ARLINGTON, Texas – The 2018 Professional Women’s Bowling Association season officially is complete, highlighted by Shannon O’Keefe completing a bucket-list item in earning PWBA Player of the Year honors and Jordan Richard reaching the stepladder finals at five events on her way to the PWBA Rookie of the Year award.
O’Keefe, of Shiloh, Illinois, claimed her first PWBA Player of the Year award after winning two titles in the first four events of the 2018 season, including her second career major at the United States Bowling Congress Queens.
She led the tour in championship-round appearances (seven), which included a runner-up finish at the PWBA Greater Harrisburg Open, third place at the PWBA Tour Championship, fourth-place finishes at the PWBA East Hartford Open and BowlerX.com PWBA Twin Cities Open, and a fifth-place finish at the U.S. Women’s Open.
The 39-year-old right-hander completed her career year by leading the Tour in points (130,050), tying for the lead in cashes (13), finishing fourth in average (216.27) and making the Round of 12 nine times.
"It means the absolute world to me," said O'Keefe, after clinching the award at the QubicaAMF PWBA Players Championship. "All the hard work, dedication, the tears, the frustrations – it's all worth it. I feel I've been knocking on the door, and I've had some really good seasons. Last year, I finished third, the year before that was fifth.
“I've been climbing that ladder and knocking on the door. I just feel player of the year is something people always will remember in your career. I have bucket-list items that I'm trying to check off and that was just one of them. So, to be able to mark that off, I can move on to the next thing."
Richard, 22, stood out in what was arguably the best rookie class since the relaunch of the PWBA Tour in 2015. Despite missing the Tour’s first three events, Richard settled in nicely, and, in only her fourth event, claimed her first career title at the PWBA Greater Harrisburg Open.
The two-time National Tenpin Coaches Association Division I Player of the Year finished the season second in average (217.43), third in championship-round appearances (five) and seventh in points (89,150).
The Tecumseh, Michigan, native was a mainstay on CBS Sports Network in August, making the TV finals in all four events during the month, and was the only player on tour to make four consecutive finals appearances.
She garnered a third-place finish at the BowlerX.com PWBA Twin Cities Open, fourth-place finishes at the Pepsi PWBA St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open and QubicaAMF PWBA Players Championship, and fifth-place at the Nationwide PWBA Columbus Open.
“I really don’t think it will set in for a while,” said Richard, after learning she had earned enough competition points to claim the honor. “It’s something that I’ve always wanted since I’d heard about the relaunch of the PWBA in 2015. I knew when I came out here it’s what I wanted. I was rookie of the year in college and then I was rookie of the year in one of the organizations that I bowled in, so it’s something that I’ve wanted.”
In addition to O’Keefe, seven players returned to victory lane during the 2018 PWBA season including PWBA Player of the Year runner-up Danielle McEwan, who claimed the PWBA Fountain Valley Open for her fourth career title. McEwan provided O’Keefe a late scare down the stretch in the race for PWBA Player of the Year, but she fell just short of the honor.
Liz Kuhlkin captured her second career title and first major championship at the U.S. Women’s Open. Kuhlkin, who won the PWBA Topeka Open in 2015, was without a title since but made major strides in 2018 to return to the winner’s circle.
Stefanie Johnson captured her first career major championship at the QubicaAMF PWBA Players Championship in front of a hometown crowd at Plano Super Bowl in Plano, Texas. Johnson made the TV finals in three of the four majors this season, finishing fourth at the USBC Queens and second at the U.S. Women’s Open before claiming the emotional victory.
Other players returning to victory lane in 2018 were: Josie Barnes (PWBA East Hartford Open); Liz Johnson (PBA/PWBA Striking Against Breast Cancer Mixed Doubles, Nationwide PWBA Columbus Open); Diana Zavjalova (Pepsi PWBA St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open); and Rocio Restrepo (BowlerX.com PWBA Twin Cities Open).
Joining Richard as first-time champions in 2018 were Shayna Ng (PWBA Las Vegas Open); PWBA season average leader (217.46) Erin McCarthy (PWBA Louisville Open) and Maria Jose Rodriguez, who captured last week’s PWBA Tour Championship at Richmond Raceway in Richmond, Virginia.
The 2019 PWBA Tour schedule is set and the season will kick off in Cleveland with the PWBA Greater Cleveland Open on April 25-27. The 2019 schedule includes three new venues –Golden Pin Lanes in Tucson, Arizona, Executive Strike and Spare in Louisville, Kentucky, and Buffaloe Lanes North in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Visit PWBA.com for the complete 2019 schedule, player biographies, photos, videos and more. Don’t forget to follow the PWBA on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for all offseason content.