NORTH BRUNSWICK, N.J. - Shannon O'Keefe of O'Fallon, Ill., finished her day with two big games to surge into the lead after the first round of qualifying at the 2015 Bowlmor AMF U.S. Women's Open.
The 11-time Team USA member posted games of 276 and 256 to outlast more than a half dozen of the top female bowlers in the world who had a shot at the top spot heading into the final game Tuesday at Brunswick Zone Carolier.
O'Keefe averaged more than 230 on the way to a 1,842 total for her eight games. She was followed by Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, N.Y. (1,804), Singapore's Daphne Tan (1,789), defending champion Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, N.Y. (1,783) and Kristina Wendell of Kingston, N.Y. (1,756).
"My main goal was to come in and get off to a good start, and I really like when I can get left and play a little deeper," O'Keefe said. "I'm very comfortable doing that and was able to take advantage when I finally saw that today."
O'Keefe has found regular success at the U.S. Women's Open since its return in 2007, collecting six top-12 finishes, including a runner-up effort in 2007. She credits her success to the event's longer format, which will be 56 games this year before the stepladder finalists are determined.
"I like the longer format and feel it allows me to really settle in and get an idea of what the lanes are doing," said O'Keefe, the head women's bowling coach at McKendree. "But, right now, it's way too early to get too excited. The first goal is to make the top 24. I will continue to work hard to separate myself as much as possible from 25th place. The girls out here are too talented to think I can just coast."
O'Keefe, a 36-year-old right-hander, picked up her first Professional Women's Bowling Association title last month at the PBA/PWBA Striking Against Breast Cancer Mixed Doubles with Bill O'Neill.
She'll lead the 153-player field at the U.S. Women's Open back onto the lanes at Brunswick Zone Carolier for the second qualifying round beginning Wednesday at 9 a.m. Eastern.
All competitors will bowl 24 qualifying games over three days, before the field is cut to the top 51 for eight additional games. The 32-game pinfall totals will determine the 24 players for the round-robin match-play portion of the tournament, after which, the top five will advance to the stepladder finals based on their 56-game totals.
This week's tournament is the final open event of the 2015 PWBA Tour schedule. All qualifying and match-play rounds will be broadcast live on Xtra Frame.
The televised finals are scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern on the CBS Sports Network, and the winner will take home a top prize of $50,000.
Bowlmor AMF, the largest operator of bowling centers in the world, is hosting and providing television sponsorship of more than $250,000 for the U.S. Women's Open and the 2015 Bowlmor AMF U.S. Open, which will be held at AMF Garland Lanes in suburban Dallas/Fort Worth from Nov. 2-8.