By Joe Jacquez
ROHNERT PARK, California - “That was so cool.”
Such was Diana Zavjalova’s reaction after getting help from a violent messenger that whipped across the pin deck and took out the 10 pin during a surge up the standings in Sunday's final round of qualifying at the U.S. Women's Open at Double Decker Lanes.
No matter the pair she bowled on, the pins didn't stand a chance whenever Zavjalova's ball went down the lane.
The native of Latvia was the only player to knock down more than 1,730 pins during the block, going from 26th place into sixth in only eight games, after going 130 over for the round.
Known as "Zavy" on the tour, she bowled games of 226, 217, 227, 210, 244, 203, 203 and 200. She has a secret sauce that was the key to her success all day.
"Taking advantage of something I'm really good at, which is playing straight, but with a slower ball speed," Zavjalova said. "That is something that other girls seem to struggle with. I only moved two boards the entire eight games, which is incredible," she said.
That may be a sobering thought for the competition, as she posted that sizzling bloc on the only pattern the field will bowl on for the rest of the tournament.
Zavjalova said she had a very clear picture of what she was going to do on that 42-foot condition, the fourth of the four patterns used in the tournament.
"I knew exactly what I was going to do, and I was really smart with the ball changes," Zavjalova said.
Zavjalova said she was using four different bowling balls, including a Roto Grip Rubicon, Phase II and a 900 Global Reality.
Zavjalova has as good of a chance as anybody to win the U.S. Open. She's won majors before — twice at the USBC Queens in 2013 and 2017 — and knowing how dominant she was on the pattern that she will bowl on the rest of the tournament, that combination is a good one to bet on, at least on paper.
She managed to only win two of her eight matches in round one of match play, dropping her to 12th, but with two more rounds of match play still to come on Monday, a lot can change. This tournament is very much a marathon, not a sprint.
If she were to win the U.S. Open, she would become the first non-American player to win the tournament in 40 years.
Making a Big Move
Shannon O'Keefe quietly did Shannon O'Keefe things in round one of match play, going 4-3-1 with the help of her "best friend", her "trusty" GB3.
"What I saw based off the earlier eight games that moving left is enticing, but I felt like I had to be so perfect and my intel told me, ‘Diana bowled so well playing further right, I can do that,’ and I just had to make sure my surfaces were right."
After shooting 211 in a loss in the first game, but still feeling like she bowled well, O'Keefe said she didn't know what happened in the second game.
"I just got a little tight," O'Keefe said. "I don't know if the pair was a little tight, I started to throw it a little too hard. I'm not really sure, it just wasn't very good.
O'Keefe talked to her ball rep, Eric Krauss of Brunswick, and she said he felt like she was in no-man’s land. He told her she either had to move farther right or move further left. O'Keefe chose the former.
"Left this morning wasn't great," O'Keefe laughed. "It's easy to get in trouble. So I'm just going to trap it."
O'Keefe said she had such a good look and ball motion pair to pair earlier in the day playing farther right. But when she was playing further left on certain pairs, she didn't have a good look.
Once she found a good look playing farther right, O'Keefe was over the moon.
"I'm super excited for 16 more games," O'Keefe said. "I don't scoreboard watch, so I have no idea where I am at. But I just feel good and confident that my ball was doing all the right things."
O'Keefe said she tried to throw it slower but said it's hard for her.
"It's not as easy for me to do it as Diana, but for me, I was still softer," O'Keefe said. "But because my angles were so closed down and trapping the ball in front of me, the ones I got a little quick I was still hitting the pocket and ringing 10 and some of them I was still able to strike.
"What I was doing wasn't getting me in trouble and for me on a pattern like this where I see lot of red circles all over the place, I'm grateful I was able to avoid the majority of those."