LAS VEGAS - Among the more than 225 of the top players in the world converging on the South Point Bowling Plaza for the 2016 U.S. Open, several stars of the Professional Women's Bowling Association Tour are off to a strong start.
During the 2016 event's opening squad Friday, Erin McCarthy of Omaha, Nebraska, set the bar for the group of eight PWBA players with an eight-game block of 1,758, a 219.75 average.
Her overall effort put her in a tie for seventh place on her block. John Szczerbinski of North Tonawanda, New York, paced the opening squad with a 1,778 total, and Canada's Zach Wilkins is the overall leader after two squads with 1,906.
Liz Kuhlkin of Schenectady, New York, who captured the 2015 PWBA Topeka Open title and recently set the national record for the highest three-game series by a woman with an 890 set, also eclipsed the 1,700 total on the opening day, finishing with 1,708.
Other PWBA players competing this week include five-time U.S. Women's Open champion Liz Johnson, two-time PWBA Tour titlists Danielle McEwan and Rocio Restrepo, 2014 United States Bowling Congress Queens champion Maria Jose Rodriguez, Anggie Ramirez-Perea and Ashley Chiaramonte.
McCarthy nearly made match play at the 2015 U.S. Open in Garland, Texas, finishing in a tie for 30th place, and was able to get off to a strong start Friday on the fresh 42-foot oil pattern featured at the 2016 event. McEwan was the only PWBA member to make match play in 2015, and she finished the event tied for 23rd place.
"I definitely was a little surprised I did so well on the fresh," said McCarthy, the runner-up at the 2015 USBC Queens. "I was the most nervous about today, because I knew I would be playing further right, which is not my strength. I was able to get the right ball motion from the two balls I wanted to start with and just went with it. Eventually, I was able to move left and into my comfort zone."
Qualifying for the U.S. Open pushes competitors to perform on three different stages of the oil pattern - the fresh, burn and double-burn. The condition only is applied before the day's opening squad.
For McCarthy, she knows the format and challenging condition will require patience as well as avoiding unforced errors.
"I just tried to keep a level head," McCarthy said. "I didn't want to get too down on myself if I had a couple of bad shots in a row, which I did. I was able to bounce back, make my spares and get strings when they came.
"I'm planning to make a couple of surface adjustments. Today, I needed more surface, but tomorrow and the next day are a different story. Keeping up with the adjustments and not missing the transition will be two key things, and, obviously, spares are crucial in this kind of format."
The second qualifying round will begin Saturday at 11 a.m. Eastern. Each round of the 2016 U.S. Open leading up to the stepladder finals will be broadcast live on Xtra Frame, the exclusive online bowling channel for the Professional Bowlers Association.
All competitors at the 2016 U.S. Open will bowl 24 qualifying games over three days, before the field is cut to the top 57 for eight additional games. The 32-game pinfall totals will determine the 24 players for round-robin match play.
The top five, determined by total pinfall and bonus pins for 56 games, will advance to the stepladder finals, which will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network at 8 p.m. Eastern on Nov. 9.
The 2016 U.S. Open features a prize fund of more than $210,000, which includes $100,000 in added money. The 2016 champion will earn $30,000 and the coveted green jacket.