ARLINGTON, Texas - Jakob Butturff and Nick Pate are relatively new to the Team USA program, while longtime team members Shannon O'Keefe and Stefanie Johnson have traveled the world together and found success on the sport's biggest stages
Despite the differences in international experience, the four are about to stamp their passports together and experience something for the first time, as they head to Lima, Peru, to represent the United States at the 2019 Pan American Games, which will take place July 26 through Aug. 11.
The event traditionally brings together approximately 6,700 athletes and features 39 sports and 62 disciplines.
The bowling competition will be held July 25-30 at the Bowling Center of La Villa Deportiva Nacional (VIDENA). There will be 16 men's countries and 16 women's countries represented.
This year's Team USA representatives for the event held every four years earned their spots at the Pan Am Games by outdistancing their teammates in a two-part, point-based qualifying process that spanned more than three months.
Butturff is in his third year with Team USA, Pate is on the team for a second time and O'Keefe and Johnson have combined for 30 years - 15 each. They have been on the team each year since debuting together in 2005.
"Being a part of Team USA already is an amazing feeling, and getting the opportunity to represent your country for something like the Pan Am Games is an incredible honor," said Butturff, who won the 2017 United States Bowling Congress Team USA Trials. "It also will be my first time in South America, so in addition to showing everyone what Team USA can do, I'm also looking forward to experiencing a new place and culture."
Pate recently had a memorable international debut at the 2019 Pan American Bowling Confederation Men's Championships - the first event held at the Bowling Center of La Villa Deportiva Nacional - where he helped the United States to the team gold medal in record-setting fashion.
"It's definitely one of the greatest feelings ever to have qualified for the Pan Am Games and have a chance to represent Team USA at what essentially is bowling's Olympics," said Pate, a former collegiate standout at Midland University and the 2017 Intercollegiate Singles Championships winner. "I barely can put it into words and can't wait to get back to Peru. I bowled well there last time, and it was nice to see the hard work pay off. I've been working even harder since, and I feel like I'm throwing it the best I have in a long time. I'm feeling pretty confident going in."
The Pan Am stage will be extra special for O'Keefe because bowling is not the only sport in which she has been a top-tier competitor. At 15, before a career in bowling even was an idea, she tried out for the U.S. Olympic softball team, nearly making the squad.
Now, she'll have the chance to share the spotlight with thousands of athletes from a variety of sports and potentially have a chance to see them in action in Peru.
"Where I am in my career now, being one of the older players, I do have some bucket list items I want to accomplish, and the Pan Am Games is one of those, but for multiple reasons," O'Keefe said. "I tried out for the Olympic softball team when I was 15 and was really close to making it, but I always thought that would be my only opportunity to have an Olympic-type experience. But, here we are 25 years later, and I get to have that experience with someone who's like my sister."
Johnson is especially proud of the fact that she and O'Keefe qualified to represent Team USA at this year's Pan Am Games, while representatives for other international events, outside of the World Cup, are selected by the Team USA coaches.
"Honestly, it's pretty indescribable, especially having been on Team USA for 15 years and not being one of the players to qualify in the few opportunities we've had," Johnson said. "I know this is going to be an incredible experience, especially now that we're getting older.
"It's the icing on the cake to be able to do it with my best friend and represent our country in an experience that's as close to the Olympics as we have right now."
Since bowling was added to the Pan American Games in 1991, Team USA has won 21 of a possible 32 gold medals and claimed 35 medals overall, 20 more than the next-closest country.
Competition at the quadrennial event starts July 25 with doubles competition and will conclude with the singles medal round July 30.
Doubles will include 12 games over two days, and medalists will be determined by their total pinfall.
Singles will include 12 games of qualifying over two days, before the field is cut to the top eight bowlers in each division for match play. The top four bowlers after match play will advance to the knockout-style semifinals.
The initial part of Team USA's qualifying process for the Pan Am Games was a four-day, 24-game event, contested on four different World Bowling oil patterns, held at the International Training and Research Center in Arlington, Texas, in early March.
The men's qualifying concluded with the USBC Masters in Las Vegas at the end of March, and the women's qualifying wrapped up with the conclusion of the 2019 USBC Queens in Wichita, Kansas, in May.
For more information on Team USA, visit BOWL.com/TeamUSA.