With the 2017 Professional Women’s Bowling Association Tour season quickly approaching, it’s time to take a look into the crystal ball to see what excitement the PWBA has in store for its fans this year.
We’ve assembled a panel of several well-known names in the bowling community to see who they thought we’d be keeping an eye on during the season.
We asked them three questions:
- Who’s going to be the breakout performer in 2017?
- Who’s going to win Rookie of the Year in 2017?
- Who’s going to win Player of the Year in 2017?
For the second installment, we look at Rookie of the Year.
The 2016 season introduced us to a tremendous talent in New Hui Fen of Singapore. Although we only saw her make a handful of appearances, New made the most of each tournament, finishing no worse than seventh in the five events she entered while making three telecasts leading up to the Smithfield PWBA Tour Championship.
The 2016 Rookie of the Year race also would be determined at the Tour Championship as New and Jen Higgins of Westerville, Ohio, would face off in the opening round of the bracket. Higgins held the advantage in points, which meant New would have to win her first two matches to secure enough points to earn the distinction.
New not only went on to win her first two matches to claim Rookie of the Year, she went undefeated through the bracket to win her first PWBA title.
Who will take home the honor in 2017? Here’s what our panel thinks:
Fran Deken – PWBA and USBC Hall of Famer
The first player who comes to mind for Rookie of the Year honors is Daria Pajak. Her outstanding collegiate record has shown she has the talent, and this past winter she pitted herself against the men and did quite well, showing me she has no fear. Verity Crawley and Brittany Smith should also be considered bowlers to watch with their great collegiate accomplishments.
The unknown factor will be how much time the foreign players spend on the tour as there are some great names on the list of rookies who could impact the results. Players such as Sweden's Sandra Andersson and Nina Flack are tournament tough and have plenty of experience. Germany's Birgit Pöppler also has shown she has the moxie and Singapore's Bernice Lim already has a USBC Queens title to her name, so she has that experience to draw on.
Jackie Wyckoff – International Bowling Media Association
The 2017 Rookie class is one of the best we have seen. These ladies not only have game, they are entering the professional ranks with poise and experience, for the most part due to our stellar collegiate programs. My two California girls, Amanda Fry and Robyn Renslow, will do well this year. I believe the two Florida players, Verity Crawley and Daria Pajak, will also be standouts.
I whittled my choice down to two players I believe will perform remarkably in this rookie class. In my crystal bowling ball, I foresee 2016 Queens champion, Bernice Lim of Singapore, making at least four finals this year and quite possibly winning her first professional title. However, I have to go with college standout Brittany Smith as my pick for the 2017 PWBA Rookie of the Year. Smith was the unanimous choice for 2015-2016 College Player of the Year in each of the National Collegiate Bowling Coaches Association (NCBCA) and International Bowling Media Association (IBMA) polls. I believe her cool demeanor, drive and knowledge will keep her on the cash list for most of the 2017 season.
Gianmarc Manzione – Bowlers Journal International
The list of anticipated rookies for the 2017 PWBA Tour season features a smattering of extraordinarily talented ladies from some of the most celebrated college programs in the United States. Verity Crawley and Daria Pajak, both from the highly accomplished Webber International squad, throw the ball as beautifully as anyone in the college ranks, while Robyn Renslow out of Vanderbilt is a 2012 Junior Gold champion who bowled with Junior Team USA the following year and has compiled a lot of experience filling the pressure-laden anchor position on the Commodores squad.
The list also features several international stars — Birgit Pöppler out of Germany already has enjoyed high-profile finishes at the 2016 USBC Queens (fourth) and the 2015 Bowling World Open, where her runner-up finish earned her more than $40,000, while Sandra Andersson out of Sweden was top seed on the 2016 USBC Queens show and has appeared on multiple women’s World Bowling Tour Finals telecasts.
Among them all, however, Sweden’s Jenny Wegner, who counts among her coaches the man behind Jesper Svensson’s ascent on the PBA Tour — Robert Andersson — seems the one best prepared for liftoff. The unfazed composure with which Wegner dispensed of PWBA Tour star Danielle McEwan to win her 2016 QubicaAMF World Cup title was a thing to behold. Wegner prides herself on her ability to play deeper than anyone in any field, featuring a big, swooping hook while also keeping the ball in or around the pocket consistently. If the way she conducted herself on that prominent stage is any indication, no one on the PWBA Tour, no matter how accomplished, is going to intimidate this Swedish prodigy.
Emil Williams Jr. – PWBA Communications
The 2017 PWBA Rookie class could be the best we’ve seen since the relaunch of the tour. Internationally, the tour will welcome 2016 QubicaAMF World Cup winner Jenny Wegner (Sweden), 2016 USBC Queens champion Bernice Lim (Singapore), Birgit Pöppler of Germany, who finished fourth at the 2016 Queens, and Sandra Andersson of Sweden, who was the top seed at the 2016 Queens.
Not to mention a couple of collegiate standouts with international ties – Verity Crawley (England) and Daria Pajak (Poland) – who helped Webber International to the 2016 Intercollegiate Team Championships. A pair of Vanderbilt standouts, Robyn Renslow (2013 Junior Team USA) and Amanda Fry (2014 Junior Team USA), will shoe-up with the world’s best in 2017. And we can’t forget about the amazing run at the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open by former McKendree standout Jodi Gawlik, who finished sixth at the event.
Wow. What a powerful list and it could grow by the time the season starts. But, with all of that star power, I’m going with the 2016 National Collegiate Bowling Coaches Association Most Valuable Player, Brittany Smith.
Smith has some experience in high-level events, most notably the USBC Queens where she rolled a 300 game and finished 12th in 2015. She qualified 11th at the 2016 event before settling into a 17-25th finish. During the regular season, she was a couple shots away from making her first PWBA TV appearance at the PWBA Greater Detroit Open.
Smith has proven she can compete against the best, and now will look to build on those experiences during the 2017 season.
To follow the PWBA Tour throughout the season, be sure to keep an eye on PWBA.com, the official PWBA Facebook and Twitter pages, and Xtra Frame, the official exclusive online bowling channel of the Professional Bowlers Association. To subscribe to Xtra Frame, visit XtraFrame.TV.