By Daniel Farish and Aaron Smith
RALEIGH, N.C. - Singapore's Cherie Tan delivered 10 strikes in her final game Friday at the 2019 QubicaAMF Professional Women's Bowling Association Players Championship to secure the top seed for Sunday's stepladder finals at Buffaloe Lanes North.
The 31-year-old left-hander battled fellow southpaw Shannon Pluhowsky of Dayton, Ohio, all week for the lead, and Tan posted a 268-247 win in the position round to seal her spot at the top of the standings.
Joining Tan and Pluhowsky in the stepladder finals are United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer Liz Johnson of Palatine, Illinois, Ukraine's Dasha Kovalova and Shannon O'Keefe of Shiloh, Illinois.
The finals of the PWBA Players Championship, the third major of the 2019 season, will be broadcast live on Sunday at 4 p.m. Eastern on CBS Sports Network.
With the win in the position round, Tan finished match play with a 12-5-1 record to finish with an overall total of 8,744, including bonus pins. Pluhowsky earned the No. 2 seed with an 8,663 score.
Tan held a 30-pin advantage over Pluhowsky heading into Friday's position round and needed to record a win or tie to remain in the lead. Pluhowsky struck on six of her first seven shots, but back-to-back single pins in her eighth and ninth frames handed the advantage to Tan.
Pluhowsky rolled three strikes in her final frame to force Tan to strike on her first shot for the chance to win outright. A nine count from Tan, plus a spare and strike on her fill ball, would have left them tied at 247.
Tan struck out to complete her run to the top of the stepladder.
"Well, I was a little nervous going into the final match," said Tan, the 2016 PWBA Storm Sacramento Open champion. "I knew I just needed to put the ball in the pocket and make shots. Whether the pins fell or not, that's on them, not me. I'm glad they fell my way."
Tan, who recently won a gold medal in Masters competition at the World Bowling Women's Championships in Las Vegas, said she had used reactive resin for most of match play but made the change to urethane for her final match against Pluhowsky.
Her strategy behind that move is the same plan she'll look to implement in the title match Sunday to claim her first major championship on the PWBA Tour and $20,000 top prize.
"I'll take it one shot at a time on Sunday and let the lane tell me what to do," said Tan, the runner-up at the 2019 Nationwide PWBA Greater Cleveland Open. "It would mean a lot to win, because this is the most prestigious tour for women's bowling. To be able to come out on top is something I'd really be proud of."
Pluhowsky, who was the qualifying leader through 18 games this week at Buffaloe Lanes North, will be looking for her second major title after winning the 2006 USBC Queens.
Johnson, who earned the No. 3 seed with an 8,288 total, will be looking for her third career win at the Players Championship after recording victories at the 2001 and 2017 events. A win on Sunday also would be her 11th major and 25th career PWBA Tour title.
Kovalova, the No. 4 seed with 8,216, is looking for her third title of the 2019 season and second major. She broke through for her first career win at the USBC Queens in May and rolled 300 in the title match against Johnson to win the Pepsi PWBA Louisville Open in August.
O'Keefe, who will face Kovalova in Sunday's opening match as the No. 5 seed with 8,170, is the reigning PWBA Player of the Year and leads the tour in 2019 with four wins. She'll be looking for her third career major title.
O'Keefe went 5-1 in match play during her final round Friday, including a 207-194 win over Sydney Brummett of Fort Wayne, Indiana, in the position round, to hold onto the final spot.
All competitors at the 2019 PWBA Players Championship rolled 18 games of qualifying over two days at Buffaloe Lanes North to determine the 18 players advancing to round-robin match play.
Advancers bowled an additional 18 games in match play on Thursday and Friday, including a position round, and 36-game pinfall totals determined the five players moving onto Sunday's stepladder finals.
BowlTV.com provided livestream coverage of all rounds leading up to the stepladder finals.