By Joe Jacquez
ROHNERT PARK, California - It's moving day at the 2021 U.S. Women's Open at Double Decker Lanes and the stakes not only could not be higher — they have never been higher. Someone is going to walk away with $100,000 dollars, what almost all players have described as "life changing money."
These ladies, who love what they do and work just as hard at their craft as their counterparts on the PBA Tour, had never competed for a six-figure check — that is until this week at only the most prestigious event in women's bowling.
After Friday's brutal qualifying round on the 40-foot flat pattern, the player on the bubble in 24th place entering Saturday's final round of qualifying, Maria Jose Rodriguez and other players near the cut line, including two players bowling on A-squad Valerie Bercier (22nd) and reigning U.S. Open champion Danielle McEwan, who sat in 21st entering the day.
The players that had to move on moving day knew what was at stake and their facial expressions and mannerisms did all the talking. The players were hanging on every shot, rolling their eyes and throwing their hands in the air on a bad shot and celebrating every good shot.
Bercier entered the day 50 under but put together an incredible block, shooting over 200 in six of her eight games, including a 256 in game three and another 256 in game seven. Despite a 188 in the final game, the Canadian native was 152 over for the day, jumping all the way into eighth at 152 over overall.
Bercier said she felt like she had a good look in practice, on what many players said was a very gettable 46-foot pattern, by going straight through the fronts, but she said her straight through the fronts may not be as straight as other people.
She said it's different because keeping the ball straighter in front of her has never been a strength of hers, but that is what she did during her block on Friday when she shot 247 in game seven, and to see the result made her really proud.
"I've been working so hard at it, I mean so hard," Bercier said.
Bercier said she doesn't try to think about the money or the stakes. She's obviously well aware of how big this tournament is any year, let alone this year, but Bercier has been writing in a journal this season because players are not allowed to have their phones with them while they bowl. Normally she will keep track of her scores on PinPal and include helpful reminders like where she is supposed to stand on a given lane, but before her block on Saturday, she wrote a very specific intention, something that would shape her mindset for the entire eight games.
"I just wrote ‘Post it, stay present and be the leader that you are,’" Bercier said.
Bercier said that while she doesn't look at scores before or after she bowls, it's still important to have an intention for the day and that is why she will glance at the standings.
Going into today, Bercier hoped to be at least 150 over, maybe average 210 or 215. Well, she did two pins better than that at 152 and with 24 games of match play still to come that offer 30 bonus pins per win.
In spite of her phenomenal block, Bercier's habit of ending on a low game carried over into Saturday. After shooting 172 to end Round 2 on Friday, Bercier shot 188, which, while not a bad game at the U.S. Open, wasn't how she wanted to end her day.
The 172 game haunted her all night, but she said she hasn't always known what move to make or what ball to use and that all weighs on her.
"It's a combination of trusting what I see and making adjustments sooner," Bercier said. "I think in the last game, you can grind it out, but when you 7-10, that's an open. I'm fine with 9-spare but that was my third 7-10 during the day and earlier in the day, I learned I had bad ball reaction and then I managed to make good decisions early on.
"So I think it's just a matter of some days you make good decisions all day, and some days you make some good decisions and some bad ones," Bercier said.
During a game in which she switched balls three times, Bercier had a 7-10 split and a wrap 10.
"I was like, ‘Of course,’" Bercier said.
But she did salvage out the 188, in part because she made a crucial 2-8 spare, which she was proud of given the circumstances. During that final game on 29 and 30, Bercier said if she got it in, it would sail and if she got it too far right, the ball wouldn't come back.
"It's almost like a house pattern and if you have the right ball in your hand you can use that to your advantage, but I didn't," Bercier said.
Bercier said bowling the first squad of the day helped with the pressure of cut day, but that doesn't mean it isn't there.
"I'm thankful that I was on A-squad because then I don't have the pressure of the atmosphere and I, oh gosh, it's exciting. I think it's more exciting when you are way in the cut because you don't really need to perform, but I really needed to perform and it's hard."
Josie Barnes also needed to perform, entering the day outside the cut number, but a great block vaulted her into 10th.
"I tried to never give up the pocket," Barnes said. "For me, I thought I was throwing the ball over my left toe, but for me I knew there was hold in the middle of the lane, and I took advantage of that."
Barnes was 185 over for the day and McEwan quietly took care of business, finishing 177 over and jumping all the way into fourth, behind tournament leader Cherrie Tan, Liz Johnson and Cote.
Tan, who had the left side to herself, went 413 over, averaging 246.
Dasha Kovalova had a low game of 180 and a high game of 237 and went from 3 over at the start to 118 over, good for sixth, ahead of Missy Parkin and Taylor Bulthuis. Bercier and Barnes rounded out the top 10 with one more squad of qualifying to go before match play.