ARLINGTON, Texas - The opportunity to compete on a professional women’s bowling tour is something Stefanie Johnson of Grand Prairie, Texas, thought might never happen, and she’s appreciative of the chance to showcase her skills.
When she arrives in Wichita, Kansas, for this week’s Professional Women’s Bowling Association Wichita Open, she will enter Northrock Lanes as the defending champion. The event kicks off with a practice session on Thursday at 5 p.m., and official competition will be Friday and Saturday.
The PWBA Wichita Open title was part of an amazing 2015 season for Johnson that ended with her claiming PWBA Rookie of the Year honors and just missing PWBA Player of the Year honors, too.
But, for Johnson, that was last year.
“I think you have to take each year one at a time,” Johnson said. “Last year was fantastic. It exceeded my expectations. I just want to come out here and do the same – enjoy myself and enjoy the ride. And just make sure I give my all and don’t leave anything on the table.”
Johnson led the 2015 PWBA Tour in match-play appearances (10) and made four championship-round appearances. But, Wichita will hold a special place because it was the site of her first PWBA title.
“I have some great memories in the center, even non-PWBA,” Johnson said. “It’s a new year, so I won’t approach it differently than the other events – I still have to qualify and bowl as many games as everyone else. But, it’s exciting because I know my picture is around and it was my first title. I bowled really well there, and I’m excited to go back and see what this year brings.”
Johnson, a 12-time Team USA member, has bowled with and against the best bowlers in the world. She understands the opportunity the PWBA Tour has provided her since its relaunch in 2015.
“It’s another chapter I never thought I would be able to open,” Johnson said. “We have so much support from sponsors, fans and the women participating. The fact I have the opportunity to be out here competing, I couldn’t do it without the support of my family, my employer, all the sponsors – everyone who allows me to do what I love.”
But, it is Johnson’s husband, Chris, a former Professional Bowlers Association Rookie of the Year, who has made her time on tour an easier proposition. He understands the process, what it entails, and he is glad to maintain the household while his wife lives her dream.
“He’s been the rock,” Johnson said. “It’s probably just as hard for them (Chris and their son, Levi) not throwing a bowling ball as it is for me out here. They want it so bad for me. They are checking in and letting me know everything is fine back home, so I don’t worry. That goes a long way, having that support. I wouldn’t be able to do it without them.”
2016 PWBA Wichita Open
Thursday, June 2
5 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.: Practice
Friday, June 3
8 a.m. – 9 a.m.: Practice
10:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.: Six games of qualifying
5 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.: Six games of qualifying
Saturday, June 4
8:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.: Cashers’ round – six games
1 p.m. – 4 p.m.: Round-robin match play – six games
5 p.m. – 6 p.m.: Group stepladder finals
7 p.m. – 9 p.m.: Pro-Am
Sunday, June 5
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.: Pro-Am