LAS VEGAS - Since making Team USA for the first time more than a decade ago, Shannon O'Keefe has had her eye on the coveted QubicaAMF Bowling World Cup.
She watched her teammates hoist the prestigious trophy three consecutive times from 2004-2006 and then anxiously waited a dozen years for her opportunity to join them in the tournament record book.
The 39-year-old right-hander earned the chance to represent the United States this week at the 2018 QubicaAMF World Cup, and she did not waste the opportunity, despite one of the most frustrating and demanding weeks of her career, both mentally and physically.
O'Keefe's World Cup dream became a reality Saturday at the Sam's Town Bowling Center as she claimed the 2018 World Cup title with a dramatic 238-236 victory over Malaysia's Sin Li Jane. It marked the first time a woman was able to win the World Cup in her home country.
The win was emotional and bittersweet for O'Keefe, who then looked on as Team USA's Kyle Troup, the top seed on the men's side by more than 350 pins, lost a lopsided championship match against Australia's Sam Cooley, 244-163.
"I have wanted to bowl this tournament for 14 years, and to be able to bowl in it, let alone win, is a dream come true," said O'Keefe, who has been a Team USA member since 2005. "It was a frustrating week of trying so many different things, and I'm grateful for the fight that was instilled in me from a young age. I never gave up, and with the help of an amazing coach and teammate, I was fortunate enough to win this special event."
Though Sin had a commanding lead in the women's final, tossing six strikes in her first seven frames, O'Keefe rallied with four consecutive strikes, starting in the seventh frame. A 7 pin on her second offering in the final frame slowed O'Keefe's momentum, but it forced Sin to get any spare and a strike to win by a single pin.
Sin left, and converted, the 6-10 combination to start her 10th frame, but her final shot drifted high, leaving behind the 4-6-10 split, which secured the victory for O'Keefe and gave Malaysia its second consecutive runner-up finish at the event.
"This was an emotional week and something I can learn a lot from," O'Keefe said. "My mental toughness is something I've really worked on, and that includes being able to gather information, move past the bad and then take the good and be able to apply it. That's exactly what I did today. I put myself in position to win, and it worked out in my favor."
O'Keefe experienced some close calls on the way to the World Cup title, which included qualifying seventh for the eight-player round-robin match-play portion of the event and fourth for the four-player semifinal round, thanks to closing games of 227 and 247.
The reigning Professional Women's Bowling Association Player of the Year earned her meeting with Sin, a fellow PWBA champion, by defeating top-seeded Nadia Nuramalina of Indonesia, 247-202. Sin topped 2018 PWBA Tour Championship winner Maria Jose Rodriguez of Colombia, 207-166.
Troup's path to the title tilt featured few obstacles. He was able to use the same two balls for all 40 games leading up to the semifinals, he rolled a perfect game during qualifying - the 75th in tournament history - and he topped the leaderboard from start to finish.
In his two championship-round matches Saturday afternoon, Troup found the need to use a ball he hadn't thrown all week, which worked out well in a 264-216 semifinal win over nine-time World Cup participant Andres Gomez of Colombia, but he never was able to get anything going in the final against Cooley.
Troup's final game included a 7-10 split, two 9 pins - one of which he missed - and a 4-9 split. Cooley struck on his first four shots, and eight times in the first nine frames, to put the match away early. The Australian entered the final stage as the No. 2 seed, finishing the 40 games 366 pins behind Troup.
"My heart hurts for Kyle," O'Keefe said. "He was so dominant all week - a cool customer and so focused. He also was an awesome teammate for me, especially since I was struggling. He was there picking me up every night and talking through surface adjustments and lane play. He kept checking in on me and was such a stable support for me. This one is going to sting for a bit, but, hopefully, he can look at all the good this week and realize one game won't define him."
O'Keefe became the ninth woman from the United States to win the World Cup, and she was the first to do so since her Team USA teammates - Shannon Pluhowsky, Lynda Barnes and Diandra Asbaty - won three consecutive times from 2004-2006. The win marked the record 20th World Cup title for the United States.
Had Troup been able to finish the job, it would've been the second time in 54 years of World Cup history a country swept both titles, a feat Sweden accomplished in 1986.
Additionally, it would've been the third back-to-back victories for the Team USA men (1966-1967 and 2007-2008) and second time for a Team USA man to win the event in the United States. That first was accomplished by Robert Worrall in 1981. Jakob Butturff claimed the cup for Team USA in Hermosillo, Mexico, in 2017.
A first-time Team USA member, this week marked Troup's debut in a Team USA jersey. From here, he'll use this experience in helping the team find success at the upcoming 2018 World Bowling Men's Championships in Hong Kong.
"I couldn't have asked for too much better of a first event with Team USA, other than to win, of course," Troup said. "It was an incredible experience, from bowling well and leading the tournament to meeting new fans and players from other countries. Sam bowled a great final game and deserves to be the champion, but I'll also take a lot away from this week. I learned a lot while working with Rod (Ross), and I'm excited to go to the World Championships. Even though this one ended how it did and got away from me, I think we'll get it back in Hong Kong."
With the win, Cooley became the second man from Australia to claim the World Cup, joining Jason Belmonte, who won in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2011. Australia has won the women's title six times, most recently in 2007 to end Team USA's quest for four consecutive titles.
Cooley was equally dominant in his semifinal match against 2006 World Cup champion Osku Palermaa of Finland, winning 240-203. Cooley, a 27-year-old right-hander, again struck on eight of his first nine shots to outdistance Palermaa.
"I really don't have any words for how this panned out in the end," said Cooley, who dedicated his win to his grandmother Maria, who died recently. "I was very happy to just make the show, and to go on and win it is indescribable. It's an amazing feeling."
This year's World Cup was the second of Cooley's career, an opportunity he earned by winning the Australian Open early in 2018. His World Cup debut came in Shanghai in 2016, where a disappointing finish left him in seventh place.
Though the United States did not win both titles Saturday at Sam's Town, Team USA's overall performance was enough to win another coveted award given to the country with the best combined finish.
"One of our goals was the country award, so earning that is incredibly special, too," Team USA head coach Rod Ross said. "It was great to see Shannon really turn it on today and come through in the end, but definitely disappointing for Kyle to bowl so well all week and come up short. Sam bowled that title match really well and earned it. Overall, it was a great week. It's tough with so many games and moves and countries. It's quite a grind. I'm pleased with how the team did, and we'll take this as a positive, especially as we head to Hong Kong for the World Championships."
All players this week bowled 24 qualifying games over three days (eight games each day), before the field was cut to the top 24 men and top 24 women, based on their 24-game pinfall totals. The advancing players bowled eight additional games Friday, before their 32-game totals determined the eight bowlers for match play.
Match play participants bowled eight games of round-robin match play, and 40-game pinfall totals, including 30 bonus pins for each match won, determined the four semifinalists in each division.
All rounds of competition this week were broadcast live on BowlTV.
This year's tournament marked a return to the 56-lane Sam's Town Bowling Center, where it was held in 2015, and included representatives from 83 countries - 81 men and 68 women. Each country is permitted to send one man and one woman.
The World Cup first was contested in 1965, and the tournament now is considered one of the sport's most prestigious singles titles.
For more information on Team USA, visit BOWL.com/TeamUSA.
For more information on the QubicaAMF World Cup, visit QubicaAMF.com.
2018 QUBICAAMF BOWLING WORLD CUP
At Sam's Town Bowling Center
Semifinals: (1) Kyle Troup, United States, def. (4) Andres Gomez, Colombia, 264-216; (2) Sam Cooley, Australia, def. (3) Osku Palermaa, Finland, 240-203.
Final: Cooley def. Troup, 244-163.
Semifinals: (4) Shannon O'Keefe, United States, def. (1) Nadia Nuramalina, Indonesia, 247-202; (3) Sin Li Jane, Malaysia, def. (2) Maria Jose Rodriguez, Colombia, 207-166.
Final: O'Keefe def. Sin, 238-236.