Welcome to the Ultimate Queens Bracket Challenge!
Zoom into each portion of the bracket: 1980-1990 | 1991-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019
What is the Ultimate Queens Bracket Challenge? It’s a fun and new social challenge for PWBA fans, allowing everybody to relive the storied history of the United States Bowling Congress Queens and vote for the ultimate champion!
We took the last 32 bowlers to wear the coveted tiara, placed them in eight-player brackets based on the year they won (1980-1990, 1991-1999, 2000-2009 and 2010-2019) and seeded them based on their winning score.
It’s now up to the great fans of the PWBA Tour to determine the winner of each match. Who do you think will win in a three-game total-pinfall match between Liz Johnson and Maria José Rodriguez? What about Wendy Macpherson against Kelly Kulick? Carolyn Dorin-Ballard versus Lynda Barnes? Be sure to visit our Twitter (@PWBATour), Facebook Story and Instagram Story (@pwbatour) to vote! We'll tally the votes from each to determine our winner of the match.
We’ll post new matches every Tuesday and Thursday, and let you know who’s advancing to the next round the following day and update the bracket, until we get to the championship match.
Here’s a few additional notes on how the bracket came together:
-If a player won in multiple eras (like Wendy Macpherson, Liz Johnson, Kelly Kulick and Lynda Barnes), we tried to balance each bracket with the most recent win. Only Kulick (2007 and 2010) was placed on her first victory. These players used the highest winning score in that time frame to determine their seeding.
-Players with multiple wins in the same era (like Wendy Macpherson, Diana Zavjalova, Aleta Sill and Katsuko Sugimoto) used their highest winning score to determine their seeding.
-Ties for winning scores were broken by most recent Queens title. Lisa Wagner and Dede Davidson each rolled 231 to win, so Wagner earned the higher seed since she won in 1996, compared to Davidson in 1991.
-Cathy Almeida’s win in 1987 featured a four-game total-pinfall match, so we took her average in the finals to determine her number.
-Several years featured a true double-elimination bracket, meaning the top seed had to be defeated twice to lose the title. For those years, we went with the deciding-game score to determine seeding.
Ultimate Queens Bracket Challenge Blog – Championship
May 12, 2020
By Daniel Farish
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the finals of the Ultimate Queens Bracket Challenge!
After four weeks of voting, our field of 32 USBC Queens champions has come down to just two players, Kelly Kulick (2007, 2010) and Leanne Hulsenberg (1999).
You can vote for the winner on the PWBA’s Twitter page, Facebook Story and Instagram Story.
In the four rounds of combined voting, each player received nearly 75 percent of the votes in their individual matches. They have dominated every opponent they’ve faced, except for the semifinal match of Kulick against Shannon O’Keefe. Kulick snuck through to the final with 51.8 percent of the vote.
Kulick and Hulsenberg have combined for three Queens victories and nine top-five finishes. They also have combined for four wins and 15 top-five finishes at the U.S. Women’s Open.
Hulsenberg has 27 Professional Women’s Bowling Association (PWBA) Tour wins. Kulick has six, but five of them are majors. If you want to even that out, let’s throw in Kulick’s 2009 Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) Women’s Shark Championship, 2009 PBA Women’s World Championship and her historic win at the 2010 PBA Tournament of Champions.
In 2003, the two players squared off in the opening match of the U.S. Women’s Open telecast and dramatically tied at 214. Kulick edged Hulsenberg in the one-ball roll-off and went on to defeat Wendy Macpherson, Michelle Feldman and Carolyn Dorin-Ballard for her first career PWBA major victory.
Their U.S. Women’s Open rematch in 2011 saw Kulick, the top seed, fall in the championship match, 218-183, to Hulsenberg inside AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Hulsenberg was the No. 2 seed and defeated Lynda Barnes 247-246 in the semifinal, before moving on to face Kulick.
Hulsenberg and Kulick haven’t faced each another during a Queens telecast, so it’s hard to predict how this match would go in the Queens environment.
Kulick plays the lanes straighter than Hulsenberg. Then again, so do most players over the course of the PWBA’s history. Hulsenberg has an ability to get her feet left and loop the ball to the right better than almost anyone.
I could see Kulick jumping ahead on the fresh, and, as the lanes started to transition and force the players farther left on the lane, Hulsenberg would begin to make up ground.
The final game would come down to who could make the best shots. Would Kulick be able to split boards for the win? Would Hulsenberg be able to create the perfect shape on the lane, giving her all the area in the world to strike?
It’s up to you, the voters, to decide. Aaron, Emil and I have presented you with the facts, and you have all the information at your disposal.
So, who do you have? Kulick or Hulsenberg?
Ultimate Queens Bracket Challenge Blog – Quarterfinals and Semifinals
May 5, 2020
By Daniel Farish
After two rounds of fast and furious voting, we are down to the quarterfinals of the Ultimate Queens Bracket Challenge!
Because of our live podcast schedule this week, this blog entry will cover my predictions for both the quarterfinals and semifinals. Doesn’t get much better than that, does it?
After voting this week, we will know who YOU have picked to advance to the title match!
Remember to vote for the winners of each match on the PWBA’s Twitter page, Facebook Story and Instagram Story!
Let’s take a look at the matches in the quarterfinals:
Liz Johnson (2009, 2015) vs. Shannon O’Keefe (2018)
Kelly Kulick (2007, 2010) vs. Shannon Pluhowsky (2006)
Leanne Hulsenberg (1999) vs. Lisa Wagner (1996)
Aleta Sill (1983, 1985) vs. Carol Gianotti (1989)
After our first two rounds, you know all about these eight competitors. There isn’t much more I can tell you about their amazing performances at the USBC Queens, so breakdown of each match won’t be as in-depth as they have been in my previous blogs, and we’ll get to the predictions pretty quick.
Johnson and O’Keefe have dominated the Professional Women’s Bowling Association (PWBA) Tour since its relaunch in 2015. Johnson racked up three straight PWBA Player of the Year awards from 2015-2017, winning 10 titles, with half of them being majors. This includes four straight U.S. Women’s Open titles, starting in 2013 (the U.S. Women’s Open was not held in 2014).
The 2018 and 2019 seasons belonged to Shannon O’Keefe, primarily the latter season.
In 2018, O’Keefe won twice in the first four events (including the Queens) but failed to visit victory lane the rest of the season. She remained consistent and always a threat, tallying six more top-five finishes during the year to edge Danielle McEwan for the PWBA Player of the Year award.
In 2019, O’Keefe won five times, including three of the last five events AND the PWBA Tour Championship, to run away with the award for the second consecutive year.
These two have been the class of the field since the relaunch and will battle it out to see who comes away with the win in the 2010-2019 region.
As we tallied the votes after each round, one thing became apparent – Kulick and Pluhowsky have great fan bases. They recorded three of the four highest voting totals during the first two rounds.
Each of you has your own criteria for voting, whether it be the bowler’s skill level, accomplishments, personality, etc. Maybe you met one of the competitors and had such a great experience, you would vote for her no matter the poll or opponent. One thing is for sure, however.
All of you like Pluhowsky and Kulick. So, the question is…which player do you like more?
We now move to the right side of the bracket, and my oh my, this is the who’s who when it comes to all-time greats in the history of the PWBA.
The first match we’ll look at features two of the top three players on the PWBA’s all-time titles list.
Leading the way with 32 titles is the 1996 Queens champion, Lisa Wagner. She faces the 1999 champion and 27-time titlist, Leanne Hulsenberg.
Both players overcame adversity in their respective title matches to earn their spots in this bracket.
Wagner needed a double and good count to shut out the top seed, Tammy Turner. After a blower 9 pin in the ninth frame, Wagner stayed firm and delivered two devastatingly high flush shots for the double, followed by an eight count in the fill to seal the deal.
Hulsenberg’s win came following a format change that required the advancer from the Elimination Bracket (Hulsenberg) to defeat the overall No.1 seed (Dede Davidson) twice. Hulsenberg did just that, firing a 256 in the final game to claim the coveted tiara.
Neither of these two players backed down, and it was no surprise, when the match came down to a final frame exchange between two of the greatest of all-time.
Our final match gives us Aleta Sill against Carol Gianotti, two players who have combined for 47 PWBA titles.
Sill has two wins at the Queens (1983, 1985) to go along a runner-up finish in 1984. If it weren’t for Kazue Inahashi striking out in the 10th frame against Sill in that title match, she could have won three Queens titles in a row.
Gianotti threw a double of her own to shut out Sandra Jo Shiery in 1989 and claim her title. That was one of 16 titles for the Australian, who recorded three other top-five finishes at the Queens (fourth in 1992, 1997, 2008).
Now that you know a little about each player and her background, let’s get to the predictions! Remember, these are three-game total-pinfall matches.
Johnson and O’Keefe are two of the straighter players on tour right now and would start right on top of each other on the lane. Johnson leads by six pins (266-260) after Game 1, and the two trade spares and strikes for the first half of Game 2.
The area of the lane they are in starts to burn up, forcing both players to change their angles of attack. O’Keefe moves in, Johnson moves out.
Their scores plummet in Game 2 as they try and figure out their ball motion. O’Keefe has moved to the flatter area of the oil pattern, and Johnson is in the OB (out of bounds). O’Keefe ties it up after Game 2, 184-178.
In the final game, both players move back to where they started in Game 1 and amp up their ball speed, daring the ball to go high. No one on the PWBA Tour can fire it when they need it like Johnson, and that’s evident as O’Keefe gets a little soft in the ninth frame, going through the nose and leaving the 4-6-7-9-10 split.
What was a 10-pin deficit in the game for O’Keefe turns into a 33-pin margin, handing the match to Johnson by a score of 676-639.
In the 2000-2009 final, it’s our two highest vote getters in Pluhowsky and Kulick. With each player having their respective side of the lane to themselves, they don’t have to worry too much about transition and can spend more time focusing on shot making.
It takes a few frames for each competitor to get comfortable, but once the end of the pattern tightens up and the backends calm down, the strike tallies go up.
Leading by 18 after the second game, Pluhowsky makes a ball change after she witnesses some suspect ball motion toward the end of Game 2. It doesn’t pay off, however, as she opens twice in the first four frames.
Kulick starts migrating left to get away from the 4 pins she left at the end of Game 2, only to find a bunch of flat 10s waiting for her. After her third consecutive pocket hit without a strike, Kulick makes a ball change and suffers the same fate as Pluhowsky: two opens in three frames.
Pluhowsky, meanwhile, gets out of the ball she switched to and back into her starting ball. A small move right on the lane nets her five strikes in a row, extending her lead, as Kulick continues to fish for carry. Pluhowsky advances to the semifinals by a final score of 723-664.
Hulsenberg and Wagner, as I mentioned above, are two of the greatest to ever lace up on the PWBA Tour, and, for three straight games, neither one misses the pocket. It’s all about carry for these two.
Wagner leads after Game 1, 215-204. Hulsenberg stays clean in Game 2, shooting 212 against Wagner’s 199, after the 32-time titlist failed to convert a pocket 5-7 split in the fifth frame.
Both players struggle to carry in the final game, with more slashes than strikes on the scoring monitor. Hulsenberg steps up in the 10th with a chance to double and shut out Wagner. Unfortunately, a flat 10 stands on her first offering…and then she misses it.
Another single pin conversion for Wagner in the ninth frame means she must strike and spare the 10th frame for the win. After a light swisher pocket hit carries on the first shot, her second delivery drives a little closer to the half pocket, leaving yet another 5-7 split. If she gets one, they tie; if she converts it, she advances.
Wagner masterfully slides the 5 pin directly into the belly of the 7 pin, winning the match in an unbelievable fashion, 610-609.
The quarterfinals conclude with Sill and Gianotti, who have combined for nearly 10 top-five finishes in their careers at the Queens.
Up to this point, all of the matches in this blog have been close. But, we can’t always have a match come down to the last couple of frames, or the last shot. Unfortunately, for one of these competitors, this one is almost drama free. Gianotti comes out of the gate firing, upending Sill, 258-172. The match looks like it’s over from the start.
Then, like the drop of a hat, things change.
Gianotti leaves back-to-back splits to begin Game 2, and the look of shock on her face is unnerving. Sill sees this and reacts like a shark when it smells blood in the water, and she begins to attack.
Sill strikes on nine of the first 10 shots, coasting to a 268-168 advantage, while gaining a 14-pin lead. Gianotti continues to struggle and is unable to find the pocket the final game. Sill rolls another 268 to win.
That brings us to our final four! Once again, here is who I picked to advance:
Liz Johnson (2009, 2015) vs. Shannon Pluhowsky (2006)
Lisa Wagner (1996) vs. Aleta Sill (1983, 1985)
This is where the generations of bowling fans can really get behind their horse, so to speak. Sorry, as a Kentuckian who just lived through the first Saturday in May with no Kentucky Derby, I’ve got horse racing on the brain.
This is the PWBA version of MJ vs. LeBron. Oh, and if you ever want clarification on that, just hit up the voice of the PWBA, Emil Williams Jr. He’ll set you straight.
The post-2000 bowling fans all claim that Liz Johnson is the GOAT. Certainly, her record boasts numbers that would put her in that category: 24 titles, 10 majors and the 2017 Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) Tour Chameleon Championship.
The pre-2000 bowling fans have a few names that could be mentioned in that category, but for this discussion, I don’t know if I can pick anyone other than Sill. She’s second all-time in PWBA titles (31), earned over $1 million during her career and shined at the majors, winning the Queens, U.S. Women’s Open and Sam’s Town Invitational twice each to become the first player, male or female, to win bowling’s Triple Crown twice.
My Ultimate Queens Bracket Challenge title match comes down to Aleta Sill vs. Liz Johnson. I don’t see any other way this could end. GOAT vs. GOAT.
I’ve made my picks. Now, it’s your turn.
Ultimate Queens Bracket Challenge Blog – Second Round (part two)
April 30, 2020
By Aaron Smith
We’re back in the bracket to complete Round 2! The left side of the bracket had our best voter turnout yet earlier this week, and we hope to keep it going on the right side.
The matches to finish Round 2 include:
Leanne Hulsenberg (1999) vs. Dede Davidson (1991)
Lisa Wagner (1996) vs. Anne Marie Duggan (1994)
Aleta Sill (1983, 1985) vs. Donna Adamek (1979, 1980)
Patty Ann (1990) vs. Carol Gianotti (1989)
Remember to vote for the winners of each match on the PWBA’s Twitter, Facebook Story and Instagram Story!
My last blog entry in this series looked at the phenomenal runs of Aleta Sill and Donna Adamek at the Queens, and now, they’re matched up. How about that?
Today, we’re going to look at Lisa Wagner’s win at the 1996 event in Buffalo. As Emil Williams Jr. mentioned in his blog, Wagner is the PWBA’s all-time wins leader (32) but managed to make the championship round only once at the Queens. To be fair, that’s all she needed.
With fields of more than 400 participants fairly common in the 1990s, it was tough just to make the cut to match play. Enter the tournament’s famed double-elimination bracket, it becomes just as tricky. Not only do you need to bowl well, but you need to catch a few favorable matches along the way.
That’s still the same today. Looking back at the 2018 Queens, Sweden’s Ida Andersson shot 751 and lost in the opening round to 2009 and 2015 champion Liz Johnson (770). During the same round, 2011 winner Missy Parkin advanced shooting 559 against 2014 champion Maria José Rodriguez. More than 210 pins separated their three-game totals, but the only thing that mattered was each was 1-0. See? Tricky.
Wagner, a PWBA and USBC Hall of Famer who was in search of her 30th title, was able to navigate the bracket at Thruway Lanes on the way to the fourth seed.
After recording steady wins over Diana Teeters (202-165), fellow hall of famer Jeanne Naccarato (214-195) and amateur Sandra Ranallo (216-194), Wagner had made her way to top seed Tammy Turner.
Before we get to the details of the match, let me say this. There isn’t a single player from this era that’s more fun to watch bowl than Tammy Turner. You can argue with me all day if you’d like. I’m not changing my answer.
There’s a certain fluidity to her high-rev game that’s just so … wow. Every time I go back to watch an early show from her time on Team USA or her stretch in the middle of the 1990s, it’s just always … wow.
Back surgery in 1997 arguably altered what her true prime could have looked like, but Turner came back in 2009 to claim the U.S. Women’s Open title.
Turner showed off her high-rev style as she started the title match, playing a generous step or two to the left of where Wagner had carved out her path to the pocket. Both players maintained a firm grasp of the pocket during the match, despite much different paths.
Turner, who also was in search of her third consecutive title, stayed clean heading into the ninth frame but needed a third consecutive strike to have the opportunity to lock out Wagner in the 10th. A 3-6 combination and spare conversion gave the ball to Wagner with the chance to find a double to take home the tiara.
Wagner had the only open of the match in the third frame, but she followed with four consecutive strikes to put herself ahead. Working on a spare and stepping up in the ninth, Wagner left an absolutely cruel 9 pin. She easily converted the spare.
Needing a double and four pins to shut out Turner, Wagner kept her speed up and peppered the 1-3 pocket for the double. An eight count on her fill ball sealed the deal for a 231-226 victory.
As the show cut to a close after the trophy and check presentation (and a visit from fellow hall of famer Pearl Keller), Lisa’s lone appearance in the championship round at the Queens ended with a question.
“Will you marry me?”
I can’t make this stuff up. Lisa Wagner only made one appearance on television at the Queens, ran the stepladder to win and received a marriage proposal.
The show ended before we got an answer.
For those who can’t take the suspense, read this article from the Tampa Bay Times. Is it a great move to propose on national television? I certainly can appreciate the bravado, but I’m not sure that’s my style.
A guaranteed great move? Voting in the next round of the Ultimate Queens Bracket Challenge.
Ultimate Queens Bracket Challenge Blog - Second Round
April 28, 2020
By Daniel Farish
The Sweet 16 of the Ultimate Queens Bracket Challenge is upon us. Today, we are taking a look at not one, but two regions, as these players hope to advance to the Elite 8.
Here are the matches you can vote on today by visiting the Professional Women’s Bowling Association on Twitter, Instagram Story and Facebook Story:
Liz Johnson (2009, 2015) vs. Dasha Kovalova (2019)
Shannon O’Keefe (2018) vs. Missy Parkin (2011)
Carolyn Dorin-Ballard (2001) vs. Kelly Kulick (2007, 2010)
Kim Kearney (2002) vs. Shannon Pluhowsky (2006)
The featured match of this round includes Liz Johnson and Dasha Kovalova, a tasty little rematch of the 2019 Pepsi PWBA Louisville Open title tilt. Kovalova had won the USBC Queens earlier that season and was looking for her second career title. Johnson had her eyes on her 25th career PWBA Tour title.
While this one match doesn’t take long to recap, with Kovalova firing the fourth televised 300 game in PWBA history, the event itself gives me the version of each player I would want for this fictional three-game set.
Kovalova was coming off a disappointing performance the week before at the PWBA East Hartford Open and had arrived early to Louisville, so she could practice at the venue before the tournament started. I had predicted early on during the BowlTV broadcast that Kovalova would at least make the show, if not win the event outright.
At the culmination of each round of qualifying, Kovalova never was lower than fourth and ultimately earned the second seed on the TV show, 95 pins behind Johnson.
Johnson led after the first round by just 14 pins, then exploded in the second round by shooting 1,828 for eight games (a 228.5 average), which was 92 pins better than her closest competitor. That block helped her build a 149-pin lead and allowed her to cruise through the Round of 12 and earn the top seed.
After dispatching Maria José Rodriguez in the semifinal, 226-198, Kovalova moved on to face Johnson in what would become one of the most historic matches in PWBA history.
Johnson, who had used the same ball during all 22 games of qualifying for the first time since 1997, started the match with a different ball. That decision, paired with some suspect shot making, dug a hole for the six-time U.S. Women’s Open champion. Kovalova kept striking, and the rest, they say, is history.
Kovalova went on to finish ninth at the BowlerX.com PWBA Orlando Open, fifth at the QubicaAMF PWBA Players Championship and was one bad lane away from challenging Shannon O’Keefe at the PWBA Tour Championship.
To recap that PWBA Tour Championship appearance, Kovalova shot 279 against Danielle McEwan in the semifinals but completely lost the left lane against O’Keefe to drop the title match, 268-179.
Can Kovalova find the magic necessary to knock off Johnson again? Or will Johnson make better decisions and throw better shots, avenge the loss in Louisville and advance to the next round of the Ultimate Queens Bracket Challenge?
What about Missy Parkin and Shannon O’Keefe?
Based on research I was able to do under quarantine, and without the aid of the massive USBC archives in Arlington, Texas, these two have gotten the best of each other in head-to-head matches over the years, with neither holding a sizeable advantage.
Both players cashed a PWBA Tour-leading 13 times last year, part of a four-way tie with Johnson and Bryanna Coté. While O’Keefe has been the dominant player on tour, she would be smart to not let Parkin hang around.
Kelly Kulick and Carolyn Dorin-Ballard won their Queens titles while carving up some of the most dominant seasons in women’s professional bowling history.
Dorin-Ballard captured the 2001 Queens title in the midst of a record seven-win season on the PWBA Tour, which included a streak of three consecutive wins (Fort Worth Classic, Greater Memphis Open, Southern Virginia Open).
Kulick’s 2010 Queens title came during a nine-month span that also included the 2009 Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) Women’s Shark Championship, 2009 PBA Women’s World Championship, 2010 U.S. Women’s Open and her historic win at the 2010 PBA Tournament of Champions.
So, basically, you must choose: 2001 Carolyn Dorin-Ballard or 2009-2010 Kelly Kulick.
Oomph. That’s rough.
Our final match features fan favorite and three-time PWBA major champion Kim Kearney against Shannon Pluhowsky, who threw, what I said in the 2000-2009 preview, were “three of the most cold-blooded, pressure-packed strikes you could ever see in your life” to clinch the 2006 Queens title.
I didn’t give my personal picks for the first round. I wanted to let you, the voters, do that for me. But, starting with this round, I’m going to tell you who I think is going to advance, and how.
I think Kovalova continues her streak of great bowling and tops Johnson in a close match. Johnson jumps out early on the fresh and has a comfortable lead early in the second game. Once the shot starts moving in, Kovalova gets into that half pocket/swisher zone where she carried six of her 12 strikes in the perfect game in Louisville and claws her way back, shooting 268 the final game to win the match, 712-699.
Unfazed by O’Keefe’s domination on tour the last few years, Parkin shoots 279 out of the gate against O’Keefe’s 213, just like she did in the quarterfinals of the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open.
Putting that game behind her, O’Keefe starts Game 2 with three strikes, before leaving the 2-8 and 4-9 combinations in back-to-back frames. Those two frames flummox O’Keefe; Parkin keeps striking and wins the match handily, 765-644.
The much-heralded match between Dorin-Ballard and Kulick proves to be low on scoring and high on excitement, with neither player breaking 200 during the first two games. Stepping up in the 10th frame and needing only a mark to win, CDB goes high flush and leaves the 4-7-9-10. On the spare attempt, she slides the 4 pin in front of the 9 pin, taking out the 10 pin, resulting in a 578-578 tie.
In the ensuing one-ball sudden death roll-off, both players strike on their first four deliveries. Dorin-Ballard carries a light swisher on her fifth attempt. Needing a strike to stay alive, Kulick leaves a Randy Pedersen-esque 8 pin that causes CDB to run around the arena yelling, “I don’t believe it!”
OK, maybe that last part doesn’t happen. But the stone 8 pin does, and CDB advances.
Despite staying clean through two games, Kearney shoots way too many single pins and trails Pluhowsky by 55 pins going into the final game. All the southpaw needs to do is stay clean and out of trouble, and she advances. Unfortunately for Pluhowsky, a 4-6-7-10 split and a chopped 3-9 let Kearney back in the match.
True to form, however, Pluhowsky steps up in the 10th frame needing a double and splits the 8-9 on all three shots, winning the match, 675-665.
That’s how I see these matches playing out. What do you think?
Don’t forget vote on social media today!
Ultimate Queens Bracket Challenge Blog - 1980-1990
April 23, 2020
By Aaron Smith
Hello again! Emil and Daniel covered the previous two eras, so it’s back to me to complete the first round of the Ultimate Queens Bracket Challenge. Today, we’ll be looking at the champions from 1980-1990.
Four players from the 1980s won multiple Queens titles. Pretty awesome, right? Donna Adamek won the 1979 and 1980 titles, and Tokyo’s Katsuko Sugimoto won the event in 1981 and 1982. Aleta Sill was victorious in 1983 and 1985, and Wendy Macpherson won the first of three titles in 1988 (Macpherson was included in the 2000s bracket for her wins in 2000 and 2003).
Adamek, Sill and Macpherson each have spots in both the PWBA and USBC Hall of Fame. Other USBC Hall of Famers in this bracket include Cora Fiebig (1986 champion), Patty Ann (1990) and Australia’s Carol Gianotti (1989), who will be inducted into the PWBA Hall of Fame in 2020. Here’s a look at the matches – remember to vote for the winners on Twitter, Facebook Story and Instagram Story:
(1) Aleta Sill (1983, 1985) vs. (8) Katsuko Sugimoto (1981, 1982)
(4) Donna Adamek (1979, 1980) vs. (5) Cathy Almeida (1987)
(3) Cora Fiebig (1986) vs. (6) Patty Ann (1990)
(2) Kazue Inahashi (1984) vs. (7) Carol Gianotti (1989)
Much like our other regions, there are many great champions and some incredibly tough matchups to consider.
My focus for this piece, though, is going to look at the runs of Adamek and Sill during this time. Because, well, they were ridiculously great.
As mentioned, Adamek won in 1979 and 1980. She followed her quest for a third consecutive title by finishing fourth. She finished third in 1982. For good measure, she added three additional trips to the championship round during her career – third in 1986 and fifth in 1987 and 1992.
Only two players have made more championship-round appearances at the storied event – Macpherson and Liz Johnson (eight appearances each).
Sill’s wins in 1983 and 1985 surrounded a second-place finish as the top seed in 1984 to Tokyo’s Inahashi. She added another runner-up finish at the Queens in 1994 and finished third in 1989.
The powerful left-hander bowled for the title three consecutive years, joining fellow hall of famer Millie Ignizio as the only player in tournament history to accomplish the feat (Ignizio finished second in 1969 and won in 1970 and 1971). Two players (Macpherson and Ignizio) have won the Queens three times, and no player has won three consecutive years.
Digging a little deeper into the quest for three consecutive wins at the event, Sill’s match against Inahashi was much closer than the 248-222 final score suggested. In my opinion, it serves as one of the greatest showdowns in tournament history, especially considering the history up for grabs.
After exchanging strikes and spares for the first three frames, the fourth ultimately ended up giving Inahashi a lead she would never give up. But the final six frames didn’t lack drama.
Inahashi was unable to convert the 3-6-9-10 in the fourth, giving Sill the chance to take the lead with a mark. Sill’s delivery hit the 1-2 pocket but left the 5-10 split (it was 1984, folks). Sill made a run at the conversion but missed both, giving Inahashi a two-pin advantage.
The final six frames rivaled any great heavyweight bout between two tremendous competitors. Inahashi, noted as the top-ranked bowler in Japan during the broadcast, and Sill, who would win five titles and Player of the Year in 1984, continued to roll strikes after their miscues in the fourth, continually putting the pressure back on their opponent.
Stepping up in the 10th frame, both were working on five consecutive strikes. Inahashi finished first. Needing a double and nine pins to shut out Sill, she rolled three strikes to secure the title.
Inahashi showed her poise by continuing to keep the pocket in play, and Sill showed the fire that eventually would lead her to 31 professional titles. A fantastic effort by two phenomenal champions.
As we review history, though, that’s how close Sill was to winning the coveted tiara for a second consecutive year, and, as things played out, what would’ve been a historic three-peat. In addition, a sixth title in 1984 and a stronger argument for the greatest season ever.
The fan in me wishes Sill would have finished the match first. I would have loved to see those pressure-filled shots and the fire from Sill if she were able to put additional pressure on Inahashi. And, of course, if Inahashi could respond in the same fashion.
As the top seed, though, Sill elected to start the match, meaning Inahashi would finish first. That’s just part of the game.
Sill left no doubt the following year against USBC Hall of Famer Linda Graham, rolling 279 in the title match to win.
There’s your history lesson for today, good folks. Be sure to vote on social media!
Ultimate Queens Bracket Challenge Blog - 1991-1999
April 21, 2020
By Emil Williams Jr.
Hello, good people of Earth! I hope all of you are safe in the current state of the world. Since you’re probably still inside your home, I have something for you to do.
If you’ve been following the Ultimate Queens Bracket Challenge, you’re aware it’s time for the 90s bracket, and I’ve been tasked with discussing a little about the champions from 1991-1999.
The first thing that struck me (no pun intended) about this bracket is the amount of supremely dominate athletes who competed during this time on tour. You can’t forget, there also are some exceptional players who could make things interesting in this bracket. Just like the previous brackets (2010s, 2000s) we’ve already covered… it’s a difficult challenge to choose.
Here are the matches you can vote beginning Tuesday by visiting the PWBA’s Twitter, Instagram Story and Facebook Story accounts:
(1) Leanne Hulsenberg (1999) vs. (8) Cindy Coburn-Carroll (1992)
(4) Dede Davidson (1991) vs. (5) Sandra Postma (1995)
(3) Lisa Wagner (1996) vs. (6) Sandra Jo Shiery (1997)
(2) Anne Marie Duggan (1994) vs. (7) Jan Schmidt (1993)
The 90s bracket offers additional intrigue to me because even though all players have won a Queens title, and if you’re simply looking at seeding, you may find a couple of “match-up nightmares.” I would define “match-up nightmares” as any match in which the higher seed faces an opponent that could be seeded higher in a different circumstance.
It’s important to note seeding in this bracket challenge is based on the player’s winning score in their respective Queens title match. Let’s look at how each first round matchup could present challenges for the higher seed.
We begin at the top of the bracket where No. 1 Leanne Hulsenberg, one of the best players of all-time and arguably the best player of the 90s, faces No. 8 Cindy Coburn-Carroll, a 15-time champion on the PWBA Tour. That’s a tough matchup despite the seeding.
When Hulsenberg won her title in 1999, she had to defeat top seed Dede Davidson twice (great ball change, Leanne) and closed out the win with a very nice 256. The final game of course helped her lock down the top seed. Destiny was on the side of Coburn-Carroll after needing a double and seven in the 10th frame against Dana Miller-Mackie in 1992. There was some good fortune on the side of Coburn-Carroll regarding her final two shots which sealed the title.
Despite a little luck, I’m not sure Hulsenberg would vote to face a champion like Coburn-Carroll in the first round.
Speaking of Davidson, she’s part of an “even” 4/5 matchup with Sandy Postma. Davidson is a nine-time tour champion, while Postma’s resume sits with just one Queens title on her national tour resume. But don’t forget, Postma was the first person to win three USBC Senior Queens titles, which means she’s familiar with the format and understands the big stage.
The same can certainly be said for Davidson, the southpaw, who made two additional Queens telecasts in her career, finishing second and third, respectively. She’s also won a U.S. Women’s Open and Sam’s Town Invitational. What a match.
Another “match-up nightmare” lurks in the 3/6 matchup as 32-time titlist and the PWBA’s all-time winningest player, Lisa Wagner, squares off against 10-time champion Sandra Jo Shiery.
Wagner was the Bowler of the Decade in the 1980s, and had she been in the 80s bracket, you might just crown Wagner now. The real upset is geared toward the fans of the PWBA, considering they only saw Wagner perform on one career Queens telecast. This includes the 80s, when she won 23 titles from 1983-1989. That’s right… 23 titles in seven seasons. Wow!
Despite those accolades, it’s still difficult to lace up against a double-digit title holder, especially one like Shiery in the first round. Ironically, Shiery also is currently up for election in the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame. The vote is open to the public. Feel free to be part of history and vote for Shiery here
While it’s difficult to compare her to Wagner, it’s important to remember Shiery had her own consistent streak from 1989 to 1996, winning one title in every season except 1990. That’s a pretty good success rate in any decade, especially the 90s, a decade that saw many of the greatest players we know today perform at the highest levels. Shiery was one of the best, which makes her a “match-up nightmare” for Wagner.
The final match of the bracket sees 15-time champion Anne Marie Duggan as the No. 2 seed versus 1993 Queens champion and long-time “voice of the PWBA” Jan Schmidt.
On paper, some might see a hall of famer in Duggan (PWBA and USBC Hall of Fames) against a hall of fame-type broadcaster and not give a Schmidt a fighting chance. If you are thinking this way, don’t worry, we won’t punish you. It’s a fact Duggan’s bowling damaged some hearts and hurt feelings in the 90s. Here’s some numbers that would support your theory.
Duggan won 13 of her 15 titles during this decade and was another candidate to be named the best of the 90s. The numbers certainly suggested consideration amongst the likes of Hulsenberg, who won 14 titles in the 90s, and Wendy Macpherson, who captured 13 during this time. The latter of which was deemed the best of the decade by Bowlers Journal International.
However, if there was the perfect “Cinderella” story to make a run through a bracket, it would be Schmidt.
She was the Cinderella story in 1993 after earning the top seed for the finals and only needed to win one match to claim the title. In four previous Queens events, Schmidt had never advanced past qualifying, let alone earn the top seed. In 1993, she qualified 54th. She also had not won a match on TV at the time of the show, entering with a record of 0-3.
And, considering I currently serve as the online “voice of the PWBA” on BowlTV, I must give Schmidt an extra point or two for doing the job both on and off the lanes.
We’ve all seen enough bracket upsets to know the potential of one when we see it. Perhaps it’s not a “match-up nightmare” but it certainly exudes upset potential.
Don’t forget voting is available across the following PWBA social channels… Twitter, Instagram Story and Facebook Story.
Ultimate Queens Bracket Challenge Blog - 2000-2009
April 16, 2020
By Daniel Farish
Hello everyone, and welcome to the 2000-2009 region of the Ultimate Queens Bracket Challenge!
When this idea was first proposed by Aaron Smith, I couldn’t wait to get started. For those of you that don’t know me, I am born, raised and still reside in Louisville, Kentucky. I grew up in a world where schools let us out for the first two days of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Brackets and I go together like fried chicken and mashed potatoes.
I’m taking on the 2000-2009 region and if you look at our eight champions and consider them at their absolute prime, I don’t know that you can find a tougher bracket in this contest. Here are the matches you can vote on today by visiting the PWBA’s Twitter and Instagram Accounts:
(1) Wendy Macpherson (1988, 2000, 2003) vs. (8) Kelly Kulick (2007, 2010)
(4) Lynda Barnes (1998, 2008) vs. (5) Carolyn Dorin-Ballard (2001)
(3) Marianne DiRupo (2004) vs. (6) Shannon Pluhowsky (2006)
(2) Kim Terrell-Kearney (2002) vs. (7) Tennelle Milligan (2005)
Each of these matches has an underlying storyline that we are going to tackle in this preview, starting with the match that has the most layers to it, Macpherson vs. Kulick.
In order to do this, we must travel back to the 2007 USBC Queens at AMF Carolina Lanes in Matthews, North Carolina.
The No. 5 seed Macpherson was looking to become the first player in history to claim the coveted Queens title for a fourth time. She was the lone veteran in a stepladder full of young, talented, and hungry players looking to make their mark on the sport.
After dispatching of Team USA member Shannon O’Keefe, Macpherson set her sights on Kulick, the No. 3 seed.
Described by 1993 Queens champion and ESPN commentator Jan Schmidt as the odds-on favorite, Kulick was coming off her first full season on the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) Tour after becoming the first woman to earn a PBA Tour exemption.
Both players started out with three strikes in the first four frames, and following a Kulick strike in the fifth, the pressure was on Macpherson to keep up the pace. The next three frames for the three-time champion would spell doom, however, as two single pins and a 4-6-7-10 split ended her run at a fourth title.
Kulick kept striking, in the match and on the telecast, defeating Kristal Scott and Diandra Asbaty to collect the first of two Queens titles.
Macpherson, inducted into the USBC Hall of Fame in 2009 and PWBA Hall of Fame in 2019, was the all-time earnings leader in women’s professional bowling with $1.2 million when the PWBA went on hiatus in 2003. Four times between 1996 and 2000, Macpherson was named PWBA Player of the Year.
Kulick went on to claim the 2010 Queens title and became the first woman ever to win a PBA Tour title, defeating Chris Barnes at the 2010 PBA Tournament of Champions. She is a 16-time member of Team USA and owns over 40 medals in international competition.
When looking at this matchup, I imagine 1997 Wendy Macpherson squaring off against 2010 Kelly Kulick. Pretty difficult to choose, isn’t it?
Moving on to our second match, we have a pair of players who never had to win more than one game on TV in order to claim their Queens titles, but they both needed clutch shots in their respective 10th frames to win.
In 1998, Lynda Barnes cruised to her first Queens title with a win over Karen Stroud, building a 57-pin lead by the midway point of the match. It was in 2008, however, that Barnes would be forced to throw some of the biggest shots of her career.
Matched up against Amy Stolz, Barnes held a 21-pin lead as she stepped up in the ninth frame. A vicious 10 pin evened up the match, forcing Barnes to strike out in the 10th, which would force Stolz to do the same for a tie.
After delivering a pair of strikes (flush and half-pocket), she split the 8-9 on the fill shot and put all the pressure on Stolz, who had been struggling to get the ball to the pocket the entire match. That trend continued as Stolz went light on her first shot, leaving the 2-5 to give Barnes her second Queens title.
The 2001 PWBA Tour season belonged to Carolyn Dorin-Ballard. She came into the season with 10 career PWBA titles and would leave the season with 17 titles and a pair of firsts: her first PWBA Player of the Year award, and her first major.
In the title match of the 2001 Queens, Dorin-Ballard was squaring off with a newcomer, a player bowling her first tournament as a pro… Kulick.
Kulick showed us a glimpse into the future, going shot for shot with CDB all the way to the 10th frame. Kulick delivered a double to force Dorin-Ballard to throw the first strike in the final frame for the win.
Having already left two light 7 pins and a 2-4-5 on her finishing lane, Dorin-Ballard made a small adjustment that enabled the ball to tip just a little bit extra on the back part of the lane to carry the swisher strike for her first, and only, major title.
For this match between Barnes and Dorin-Ballard, give me the 2008 Barnes that threw all three in the 10th against the 2001 Dorin-Ballard, who claimed seven titles and PWBA Player of the Year.
For our third match, we have two players who faced a barrage of strikes from their opponents early on and were able to take advantage of mistakes later in the game to claim their titles.
In 2004, Marianne DiRupo had two strikes in the first five frames against Michelle Feldman, who rolled three strikes to begin the match. After a single pin in the fourth frame, Feldman opened the fifth and failed to throw a strike the rest of the way.
DiRupo used that open from Feldman to take the lead with strikes in the sixth and seventh frames. She tacked on another double in the eighth and ninth and secured the victory with a nine count in the final frame.
It’s hard to imagine that Shannon Pluhowsky has just one PWBA Tour title. But, if you’re going to win just one (so far), you might as well make it a big one.
In 2006, Pluhowsky and Liz Johnson battled for the title, and after both players split in the second frame, it was going to be about who could rebound first.
Pluhowsky threw only two strikes in the next six frames, with one open, while Johnson threw four strikes and two spares.
A split in the ninth for Johnson, however, opened the door for Pluhowsky to strike out and secure the win. The southpaw delivered three of the most cold-blooded, pressure-packed strikes you could ever see in your life.
For this match, give me the exact versions of these players mentioned above. I want players who have ice water running through their veins. They say there is no defense in bowling, but the intimidation factor of knowing your opponent is going to double if you make one mistake is enough to make me think twice about what I’m doing.
The final match features two players who had to endure some nerve-racking moments in the final frames of their respective title matches.
It was the Kim Show in 2002, with Kim Kearney taking on Kim Adler.
Kearney was looking for her second straight major (2001 U.S. Women’s Open); Adler, looking for her 16th career title. The two went back and forth during the entire match, and only four pins separated them as Kearney stepped up in the final frame.
A double and seven pins, and she would claim the title. Anything less, and Adler would have a chance.
Kearney struck on the first shot and left a weak 10 pin on the second. Sitting on the bench, she had to wait and see if Adler would throw a double of her own to take the victory.
On a lane where she had gone high the previous two shots, Adler again went heavy on the head pin and left a 3-6-10, giving Terrell-Kearney the win.
Tennelle Milligan didn’t have to endure the anxiousness of winning her 2005 title on the bench. She did, however, experience a roller coaster of a match in which she never trailed but never was able to get comfortable.
After opening with four strikes, Milligan watched as her opponent, Anne Marie Duggan, doubled once in her first four frames, and opened in the fifth. With more than a 30-pin lead through four frames, all Milligan had to do was finish strong, stay clean and not let Duggan back in the match.
A missed single pin in the fifth and flagged 2-8 in the eighth would’ve let Duggan right back in the match, had she not accumulated a second open frame for herself in the seventh.
Milligan needed a strike and a spare in the tenth frame to shut out Duggan. She flushed the first shot, then got a little fast with the second pitch, leaving what I call the Super Bucket (2-4-5-7-8).
Remember, this was on the lane where she had previously flagged the 2-8 to the right. Anyone who has shot the 2-4-5-7-8 knows there are a million ways to chop it, and only two ways to make it. Milligan had apparently never heard that old adage (or maybe it wasn’t invented yet), made the adjustment from the previous 2-8 attempt, and hooked perfectly into the 2-5, converting the spare.
For this match, I want to see 2001-2002 Kim Kearney, who won back-to-back majors, against the Tennelle Milligan who won both the U.S. Women’s Open and the PWBA Players Championship titles in 2000.
Now that you’ve studied up on the history of our eight competitors, it’s time to vote! I know who I’m voting for…do you?
Ultimate Queens Bracket Challenge Blog – 2010-2019
April 14, 2020
By Aaron Smith
Let’s get this started!
First and foremost, I love brackets. I love hypothetical matches. And I love bowling, so this combination is just the best.
I’m tackling the 2010-2019 bracket today, and frankly … it’s tough. Here are the matches you can vote on today by visiting the PWBA’s Twitter and Facebook and Instagram Story accounts:
(1) Liz Johnson (2009, 2015) vs. (8) Maria José Rodriguez (2014)
(4) Diandra Asbaty (2012) vs. (5) Dasha Kovalova (2019)
(3) Diana Zavjalova (2013, 2017) vs. (6) Shannon O’Keefe (2018)
(2) Bernice Lim (2016) vs. (7) Missy Parkin (2011)
Personally, I covered or was able to watch most of these wins in person, so there are a ton of great memories. I think Maria’s win in 2014 stands out the most to me. Here’s why:
It’s always cool to see a great collegiate player make the leap to the next level, which obviously was the case for Maria after her phenomenal career at Maryland Eastern Shore. She collected a few come-from-behind wins during her run to the top seed at the National Bowling Stadium and preached how patience was key in letting the pattern open up to play to her strengths.
But, leading to the title match, the stepladder was all about Kelly Kulick. Kelly was looking for her third tiara and averaged 257 (not a typo … she shot 255, 268 and 248) on her way to meet Maria.
These were the Kelly Kulick moments we had become accustomed to as fans. She owned every moment of that show, and even the ones the fans watching at home didn’t see. There ended up being a brief delay during the title match because of a storm back in Connecticut (I believe), which cut our live feed to ESPN. As we waited to go back online, Kelly worked the crowd, showing off some of her now legendary dance moves. She was at complete ease and control.
But after starting the title match with strikes on three of her first four shots, Kelly stopped striking. Maria stayed clean and put together three consecutive strikes in the middle of the match to take the lead, but an open in the eighth put Kelly in position to regain it.
After a flat 10 in the eighth, Kelly makes a ball change to step up in the ninth. The guts and confidence to do that in the ninth frame of a title match for a major just speaks to why she’s one of the best bowlers on the planet. But, in this instance, her aggressive move backfired. She left a 7-10 split, giving Maria the chance to mark in the ninth and 10th frames to win. Important note for later in the story: Kelly gets none of them on the spare attempt.
USBC and PBA Hall of Famer Chris Barnes described Maria’s shot in the ninth as simply “perfect” … because it was just that. Her best shot of the match. Strike.
With a mark standing between her and the trophy, Maria’s opening shot of the 10th got right, leaving the 2-4-5-8. Who wants to shoot the bucket to lock up a major? Any takers? Put your hand down, Norm.
She switched to her plastic ball and missed left to leave the 8 pin standing. Her score: 190.
After missing both pins on her 7-10, Kelly had 169. With one pin on the spare attempt, she could have filled 20 to tie and doubled to win. Now she needed the double. And hadn’t struck since the fourth frame.
After three big wins and not a ton of drama, here we are. A rollercoaster of a title match with Kelly Kulick needing a double to win. Like she had done all match, she kept it in play and hit the pocket, but to nearly the same result. A 7-10, with the 7 pin falling late, placed the game and title in Maria’s hand.
That crazy game helped Maria into the Ultimate Queens Bracket Challenge, but her 190 game puts her as the eight seed against another all-time great in two-time champion Liz Johnson. Can she knock off another top contender?
I think the most intriguing match of the first round belongs to Zavjalova and O’Keefe, however. Zavjalova has proven how tough she can be in a head-to-head battle, noting previously that she feels the event’s format plays to her strengths. And, she’s a two-time champion, beating a pair of hall of famers (Leanne Hulsenberg and Liz Johnson) to claim her titles.
But O’Keefe arguably is the best player on the planet right now. She’s been the PWBA Player of the Year the last two seasons. Would you bet against her?