CANTON, Mich. - Last season, Verity Crawley of England bowled in her first standard Professional Women's Bowling Association event as an amateur at the 2016 PWBA Greater Detroit Open and everyone took notice of her strong physical game and immense talent as she rolled to a 10th-place finish.
Now, one year later, as a full-time competitor on the PWBA Tour, Crawley doubled-down on her success in the Motor City by capturing the No. 1 seed for the finals of the 2017 PWBA Greater Detroit Open.
Crawley will be joined by 2012 United States Bowling Congress Queens champion Diandra Asbaty of Chicago (No. 2), Colombia's Juliana Franco (No. 3 seed) and Daria Pajak of Poland (No. 4). Franco and Pajak advanced after winning their respective group stepladders Saturday.
Qualifying and match play at the 2017 PWBA Greater Detroit Open were held this week at Super Bowl in Canton, Michigan, while the stepladder finals will be taped for broadcast June 25 at The Ashwaubenon Bowling Alley, one of four telecasts at the Go Bowling PWBA Players Championship, the second major of the season.
The show will air Tuesday, July 18, at 8 p.m. Eastern on CBS Sports Network.
Crawley compiled a 4-2 record Saturday and topped the Group B match-play standings with a 5,377 total, which included 30 bonus pins for each win. She shined during the cashers' round prior to match play, compiling a 1,475 pinfall total for six games (245.83 average) to put her in prime position for match play.
Asbaty led the way in the Group A standings with a 5,326 total and earned the No. 2 seed for the stepladder based on total pinfall for the week, including bonus pins for each win in match play.
Crawley, who will be the No. 2 seed for the PWBA Fountain Valley Open TV show that airs Tuesday, June 20, at 8 p.m. Eastern on CBS Sports Network, has performed admirably as a full-time member on the PWBA Tour, leading all rookies in every statistical category.
Aware of her success last season, she returned to the Motor City focused on the tournament itself, while also dealing with a bowling-related injury.
"It's just another tournament you take shot by shot," Crawley said. "But it obviously loosens your swing a little bit knowing you've had success in the building. I ripped my thumb last weekend, so I was a little worried coming in this week. But, I practiced in Lincoln, and everything felt good. I wanted to focus on making spares, because last week was terrible. The block this morning was unbelievable. I just focused on staying aggressive."
At one time, Asbaty was looked upon as the premier player in women's bowling. She was inducted into the World Bowling Writers Hall of Fame in 2005, won the 2006 QubicaAMF World Cup and garnered several key wins on both domestic and international soil.
So, when the PWBA Tour re-launched in 2015, it was only right to think Asbaty would stake claim to a successful PWBA career especially after winning the USBC Queens in 2012. But, Asbaty has struggled with her bowling since the re-launch, but not as a parent. Her new life as a mother to son, Madden, and daughter, Jersey, has called for different commitments.
After struggling on the lanes in 2016, the 36-year-old right-hander made some changes to her game and is starting to see the results. This week was extra special, as both Madden and Jersey were there to witness their mother's return to television for the first time since 2012.
"Before I started match play, during practice, I heard Jersey's little voice in the bleachers saying, 'Mommy, you're going to do it,' Asbaty said. "I almost lost it. It really choked me up. This week, when I looked behind me, I thought, 'how could I lose?' I knew coming in these girls are good and they're working every day, all day, like I did out of college. But, that's just not my life anymore and that's ok.
"Last season was hard, and it was not a good year. And, I know why. When I left home to go to every tournament last year, I said to my kids I'm just going to do my best. No matter what I'm going to do my best, and if it doesn't work out, it's OK because I've done my best. It's like I was setting myself up to fail. This year, my mindset is different because when I leave them I say I'm going to go win, and I come into every tournament now knowing I can and that's a big difference."
Franco advanced after taking down 2017 USBC Queens champion Diana Zavjalova of Latvia, 269-266, in a high scoring Group B stepladder final. After starting with a spare, Zavjalova rattled off six consecutive strikes before a 10 pin ended the string. She picked up where she left off, adding three additional strikes, but left a 3-6-10 on the final shot to finish with 266.
Meanwhile, Franco countered with a six bagger of her own to set up the 10th frame, giving her the opportunity to double to move on.
Celebrating her 23rd birthday, Franco calmly threw the first two strikes, and needing seven pins on her fill ball, rolled a nine count to secure the victory and her second championship round appearance in three weeks.
"I didn't know I needed seven pins, because I never see the score," Franco said. "I think it's better that way, because there's no additional pressure to make a great shot. This means a lot because I came here to prepare for international tournaments with Colombia, so I'm really happy with what happened today and to make two TV shows is awesome for me."
Franco advanced to the Group B final after defeating Cassandra Leuthold of Lincoln, Nebraska, 202-193.
Pajak, who also is in contention for PWBA Rookie of the Year, earned her first championship-round appearance by defeating 26-time PWBA titlist and USBC Hall of Famer Leanne Hulsenberg of Pleasant View, Utah, 210-188.
The match was close throughout, but a pocket 7-10 split in the seventh frame for Hulsenberg ultimately was the difference.
She will share the stage with Crawley, her friend, roommate and former collegiate teammate at Webber International.
"It's been a very good tournament and very special because I don't know if I would have made it without her support," Pajak said. "We are very close, and our friendship has been developing for some time. It feels surreal because this is something I've been wanting for so long. I kind of felt like I belonged there, but I really had to fight for it. I didn't realize the mental toll it would take, so I'm just overwhelmed. It was a really good tournament."
Competition this week at the PWBA Greater Detroit Open included two six-game qualifying blocks Friday to determine the 32 players for Saturday's cashers' round.
An additional six-game block Saturday morning narrowed the field from the 32 cashers to 12 players for round-robin match play.
The 2017 PWBA Tour season continues next week with the Go Bowling PWBA Players Championship, the second major of the season, at The Ashwaubenon Bowling Alley in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Go to PWBA.com for more information about the PWBA Tour. Qualifying and match-play rounds of PWBA Tour events are broadcast on Xtra Frame, the exclusive online bowling channel for the Professional Bowlers Association.