ADDISON, Ill. - Six years ago, Germany’s Birgit Noreiks made her first United States Bowling Congress Queens televised finals appearance. Six years later, Noreiks returned to the major championship lights of television and won her first career major title.
The 35-year-old right-hander defeated Colombia’s Clara Guerrero, 187-158, in the title match at Stardust Bowl live on CBS Sports Network to become the eighth international player to win the USBC Queens.
She joins Ukraine’s Dasha Kovalova (2019), Singapore’s Bernice Lim (2016), Latvia’s Diana Zavjalova (2013, 2017), Colombia’s Maria José Rodriguez (2014), Australia’s Carol Gianotti (1989), Japan’s Kazue Inahashi (1984) and Katsuko Sugimoto (1981, 1982) as international winners of the event.
Noreiks claimed the coveted tiara and the $60,000 first-place prize, the second richest top prize in women’s bowling history. Guerrero earned $30,000 for her runner-up finish.
In the title match, Noreiks began with three consecutive strikes and five of the first seven, while Guerrero opened with a 7-10 split and followed with a strike in the second. Guerrero added three consecutive nine spares as she tried to improve her carry percentage to strike, but splits in the sixth, seventh and eighth frames ended her chances at a major title.
“It’s amazing,” said Noreiks, while searching for the words to describe the win. “It just happened, so I still can’t believe it. The game went by so fast. It really is amazing.”
Noreiks used two different bowling balls in the finals, one on each lane, to help her feel comfortable on the 42-foot oil pattern. Similar to how she attacked the oil pattern during the week, she wanted to play straighter angles, and the forward thinking between her and her ball reps proved to play dividends during the stepladder finals.
“The guys said throw it fast and try to keep it in front of you, and that’s what I like to do,” said Noreiks, who now owns three Professional Women’s Bowling Association Tour titles. “I was nervous if I had to move left, because I don’t feel I’m as good at doing that right now. When I saw the girls struggling while doing it, I knew I couldn’t do that because it wasn’t working. We figured out really early we were going to use two different balls to make sure I can do what I like to see, and I guess it worked.”
The 2016 finals of the Queens was the first TV appearance of any kind for Noreiks, and much has changed since that time. She’s improved as a player and an athlete. Her TV experience has improved exponentially, as tonight’s championship-round appearance was her eighth since 2016. Formally, Pöppler, she’s now married to husband, Tobias. It’s a different Noreiks all around, and she’s grateful for the growth in all aspects.
“When I bowled the Queens in 2016, that was my first TV event I ever bowled,” said Noreiks, who won the 2021 PWBA Go Bowling Classic. “I didn’t know how to handle the shot clock, and I was injured on that show. It’s just completely different now with the experience I’ve gained. I’m married now. I’m just happy with my life, and I can come out here, bowl and enjoy what I’m doing.”
Guerrero was searching for her second major title and first win at the Queens. A win would’ve solidified her hall of fame career, but this defeat won’t define her. She’ll get back to work and be prepared for the next event.
“To be in that position felt great,” Guerrero said. “How I executed and the decisions I made did not. But, you know, you work hard for yourself to be in the position where you can fight for a title, and that’s what I did this week. I just have to regroup and be stronger for next week.”
To advance to the title match, Noreiks defeated Colombia’s Laura Plazas, 233-214. Another fast start for Noreiks put her in the driver’s seat early, but Plazas kept the pace and trailed by only seven pins with two frames to go.
Needing a strike on her first shot in the 10th frame and seven pins on her next shot to secure the win, Noreiks delivered to defeat Plazas and advance.
Plazas, the No. 3 seed, advanced to the semifinal after defeating No. 4 seed Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, New York, 181-179.
Plazas missed two single pin spares in the match and looked like she might fall short, but a 7-10 split from McEwan in the 10th frame opened the door for Plazas to steal the match. She delivered two strikes and six pins in the final stanza to advance and performed admirably to sneak through.
In the opening match, McEwan defeated Hope Gramly of Aubrey, Texas, 213-180. Gramly, an amateur, was making her first televised appearance in a professional event and appeared ready for the moment.
She tossed strikes in three of her first five frames and trailed McEwan by one pin in the fifth frame. An open frame following the return from commercial break, and a late double by McEwan, proved to be the difference in the match. Gramly recently helped McKendree capture the NCAA Women’s Bowling Championship in April.
The 2022 event started with 204 competitors. After 15 games of qualifying over three days, the top 63 players and Julia Bond of Aurora, Illinois, who was guaranteed a spot in the bracket as the defending champion, advanced to match play.
The PWBA Tour season continues May 26-29 at the PWBA Twin Cities Open in Eagan, Minnesota.