ORLANDO, Fla. – Allie Leiendecker, 17, is the youngest competitor in this week’s U.S. Women’s Open. But as she showed in a major event last year, she can handle herself in the toughest competitions.
Allie, who just wrapped up her junior year at Wooster (Ohio) High School, was just 16 when she won the 20-and-under division at the 2017 Junior Gold Championships. The victory earned her a spot in 2018 U.S. Women’s Open field, which is taking place at Boardwalk Bowl this week.
Wednesday was the final of three days of qualifying (eight games each day), after which the field will be cut to the top 36 players for an eight-game cashers’ round. The 32-game pinfall totals will determine the 24 bowlers for round-robin match play. The 56-game totals, including 30 bonus pins for each win in match play, will decide the five players for the stepladder finals.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Allie, who bowled on the first squad of Wednesday’s final qualifying round. “Obviously, the scoring pace was a lot higher than what I’m used to, so it was more of a grind. The conditions were tougher than the ones I’ve bowled on before.”
Though she will not advance to the cashers’ round, Allie averaged just over 201 for her 24 games of qualifying.
“It was a learning experience,”Allie said. “ I found new things I need to work on and there were things I didn’t know I could do, but I did them anyway.”
This week marked the middle part of what has been a very busy recent schedule for Allie. She bowled in the PWBA Louisville Open, finishing 41st in the 97-player field, before heading to Junior Team USA camp in Arlington, Texas.
“Sheer raw talent,” Team USA assistant coach Kelly Kulick described Allie, who she worked with at camp. “She has an understanding. She needs to develop her knowledge of ball motion and strategically playing, which comes with age and experience. But in terms of raw talent, like someone hitting it out of the park their first time at bat, she’s got that.”
She also knows how to put in the work. She said the reason she bowled in Kentucky was to prepare for the U.S. Women’s Open.
“I feel like I would have been too nervous here if I hadn’t done an event already,” Allie said. “At team camp, I actually learned something that I needed for this week. When I was on double-burn, I needed to stay in and kind of float it out there. I learned that at camp a week ago.”
Allie will get a few days off before she heads to the Dallas area, seeking to defend her title at the Junior Gold Championships presented by the Brands of Ebonite International. And she knows exactly what she wants to do.
“I’m going to go sleep for three days,” Allie said. “I need it. I’m so tired.”