ARLINGTON, Texas – It’s always special when childhood dreams come true, and Josie Barnes of Nashville, Tennessee, can attest after winning her first Professional Women’s Bowling Association Tour title last season at the PWBA Rochester Open.
This week, the PWBA returns to Upstate New York for the Nationwide PWBA Rochester Open. Official practice is set for Thursday, with competition at AMF Gates Lanes in Rochester, New York, taking place Friday and Saturday.
Barnes, formerly Earnest, returns as the defending champion with a new last name after her recent marriage to husband, Kyle, in May.
The five-time Team USA member was a standout collegiate player at Vanderbilt, leading the squad to the university’s first team national championship as a freshman in 2007. At the time, the PWBA Tour was on hiatus, which meant Barnes did not have a pro tour to look forward to after her collegiate career.
That made last year’s title even more special because a dream that, at one point was unachievable, became true.
“I think the part that was so heartbreaking was it felt like I had three years to enjoy bowling,” said Barnes, who is an assistant coach with the Vanderbilt women's team. “Because after that, there wasn’t much to compete in. When you’re a competitive person, you want to go out on your terms and, feeling like there was a finite number of days until being able to compete frequently was over, was rough.”
Barnes’ road to the title last year was grueling. Not necessarily because of the format, but because of the players she defeated to earn her first career title.
She was part of the group stepladder at AMF Gates Lanes which saw her defeat Danielle McEwan and Liz Johnson to earn the No. 4 seed for the televised stepladder finals. The finals would be taped at Stardust Bowl in Addison, Illinois, in conjunction with the U.S. Women’s Open.
Barnes then ran the ladder on television, defeating Carolyn Dorin-Ballard, Clara Guerrero and Shannon O’Keefe. As a competitor, Barnes wouldn’t have wanted it any other way, but was able to understand the magnitude of the players she defeated.
“I had a very similar path to my first Queens show that I made back in 2012,” Barnes explains. “I think I it actually helps to have to bowled against those players. They don’t make mistakes. I know I have to be committed to what I’m doing if I want to be successful, and I think that mindset was key.
“That being said, my main thought on the show was simplicity and keeping a quiet mind. After all of it was done, I couldn’t believe that I was able to run the ladder of all those women, so yes, I guess it does make it extra special.”
While her last name might be different, her maiden name still reminds her of the closeness of her family and their importance on who she is as a bowler and person. Last year’s victory was a win for the Earnest name.
“My whole family is a ‘bowling’ family,” Barnes said. “Both my mom (Lisa) and dad (Larry) were/are good bowlers in their own right, and my sister (Jessica) is a world gold medalist. I have a lot to live up to! My parents and my sister sacrificed just as much for my success, probably even more. It was really awesome having my parents in the stands for the win. It’s something I’ll cherish my entire life.”
At the time of last year’s win, Barnes needed a victory to clinch a spot in the season-ending Smithfield PWBA Tour Championship, and this year, she again might need a win because she missed two events to get married, which meant missing two opportunities to earn points.
This year’s season-ending event will be held Sept. 3-6 at the Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Virginia.
Barnes is on the bubble, in regard to the PWBA points list, and has built some momentum after back-to-back match-play appearances during the Florida swing. While her season has been solid overall, there are some similarities in how she might have to earn her spot.
“I think I’m in a very similar position,” Barnes said. “I actually think I’m bowling better overall, but because I missed two events to get married the points situation is very difficult. I’ve been very consistent across the board, but I just haven’t had a tournament where things were great the entire weekend. My last few events have been the best to date, so I’m taking that positive in to this weekend. The Tour Championship is always the goal, but I have a lot of work in front of me.”
All competitors at the 2017 Nationwide PWBA Rochester Open will bowl 12 games of qualifying Friday, before the field is cut to the top 32 for Saturday's six-game cashers' round. Their 18-game pinfall totals will decide the 12 bowlers who advance to round-robin match play.
Match-play competitors then will be split into two groups, with the pinfall leader in each group after 24 games, bonus pins for match-play wins included, automatically qualifying for the championship round. The bowler with the higher pinfall will be the No. 1 seed.
The second, third and fourth bowlers in each group will advance to simultaneous group stepladders, with the winner of each also qualifying for the TV finals.
All qualifying and match play rounds of PWBA Tour events are carried on Xtra Frame, the exclusive online bowling channel for the Professional Bowlers Association. Go to XtraFrame.TV for more information.