ARLINGTON, Texas - Certain milestones in a Team USA member's career elicit feelings that can't be described and only can be understood by other members of the sport's most patriotic club.
The list, which may seem cliché, includes being introduced as a Team USA member for the first time, pulling on a jersey with USA on the back and standing atop the medal stand as the Star-Spangled Banner begins to play in an otherwise silent venue.
But, there's one rite of Team USA passage that might bring on more anxiety and a faster heartbeat than any other, and the Team USA women recently got to experience it as head coach Rod Ross announced the eight players who will represent the United States at a trio of upcoming international events.
Sydney Brummett of Fort Wayne, Indiana; Liz Kuhlkin of Schenectady, New York; Missy Parkin of Laguna Hills, California; Shannon Pluhowsky of Dayton, Ohio; Shannon O'Keefe of O'Fallon, Illinois; and Jordan Richard of Tipton, Michigan, will be the first to take to the skies when they travel to the 2018 Pan American Bowling Confederation Women's Championships in the Dominican Republic from Sept. 22-29.
Longtime team members Kelly Kulick of Union, New Jersey, and Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, New York, then will head to Rio De Janeiro for the PABCON Champion of Champions event Oct. 18-26.
The team's time on the road will conclude at the Sam's Town Bowling Center in Las Vegas, where O'Keefe will compete individually at the 2018 QubicaAMF Bowling World Cup from Nov. 4-11.
"Rod checks up on us throughout the (Professional Women's Bowling Association) Tour season and texts us to congratulate us on successes, but when the phone actually rings, and I see his name, it definitely makes my heart skip a beat or two," said O'Keefe, a 14-time member of Team USA who has won three dozen medals in international competition. "Getting the invitation to go represent our country never gets old, and I'm incredibly grateful. This time, we'll have some younger players joining us, so I'm looking forward to my role as a mentor as they make the transition from Junior Team USA to competing on the adult team for the first time."
Brummett, Kuhlkin and Richard all have won medals in stints with Junior Team USA, but they'll now make their competitive debuts with the adult team.
Even as a second-year member of the team, Brummett still is in awe each time she's in a room or at training camp with many of the women she looked up when she was a young competitor working her way through the bowling ranks.
She does grow more comfortable with each opportunity and interaction, but she admits she wasn't prepared when she saw Ross' name on her caller ID.
"I was at work and about to cover someone going on a break when I saw Rod's name pop up on my phone, and I really can't describe the feelings that came with seeing that," said Brummett, who earned a win at the Intercollegiate Singles Championships in 2017 while at Wichita State. "After I got the call, I sat and cried at my desk. This is something I've wanted for so long, but with as talented as the team is, it could've been any six players, so I guess I just wasn't expecting it this time."
With her collegiate days behind her, Brummett hopes her team-play experience with the Shockers will help make her a valuable teammate on the international stage. The 22-year-old right-hander isn't yet sure what her role will be at the PABCON Women's Championships, but she's ready to do whatever is needed.
Competing on the PWBA Tour, and spending more time with her Team USA teammates, has motivated Brummett to maximize her time on the lanes and in the gym. She's able to focus on her game thanks to a flexible work schedule in the admissions office at Wichita State.
O'Keefe's last appearance in the red, white and blue ended with a gutsy and inspirational performance at the 2017 World Bowling Championships, where she helped the Team USA women to a trios gold medal, despite being doubled over in pain from a kidney stone.
After a full recovery, she started 2018 with a win at the United States Bowling Congress Team USA Trials, which earned her the opportunity to represent Team USA at the 2018 QubicaAMF World Cup.
A pair of wins this year on the PWBA Tour, including the 2018 USBC Queens, have O'Keefe as the front-runner in the PWBA Player-of-the-Year race, and she hopes the constant preparation and recent momentum carry over to her international appearances.
Ross also noted the extra focus many of the players exhibited at their recent training camp, which came right in the middle of an intense PWBA Tour schedule.
"With the PWBA season in full swing and such a talented pool of young players, both on the Tour and within the Team USA program, the players are as focused and intense as I've ever seen," Ross said. "We've got a lot of bowling to do this year, and the 2019 World Women's Championships is right around the corner. I'm excited to see what this group is capable of."
The PABCON Women's Championships traditionally includes bowling for medals in six disciplines - singles, doubles, trios, team, all-events and Masters.
Team USA (men and women combined) has been dominant at past PABCON events, winning 275 total medals, 164 more than Mexico, which is second on the medal table with 111.
At the 2016 PABCON Adult Championships, which brought both the men's and women's teams to Cali, Colombia, the Team USA women came away with nine medals, including gold medals in singles (Parkin), trios (O'Keefe, Pluhowsky and Josie Barnes) and Masters (Pluhowsky).
For more information on Team USA, visit BOWL.com/TeamUSA