ARLINGTON, Texas - For the third consecutive year, Liz Johnson of Deerfield, Illinois, was named Professional Women's Bowling Association Player of the Year, and the 2017 Rookie of the Year honor went to Poland's Daria Pajak.
Johnson put together a dream season that included three titles, two of which were majors - the Go Bowling PWBA Players Championship and U.S. Women's Open. Her U.S. Women's Open victory was her fourth consecutive win at the event and sixth overall.
The 43-year-old right-hander made the championship round at all four majors, finishing second at the United States Bowling Congress Queens and third at this week's season-ending Smithfield PWBA Tour Championship.
She led the PWBA Tour this year in earnings ($83,500), points (154,150), match-play appearances (11) and championship-round appearances (nine), and she tied with PWBA spokesperson Kelly Kulick of Union, New Jersey, for the lead in cashes with 13.
Johnson mathematically locked up the award before the final event of the season.
"To be in the company I'm in with some of the greatest up-and-coming bowlers from around the world, and to be able to do what I've been doing at 43, is rewarding and humbling at the same time," Johnson said. "I actually do feel like I'm getting better as I get older. It's a combination of trying to stay healthy and learning from every tournament I go to. From week to week, we had to play different parts of the lane, so I've had to become more versatile, too. I'm proud that I could do that and find success, especially when I was out of my comfort zone."
Pajak, a 2016 graduate of Webber International, entered the Smithfield PWBA Tour Championship as the frontrunner for rookie of the year, and she could've claimed it outright with a first-round win over her former collegiate teammate and PWBA Tour roommate, Verity Crawley of England, the other rookie-of-the-year contender.
Crawley won the match against Pajak but fell to Latvia's Diana Zavjalova, another former Webber Warrior, in the second round, solidifying the award for Pajak - a bittersweet win over one of her best friends. Crawley could've claimed the honor by making the championship round at the Tour Championship.
Pajak's season included two TV appearances and her first PWBA title, a win at the Greater Detroit Open, an event she nearly decided to skip to regroup after struggling the previous few weeks.
She rolled three perfect games during the 2017 season, including two at the U.S. Women's Open, where she was the top seed for the stepladder finals. She fell to Johnson in the title match, 188-176.
"Being the rookie of the year was my goal when I joined the Tour, and I knew one of the biggest contenders for the trophy was going to be Verity," said Pajak, who finished 10th on the PWBA points list this season. "I started the season very slowly, and I was very frustrated. I think I learned quick, though, and that's why the end of the season was much better. I feel very accomplished because I never gave up."
The 2017 PWBA Tour schedule included 14 events, 13 of which counted toward the season statistics. Competitors saw a variety of lane conditions that tested their versatility, and 13 of the winners were determined on CBS Sports Network.
The schedule kicked off in Rohnert Park, California, in April and concluded on a four-lane setup specially installed by QubicaAMF inside the Old Dominion Building, part of the expansive complex at Richmond Raceway in Richmond, Virginia.
All rounds of the PWBA competition leading up to the TV finals were broadcast on Xtra Frame, the exclusive online bowling channel for the Professional Bowlers Association.