PALEMBANG, Indonesia - The 2019 QubicaAMF Bowling World Cup came to a close Saturday at the Jakabaring Sport City Bowling Center, and along with the event's prestigious trophies, this year's winners also earned some much-deserved redemption.
Australia's Rebecca Whiting was extra motivated after failing to make the top eight at last year's event, and she capped her fourth consecutive QubicaAMF World Cup appearance with a 172-162 victory over two-time champion Aumi Guerra of the Dominican Republic.
On the men's side, 2015 World Cup runner-up Francois Louw of South Africa, was dominant for nearly all 40 games this week and used years of competitive experience to help him remain focused in a 237-202 win over Indonesia's Ryan Lalisang.
In the women's title match, Whiting and Guerra combined for just six strikes. Neither player threw a double.
The decision came down to spare shooting, with Guerra missing single-pin spares in the seventh and ninth frames, a 10 pin and 4 pin, respectively, and Whiting converting the 2-4-10 split in the seventh frame to pull ahead.
Whiting could've doubled in her final frame to lock up the title, but she left a 7 pin on her first shot. A spare and a strike on her fill ball meant Guerra needed two strikes and nine pins to become the first woman to win three World Cup titles. She left a 10 pin on her first offering, giving Australia its first women's title since 2007.
"I can't even feel it right now, and I'm sure it will sink in tonight or tomorrow, but I honestly can't stop smiling or crying," said Whiting, a 29-year-old right-hander. "I couldn't even watch the 10th frame. I had to walk away because I knew if she bagged out, she'd get me. She's a great competitor and great supporter as well. I've gotten to know her over the years, and I'm proud to call her a friend. It was nice to have a friendly final match."
Whiting entered the knockout-style semifinals as the No. 3 seed and defeated No. 2 Natasha Roslan of Malaysia, 199-176, to earn the meeting with Guerra, who topped No. 1 qualifier Kelly Kulick of the United States in the other semifinal, 194-179.
The win was the ninth World Cup title for Australia overall. The women have won seven times, and the men have hoisted the trophy twice, including last year in Las Vegas, when Sam Cooley got the job done.
Louw's path to the 2019 World Cup title also was dramatic, but his two matches Saturday featured a lot more strikes.
The 33-year-old right-hander nearly led the event wire to wire, before a 155 game in a position-round loss, his second-lowest game of the week, dropped him from first place to the No. 4 seed for the semifinals.
Knowing he excelled on the fresh 41-foot oil pattern this week, Louw calmly redeemed himself with a 262-196 semifinal win against top-seeded Oliver Morig of Germany. That set up his meeting with No. 3 Lalisang, who ended Cooley's bid for back-to-back titles in a lopsided semifinal matchup, 239-158.
Louw and Lalisang both were lined up to start the title tilt, when a fourth-frame foul from Louw turned the momentum in Lalisang's favor.
The hometown standout, looking to become the fourth competitor in 55 editions of the event to win in his or her home country, had control of the match until failing to convert the 2-8 combination in the eighth frame. A 10 pin on the first shot of his final frame all but sealed the win for Louw.
Lalisang's runner-up finish was the best for an Indonesian player at the World Cup. He finished third at the 2009 tournament, and Nadia Nuramalina finished third in the women's division in 2018.
"I'm on the top of the world right now, and it feels incredible," said Louw, who made his fourth World Cup appearance. "I think that in some way, what happened in the position round helped me relax a little bit. I was able to keep my emotions in check, and I knew I had a good look on the fresh this week, so I never lost my confidence heading into the semifinals."
Despite Lalisang having the crowd behind him, Louw said he was able to draw on the experiences he's had in the famed Swedish League, where the fans and cheering are like nothing he's ever been a part of.
Even the uncharacteristic foul could not derail Louw's mindset.
"On the foul, I pured the shot, but after I let it go, I just kept sliding," Louw said. "I haven't fouled in 11 or 12 years, and it certainly didn't relax me at all, but I didn't think about it anymore after that. I stayed patient, and it paid off. I think my experience and success at this event also helped, and it was nice to finally get across the finish line."
The win was the first on the men's side for South Africa. Anne Jacobs earned the country its only other World Cup title with a win in 1994.
By virtue of their first- and third-place finishes, Whiting and Cooley also earned Australia the coveted Bent Petersen Country Award, which has been awarded to the country with the best combined finish each year since 1984.
Last year, the award went to the United States, as Shannon O'Keefe won the women's title and Kyle Troup was the runner-up to Cooley on the men's side.
Kulick and John Janawicz shouldered the responsibility of defending those titles this year in Indonesia, and while Kulick was able to pull away from the field on the way to the top seed for the semifinals, she simply was out-matched by the left lane in her semifinal match against Guerra.
In the game, Kulick struck just once in five opportunities on the left lane.
The other four attempts resulted in a 1-2-4-10 washout in the second frame, 3-6-10 combination in the fourth frame, 7-10 split in the sixth frame and the 1-2-4-6-10 washout in the 10th frame that allowed Guerra to claim a spot in the title match with a final-frame strike.
"I knew the lanes were playing a little different, so I was prepared for that, and part of my process was to stay down on each shot," Kulick said. "I thought I did that on the first shot in the 10th frame, but it never read it. If I had to rate that shot on a scale of 1-10, I'd give it an 8.5."
Kulick entered Saturday's eight-player match-play round with a six-pin advantage over Roslan but was able to build on that lead and claimed the top seed for the semifinals by a 189-pin margin, which included 120 bonus pins for her four wins in match play.
The United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer and 15-time Team USA member was making her World Cup debut, an honor she earned by winning the 2019 USBC Team USA Trials in January.
"The last two days were great, they really were," Kulick said. "My game is still very strong, though my mental game might need a little tweaking. But, I led the World Cup. I didn't win it, but I led it, and that's pretty special.
"To travel all the way to Indonesia to compete in such a prestigious tournament means a lot, too. It was a long journey to get here, but to meet the amazing people I've met and see this incredible arena has been unforgettable. I did myself and my country proud, and you never know, maybe I'll get another chance."
Janawicz finished 19th on the men's side this week.
All competitors at the 2019 World Cup, 73 men and 60 women representing 75 countries, bowled 24 games over four days (six games each day), before total pinfall determined the 24 men and 24 women who returned Friday for eight additional games.
Total pinfall for 32 games decided the eight men and eight women who advanced to Saturday's round-robin match play, and pinfall for 40 games, including bonus pins for each win in match play, determined the four semifinalists.
The World Cup first was contested in 1965, and the tournament now is considered one of the sport's most prestigious singles titles. It also is recognized as the largest event in the sport in terms of number of countries competing.
The last time the event was held in Indonesia was in 1980, when it visited Jakarta.
It was announced Saturday night that Kuwait will host the World Cup in 2020.
To see the complete schedule for the 2019 World Cup, visit QubicaAMF.com.