left her trailing by 52 pins. A split in the eighth frame from McEwan could've made things interesting, but Rodriguez was unable to double in the ninth frame to put pressure on McEwan.
"Being the No 1 seed is hard," McEwan said. "You come out and have one game, and if its close or the other person shoots a big game, it almost feels like your hard work to get there is almost for nothing."
McEwan's rise to the top seed was not an easy one. With three games to go during the cashers' round June 4 at Wichita's Northrock Lanes, she found herself in 27th place, still searching for a consistent look on the challenging 41-foot Sport-Bowling lane condition and well outside the upcoming cut to the top 12 for match play.
In danger of missing her first match-play cut of the season, McEwan switched balls, made a slight adjustment and rolled games of 269, 237 and 247 for a 753 series, which allowed her to claim the 12th and final spot for match play.
From there, McEwan took things to another level, posting an 823 set for the first three games of match play and 1,099 for the first four.
"When I bowl, I try not to look at the scores too much for that reason," said McEwan, who won the 2015 Smithfield Tour Championship for her first PWBA title. "I just try to stay within myself, and as far as I'm concerned there's always hope I can figure it out. That's really paid off for me this year. There have been a lot of times I've been able to shoot a big game and put myself back in position, where if I was really counting, I'd be putting more pressure on myself."
Rodriguez, the No. 2 seed, earned her spot in the final match by defeating Syaidatul Hamidi of Malaysia, 218-180. Rodriguez was clean in the win, while Hamidi had two opens and struggled with pin carry.
In the opening match, Hamidi doubled in the 10th frame, on the strength of an eighth-frame ball change, to knock off No. 4 seed Shannon Pluhowsky of Dayton, Ohio, 190-180.
Pluhowsky, who finished the match first, spared in the ninth frame and needed to double and get nine pins to shut out Hamidi. She began the 10th frame with an eight-count spare, followed by a strike, which allowed Hamidi the chance to win the match.
While McEwan is more than capable of winning on her own, considering her overall skill level, fundamentals and knowledge of the game, it certainly doesn't hurt to have a good luck charm in the crowd when competing. McEwan's mother, Susan Varano, was in attendance and now has witnessed McEwan's first two PWBA titles in person.
"It means the world to have her here," said McEwan, whose 823 in match play was the first 800 series by any player since the re-launch of the PWBA Tour in 2015. "All the Team USA girls tease her and say she's my good-luck charm. She always shows up at the right moments. Sometimes, it's going badly and we put her in the corner, but it always turns around. She wasn't there when I made the show at the Queens (2016), and I didn't win, so I'm going to make sure she gets a plane ticket when I make a show from now on."
The moment was not lost on Varano, who may want to give McEwan a cardboard cutout of herself as an early birthday present, just in case she's unable to make future TV finals. But for the PWBA Wichita Open finals, Varano had a front-row seat for her daughter's second professional title and she's had a lifetime first-class seat for McEwan's growth from youth bowler to collegiate star to PWBA standout.
"It's just unbelievable pride," Varano said. "I see how much she works at this. I see it day in and day out with what she eats, what she drinks and what she reads. She lives this. This is what she wants. After watching Kelly and Liz and Shannon and Stefanie and all of the best for all of these years, and to all of a sudden hear her name with them, it's a great feeling."
All qualifying and match-play rounds of the PWBA Wichita Open were held at Northrock Lanes in Wichita, Kansas, on June 3-4.
The stepladder finals were held June 26 at The Ashwaubenon Bowling Alley in conjunction with the Go Bowling PWBA Players Championship and the finals of the Pepsi PWBA Lincoln Open and PWBA Greater Detroit Open.
The Go Bowing PWBA Players Championship finals aired live on CBS Sports Network, while the Lincoln Open and Greater Detroit Open will air on CBS Sports Network on July 12 and July 19, respectively.
PWBA WICHITA OPEN
At The Ashwaubenon Bowling Alley, Green Bay, Wis.
1, Danielle McEwan, Stony Point, New York, 210 (one game), $10,000
2, Maria Jose Rodriguez, Austin, Texas, 389 (two games), $5,000
3, Syaidatul Hamidi, Malaysia, 370 (two games), $3,500
4, Shannon Pluhowsky, Dayton, Ohio, 180 (one game), $3,000
Match One - Hamidi def. Pluhowsky, 190-180
Semifinal - Rodriguez def. Hamidi, 218-180
Championship - McEwan def. Rodriguez, 210-171