LAS VEGAS – Reigning Professional Women’s Bowling Association Player of the Year Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, New York, wasted no time putting in her bid for a second consecutive POY honor as she defeated top seed Shannon Pluhowsky of Dayton, Ohio, to win the 2016 PWBA Las Vegas Open.
Johnson said she’s been struggling with spares early in the 2016 PWBA season, but filling frames ultimately was her key to success in a 195-172 win against Pluhowsky at The Orleans Bowling Center.
The USBC Hall of Famer spared seven times for her third consecutive clean game of the night, and that was just enough to hold off Pluhowsky, the lone left-hander on the show, who had back-to-back opens frames early in the title match.
“I had a great feeling coming into today,” said Johnson, a 15-time PWBA champion, including four major titles. “It feels like as the weeks have progressed, I’ve gotten stronger physically and overcome some spare issues. Today, I bowled three clean games, and I was pretty happy about that. With the last match being so low-scoring, it was really important to fill my frames and just make the shots.”
Johnson, 42, earned her spot in the championship match with a 237-186 win over Mexico’s Sandra Gongora. A ball change helped Johnson battle the transition of the 39-foot oil pattern early in the game, and she was able to take the lead for the first time with a double in the seventh and eighth frames. Johnson closed the match with six consecutive strikes.
“I had a really good look the first game, but I started hitting that transition, and the oil started carrying down,” Johnson said. “I didn’t want to move left because I thought I’d get a little too much push, so I went to an earlier ball and tried to just keep the shots more in front of me, which I ended up not doing so well the last game against Shannon.”
In the opening match of the PWBA Las Vegas Open stepladder, Johnson struck in four of her first five frames to build a 32-pin lead at the halfway point and went on to outdistance Colombia’s Rocio Restrepo, 237-204.
Johnson, who has battled knee problems in recent years, has seen some limitations in her signature knee bend, which she always has considered her strength, but it has not slowed her down.
She also opened the 2015 PWBA season, the organization’s first year of operation since 2003, with a victory, claiming her second USBC Queens title, and she went on to add wins at the PWBA Detroit Open and the Bowlmor AMF U.S. Women’s Open to secure the player of the year award.
Now, she’s off to a hot start again and looking forward to the rest of the 2016 PWBA schedule, which has been expanded to 14 events, compared to 11 in 2015.
“We have 10 more weeks, and hopefully there’s a few more TV shows and wins out there for me,” Johnson said. “To win this early, I’m hungry to keep winning. I’m feeling good physically and mentally, and I’m just going to keep digging as much as I can. I just turned 42, and that’s been a good number so far. Hopefully, I can get even stronger as the season goes on.”
All qualifying and match play rounds of the PWBA Las Vegas Open were held at Texas Station in North Las Vegas on April 30-May 1.
The stepladder finals were held May 26 at The Orleans Bowling Center in conjunction with the USBC Queens and the finals of the Nationwide PWBA Sonoma County Open and PWBA Storm Sacramento Open.
The Queens finals aired live on CBS Sports Network, while the Sonoma County Open and Storm Sacramento Open finals will air on CBS Sports Network on June 14 and June 21, respectively.
PWBA Las Vegas Open
At The Orleans Bowling Center, Las Vegas
1, Liz Johnson, Cheektowaga, N.Y., 669 (three games), $10,000
2, Shannon Pluhowsky, Dayton, Ohio, 172 (one game), $5,000
3, Sandra Gongora, Mexico, 186 (one game), $3,500
4, Rocio Restrepo, Louisville, Ohio, 204 (one game), $3,000
Match One – Johnson def. Restrepo, 237-204
Semifinal – Johnson def. Gongora, 237-186
Championship – Johnson def. Pluhowsky, 195-172