ADDISON, Ill. – To calm herself as she looked to capture her first Professional Women’s Bowling Association title, Josie Earnest thought about the patches she received as a youth bowler, the ones that reminded her that bowling is fun.
The technique apparently worked for the Nashville, Tennessee, resident as Earnest won three matches in the stepladder finals, including a 229-180 victory over Shannon O’Keefe of O’Fallon, Illinois, in the title match, to capture the PWBA Rochester Open title.
“It means everything,” Earnest said of winning her first PWBA title. “It’s pretty cliché to say, but I think growing up you compete, you go to college, and you look forward to bowling professionally. The icing on the cake is winning a title. You want to live out your dream, and I’m just really excited I was able to do it in Season 2.”
Earnest’s road to the title meant going through a United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer and a 2016 major title winner before taking on O’Keefe, one of the top competitors on the PWBA Tour this season.
Earnest started with a 187-159 victory over USBC Hall of Famer Carolyn Dorin-Ballard of Keller, Texas. Earnest then struck in six of the first eight frames of the semifinal match in a 238-214 victory over Colombia native Clara Guerrero, who won the Go Bowling PWBA Players Championship earlier this season.
“In some ways, it’s difficult because you have three really fantastic competitors you have to beat to get there,” Earnest said about her road to the title. “At the same time, it allowed me to get comfortable. I was nervous that first match; it was one of my first matches on TV in a long time and I was bowling against a hall of famer. You try to eliminate those distractions. But it allowed me to get comfortable.”
Earnest’s last TV appearance came in 2012 at the USBC Queens, held at the International Training and Research Center in Arlington, Texas. She bowled well in the opening match but lost to Liz Johnson, 268-223. She would make the stepladder finals of the PWBA Detroit Open last season, beating Kelly Kulick in the opening match before falling to Johnson in the semifinal.
Against top-seed O’Keefe in the title match, Earnest was facing a competitor who was making her fifth championship-round appearance and who was seeking her fourth title of the 2016 PWBA season.
“You just have eliminate that thought,” Earnest said. “I kept thinking of those patches you would get as a youth bowler that said BIF, Bowling Is Fun. I said before the match that the sun would come up tomorrow whether I shoot 100 or 250, so I’m just going to go out and enjoy the moment because you never know how many of those you will have.”
Starting in the fourth frame, Earnest strung together four strikes, while O’Keefe opened in the sixth after leaving the 4-6-7, helping Earnest coast to the win and qualify for the season-ending Smithfield PWBA Tour Championship, set for Sept. 1-4 at Uptown Alley in Midlothian, Virginia.
All 2016 tournament champions, who are PWBA members at the time of their victory, receive an automatic invitation to the 16-player Smithfield PWBA Tour Championship. The remainder of the field is filled through the points list.
Earnest, who is the assistant women’s bowling coach at Vanderbilt University, said her family, who owns a bowling center, always have been a motivating factor, but her players also push her to be better as a competitor.
“My girls really inspire me to be better and give them something to look up to,” said Earnest, who bowled at Vanderbilt and was inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame in 2013, the first member of the bowling program to earn the honor. “It’s exciting to know they are excited for you. I had a couple of them in the stands, and it’s exciting for them to see it and want to be here someday.”
The qualifying and match-play rounds of the PWBA Rochester Open took place July 8-9 at AMF Gates Lanes in Rochester, New York. The stepladder finals were held Aug. 7 at Stardust Bowl in conjunction with the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open, along with the PWBA St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open finals which will air on CBS Sports Network on Aug. 30.