RENO, Nev. – Shannon Pluhowsky of Dayton, Ohio, captured her second major title, and first since 2006, in a dominating performance Sunday at the 2021 Professional Women’s Bowling Association Tour Championship.
The 39-year-old left-hander defeated Bryanna Coté of Tucson, Arizona, 244-178 to claim the final major of the 2021 PWBA Tour season. Pluhowsky earned $50,000 for the victory, and Coté collected $25,000 for her runner-up finish.
The stepladder finals of the Tour Championship were broadcast live from the National Bowling Stadium on CBS Sports Network.
Pluhowsky’s last win came at the 2006 United States Bowling Congress Queens, which also was held at the 78-lane venue.
“I finally did it,” said Pluhowsky, a 21-time Team USA member. “I finally got over that hump. I get asked that question a lot, and I can erase it now. Fifteen years is a long time, but it’s worth the wait.”
In the title match, Pluhowsky built the early advantage after connecting for four consecutive strikes, beginning in the second frame. Coté left back-to-back splits the first two times she bowled on the left lane and was unable to convert either. She struggled to find a consistent look on that lane to get back into the match, and Pluhowsky filled frames to pull away.
Pluhowsky, the No. 2 seed, looked comfortable under the bright lights in both of her wins Sunday. She started her semifinal match against Latvia’s Diana Zavjalova with 10 consecutive strikes, before a 6 pin ended her bid at a perfect game. It would’ve been the sixth 300 game during the championship round of a PWBA Tour event.
Pluhowsky averaged 266.5 on Sunday, defeating Zavjalova, 289-199.
“They were a little different, which typically happens on TV,” Pluhowsky said. “My ball reps told me to bowl my A game. I was able to throw it a little harder, so I could stay a little closer to it, and it worked out. I caught a couple lucky breaks, and you need that to win. I’ve had some bad luck on TV, but today was different.”
Pluhowsky has been a top competitor on the PWBA Tour since it relaunched in 2015, making 15 championship-round appearances prior to Sunday’s appearance at the Tour Championship.
She had been unable to turn those opportunities into victories, however, but a new approach has helped her enjoy each moment.
At the U.S. Women’s Open in August, she qualified for the stepladder and rolled 279 in her first match, before losing her ball reaction on the way to a third-place finish.
“I’ve had to work really hard,” Pluhowsky said. “I’m just trying to have fun. It’s not life or death anymore. I took it way too seriously and was trying too hard for too long. The last few times, I just tried to have fun. I lost my ball reaction at the U.S. Women’s Open and didn’t throw it the greatest in the second game, but here, I had a good look and tried to do what I needed to do.”
Sunday’s win also was special for Pluhowsky because she was able to share it with her wife, Carrie, and father, Nick.
“Things are looking up and really good,” Pluhowsky said. “We got married in July, and it means a lot that she’s able to travel with me. My dad flew in for the show, and he was worried he was going to jinx me. My mom was too nervous to come, so she stayed home. I wish the kids were here, but I’m glad he came and she’s here. It’s great.”
Coté was the top seed for Sunday’s stepladder after averaging more than 233 in match play Friday and Saturday, but she had trouble figuring out the left lane on the championship pair.
She noted some struggles on that lane earlier in the week during the finals of the PWBA Reno Classic, where she also was the top seed and finished as the runner-up to Stephanie Zavala of Downey, California.
“I feel like I had the right lane down pretty well, but I’m still trying to figure out what was happening on the left lane,” Coté said. “I struggled with it at the Reno Classic, too. I made some moves, but you only get five shots on each lane, and everything is a guessing game when you get lost in that position. Shannon was bowling great, and I had to try to find ways to strike.”
Coté still was able to collect some hardware Sunday. Her runner-up finish secured her spot at the top of the season-long points list, and it earned her PWBA Player of the Year honors for the first time in her career.
The 35-year-old right-hander collected her second career PWBA Tour title in January at the PWBA ITRC Classic, and she added three runner-up finishes in her six championship-round appearances during the season.
She entered the events in Reno this week eighth in points but quickly entered the conversation for the postseason award with her runner-up finish Tuesday.
“I had talked to my husband about it, and coming into Reno, we never even thought player of the year was on the table,” Coté said. “I knew the points were very close, especially with two regular events and a major to go, and things could shift around pretty easily. You can’t count out those ahead of you, though, because they’re there for a reason. All I could do was just bowl and try to bowl great. When I realized I was getting closer and put myself in position to be player of the year, I just stayed the course and tried to stay focused. If it was meant to be, it was meant to be.”
Zavjalova, a two-time major winner and four-time PWBA Tour champion, earned her spot in the semifinals with a 190-164 victory over Zavala, the 2021 PWBA Rookie of the Year.
Zavjalova took advantage of a missed single pin by Zavala in the eighth frame and rolled strikes on five of her last six shots to advance.
Zavala, a three-time winner during her rookie season, kicked off the stepladder with a 203-200 win over two-time PWBA Player of the Year Shannon O’Keefe of Shiloh, Illinois.
Zavala needed to fill 17 pins in her final frame to eliminate O’Keefe and struck on her first delivery. A nine-count on her second shot secured the victory.
O’Keefe entered the broadcast with the chance to earn the PWBA Player of the Year award for a third consecutive season, but she needed to record at least a fourth-place finish to force Coté to win the Tour Championship to earn enough competition points.
The Tour Championship was the third event of the PWBA Fall Classic Series, which also included the Reno Classic and PWBA Pepsi Classic.
After Zavala won the Reno Classic on Tuesday, Julia Bond of Aurora, Illinois, captured her third win of the year at the Pepsi Classic on Thursday.
The Tour Championship featured the top 24 athletes from the first two events of the Fall Classic Series. The combined qualifying totals from the Reno Classic and Pepsi Classic (24 games) determined the players to advance to the season-ending event.
Pinfall dropped at the beginning of the Tour Championship, which featured three eight-game blocks of round-robin match play Friday and Saturday. Total pinfall, including bonus pins for each victory, determined Sunday’s five finalists.
The 2021 PWBA Tour season featured 20 events, kicking off in January at the PWBA Kickoff Classic Series in Arlington, Texas.To learn more about the PWBA Tour, visit PWBA.com.
2021 PWBA Tour Championship
At National Bowling Stadium
1, Shannon Pluhowsky, Dayton, Ohio, 533 (two games), $50,000
2, Bryanna Coté, Tucson, Ariz., 178 (one game), $25,000
3, Diana Zavjalova, Latvia, 389 (two games), $15,000
4, Stephanie Zavala, Downey, Calif., 367 (two games), $12,000
5, Shannon O’Keefe, Shiloh, Ill., 200 (one game), $9,000
Match No. 1 – Zavala def. O’Keefe, 203-200
Match No. 2 – Zavjalova def. Zavala, 190-164
Semifinal – Pluhowsky def. Zavjalova, 289-199
Championship – Pluhowsky def. Coté, 244-178