ARLINGTON, Texas - Jacqueline Evans of Acton, Massachusetts, said she loves the pressure of stepping onto the approach and knowing exactly what she needs to do to win.
When the opportunity presented itself Sunday night at the International Training and Research Center with her first professional title on the line, she came through.
The 25-year-old right-hander confidently converted a 10 pin and struck on her fill ball to defeat Jody Scheerer of Orlando, Florida, 237-232, in the championship match of the 2021 Professional Women's Bowling Association Arlington Regional.
The event was third of four tournaments making up the season-opening 2021 PWBA Kickoff Classic Series. The victory was broadcast live on BowlTV and earned Evans a $1,300 top prize.
Evans was behind in the match heading into the final frames, and Scheerer was in position to shut her out. Scheerer, the 1998 PWBA Rookie of the Year, rattled off seven consecutive strikes after a 3-6-7-10 split in the second frame but ran into trouble again in the 10th frame, leaving a 7-10 split on her first offering.
"I was in complete disbelief because she was so locked in the entire time," Evans said. "I hadn't really been looking at the scores, and I was in shock. I asked Elise (Bolton) if I really could win, and then I went up and threw the best shot I could."
Before stepping up, Evans was transported back to 2016, when she tossed a strike to lock up the girls 20-and-under title at the Junior Gold Championships. Delivering in that moment was rewarded with the coveted title and a lifetime of confidence in pressure situations.
Leaving a 10 pin this time didn't rattle her, even though she had missed one in the semifinal match. To her, it was a routine spare she has made countless times, and the magnitude of the moment didn't make it any different.
"I like being in control, and I really get amped up when I feel pressure like that," Evans said. "The Junior Gold moment definitely crossed my mind, and I knew I could do it again. I feel like since Junior Gold, I haven't had that kind of breakthrough again, so this means so much."
Evans, an assistant bowling coach at Fairleigh Dickinson University since 2019, earned her spot in Sunday's title match with a semifinal victory over Team USA member Sydney Brummett of Wichita, Kansas, 223-201.
Brummett started the match with strikes in four of the first five frames, but she was unable to register another strike the rest of the way. Despite struggling to get the 10 pin out, Evans managed a final-frame double to seal the win.
Evans determined her bowling ball was losing energy and a move would be necessary before facing Scheerer. She initially moved a couple boards left, and the result was more 10 pins, so she moved right and increased her speed, which was effective on the 37-foot oil pattern.
In the opening match of the night, Evans struck on six of her first seven shots and cruised to a 238-182 win over Bolton, a former Junior Team USA member from Merritt Island, Florida.
Bolton now is the women's bowling associate head coach at Life University. She won the first regional event of the 2019 PWBA season and went on to reach the semifinals of the Go Bowling! PWBA Regional Showdown.
The field for the Arlington Regional on Sunday included 14 competitors, who showcased their skills over eight qualifying games at the ITRC.
Evans earned the No. 3 seed for the championship round after two of her last three games were in the 270s. The game in between was a 179 performance on the same pair of lanes scheduled to host the stepladder.
Scheerer led the qualifying round with an eight-game total of 1,849, a 231.12 average, and though she did not go on to win the event, she was overjoyed to be back on the lanes and competing at the highest level.
After a standout youth, collegiate and international career, the South African enjoyed a successful stint on the PWBA Tour that included one regional title. She competed regularly until about 2001, then got married, moved to Florida and started a family.
Scheerer and her husband, Tim, had two children, Emily and Trevor. In recent years, their entire focus was on caring for their young son, who was battling cancer. He died in 2016.
As time passed, Scheerer found herself back on the lanes for league play, and after taking off again in 2018, she rededicated herself to high-level competition in 2019. Due to the pandemic, which forced the cancellation of the 2020 PWBA Tour season, her return was delayed.
Scheerer struggled to get comfortable at the ITRC this week and finished 36th and tied for 30th in the Bowlers Journal Classic and ITRC Classic, respectively.
A backup pair of bowling shoes and a few strings of strikes at the regional event Sunday restored her confidence and passion for the sport.
"It felt so good and makes me want to bowl even more," said Scheerer, a 46-year-old right-hander. "The last five games of the second event I started to get really comfortable, and that continued today. Even though I didn't win, it was really nice to bowl so well today. I know I'm better than what I scored at the beginning of the week, and I'm proud that I was able to overcome those struggles."
Scheerer said that throughout the championship match Sunday, she was focused on her process and repeating good shots. The final shot that resulted in the 7-10 was no different than the others.
"I thought I threw it well," said Scheerer, whose best finish on the PWBA Tour was a third-place effort. "I didn't really have to think about it because I was in my zone and process. I threw a good shot and couldn't believe the 7-10 didn't move. I really wanted to win this one, but even though I didn't, I proved to myself I could compete out here again. Honestly, I'm ready to bowl more games. I wish the week wasn't over for me."
The final event of the PWBA Kickoff Classic Series is the PWBA Hall of Fame Classic, which gets underway Monday.
Competition at the ITRC resumes at 11 a.m. Eastern with the first of three eight-game blocks at the PWBA Hall of Fame Classic. Additional rounds will be held Monday at 5 p.m. Eastern and Tuesday at 3 p.m. EST.
Though the players qualified for the final event based on pins toppled earlier in the week, all pinfall now will be dropped.
The top five players, based on their 24-game pinfall totals, including bonus pins for each win, will advance to the stepladder finals, scheduled for 9 p.m. EST.
All of the action will be shown live at BowlTV.com. The match-play portion will be free for anyone who creates a login to BowlTV, but the stepladder will require a paid subscription.
All of the qualifying and match-play rounds at the Kickoff Classic Series are being broadcast live at BowlTV.com and will remain in the BowlTV archives, along with the subscription-required stepladder rounds.
This week's Kickoff Classic Series marks the first PWBA Tour competition since September 2019. Though the 2020 PWBA Tour season was canceled due to COVID-19, three regional events were able to be contested early in the year.
The PWBA Regional program returned to the bowling landscape with the relaunch of the PWBA Tour in 2015. There were seven regional events each year from 2015-2017, all conducted by the Professional Bowlers Association and held simultaneously with existing PBA regional tournaments.
In 2018, the program experienced a gap year, before returning in 2019 with a new look and season-ending PWBA Regional Showdown that featured the season's top regional performers in a special made-for-TV event.
There were five PWBA Regional events held in 2019, and there are 14 PWBA Regional events expected to be on the schedule in 2021.
As a true steppingstone to the bright lights of the PWBA Tour, the PWBA Regional program is limited to competitors who have not yet won on the national tour.
At this week's PWBA Kickoff Classic Series, competitors who qualified for the PWBA Hall of Fame Classic, based on their combined qualifying scores from the PWBA Bowlers Journal Classic and PWBA ITRC Classic, were not eligible to also participate in the Arlington Regional.
Of the 14 competitors in the regional field, 10 participated in the first two events of the Kickoff Series, but were not among the 24 bowlers who advanced to the all-match-play Hall of Fame Classic.
Julia Bond of Aurora, Illinois, a longtime member of the Team USA program and a past standout at the University of Nebraska, won the inaugural Regional Showdown. She is a three-time PWBA Regional champion.
Each event at the PWBA Kickoff Classic Series is being contested on a different lane condition.
The prize fund for each of the three national tour stops is $65,000, with $10,000 going to each champion.
The 2021 PWBA Tour season will feature 20 events, highlighted by the introduction of the Classic Series events and an increase in the season's overall prize fund by nearly $400,000.