Third time's a charm for Liz Johnson

  • 23 April 2018
  • Author: Emil
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Third time's a charm for Liz Johnson

Liz Johnson is dominant. Liz Johnson is ageless. Liz Johnson is fearless.

Those statements, from fans and competitors, were heard as Johnson put together one of the most impressive seasons in professional women's bowling history, one that would result in Johnson becoming the first player to earn PWBA Player of the Year honors in three consecutive seasons.

CBS Sports Network is home of the PWBA Tour, but Liz Johnson was head of the house during the 2017 PWBA Tour season. She had a tour-leading nine TV appearances - five more than the next closest competitor.

She continued to step up her game at the major championships, making the TV show for all four majors.

Johnson won the Go Bowling PWBA Players Championship and the U.S. Women's Open. It was her fourth consecutive and sixth career U.S. Women's Open title, and she won it by running the ladder as the No. 5 seed to earn her 10th career major. She was second at the USBC Queens and was a roll-off away from a shot at the PWBA Tour Championship before ultimately finishing in a tie for third.

"It's crazy, but I think I have gotten better every year," said Johnson, who led or shared the tour lead in points, earnings, cashes and match-play appearances. "I feel I've really been able to be more diverse in my bowling. The thing that gets me is when people say I'm one dimensional and can't move left of 10 or even left of five. I think last year I proved I could play anywhere because I won the Players Championship by playing inside of 20.

"I think the fact that I've improved upon playing multiple parts of the lane has really helped me. I've always felt I've been as strong as anybody on the lanes mentally. That's never stopped."

She made five standard TV event appearances, highlighted by her first victory of the season at the PWBA Storm Sacramento Open. She took third at the PWBA Fountain Valley Open and had three fourth-place finishes. Johnson was so good at qualifying for television, she flirted with the record for the most consecutive TV appearances in a season.

After making five consecutive TV appearances, the streak ended at the Greater Detroit Open, leaving her one TV show shy of joining Carolyn Dorin-Ballard (2001, 1997), Carol Gianotti (1992), Nikki Gianulias (1986) and Lisa Wagner (1985), who share the record with six consecutive TV appearances. That's elite company.

Johnson has bowled her way to becoming the tour's centerpiece since the relaunch of the PWBA in 2015. It does not seem she is more than two decades removed from the rookie who won the U.S. Women's Open and took home PWBA Rookie of the Year honors in 1996.

She just continues to add to her legacy, showing no signs of slowing down. After recently settling down in Palatine, Illinois, with her wife, Kasia Kaufman, the idea of leaving the comforts of home does get increasingly difficult.

But, despite the challenges, it's certainly not out of the realm of possibilities that Johnson, who turns 44 on May 2, could compete at her present level for many more years.

"I have to stay healthy," Johnson said. "As long as we have the PWBA Tour and I still love what I'm doing, I'll be out there. But, it does get harder as you get older, both physically and, sometimes, mentally. And, with our new house, once you're home it's nice being home because I'm on the road so much. But, for me, as long as I stay healthy, withstand a few aches and pains here and there, and have the heart and love to do it, I'm going to try to do this as long as I possibly can."

Part of the reason Johnson believes she'll able to compete is because the twilight of her prime years is occurring now. When the PWBA ceased operations in 2003, it eliminated or abruptly ended the careers of many players.

But Johnson consistently competed in the remaining major events (Queens and U.S. Women's Open), high-stakes non-professional events and, after they opened their doors to women, Professional Bowlers Association events.

"I would say I'm toward the end of my prime at the moment," Johnson said. "I think, as a bowler, I'm pretty close to that. Physically, my body has felt the 20-plus years I've bowled as a professional. But, I think my prime probably began in my late 30s. And, again, it's hard to define my prime because when we didn't have a tour for many years, but I was still bowling.

"In 2005, I made my first PBA show (Banquet Open), I won the Petersen Classic in 2010 and I made my second PBA show in 2014 (PBA Cheetah Championship) at 40. So, it's probably anywhere from late 30s to right around now."

Part of being great is overcoming challenges and uncomfortable situations. It's also part of being fearless. She's not taking any opportunity for granted in her second go-around as a PWBA player.

"In my mid-20s, I'd win, and the following week I'd settle," Johnson said. "I felt sometimes I was almost scared to be in the limelight or I was scared to be in front of cameras and maybe scared to win. As I got older, I realized I'm good at what I do, I love what I do, and people want to see that. So, take what you have and give it 100 percent.

"Now, I'm not OK with settling. I want to do the best I can every time out. I want to be the greatest. I'm not going to settle with just making one show because I want to make another show. I want to win again. So, I think that was the attitude I had last year and I'm going to keep that same attitude this year, too."

Her fearless attitude was on display at the PBA's World Series of Bowling IX in 2017, too. After making two previous career PBA telecasts, Johnson put a big exclamation point on the year by capturing the 2017 PBA Chameleon Championship.

"That was the cherry on top," Johnson said. "I don't think anyone could've topped, except Belmo (Jason Belmonte), the year I had. I made every major show with two wins, won another title (Sacramento), finished 14th in the PBA World Championship and then won the Chameleon Championship.

"You couldn't ask for a better year, especially at the age of 43. I don't think I could've written 2017 any better. I want to make sure I don't waste the opportunity I have and continue to be an inspiration to young women and others."

Categories: Tournaments, Players
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