Match Play - Round 3
ARLINGTON, Texas - Julia Bond of Aurora, Illinois, has enjoyed success at every level of her bowling career, and she raised the bar again Tuesday as she claimed her first Professional Women's Bowling Association Tour title at the 2021 PWBA Hall of Fame Classic.
Just two days shy of her 25th birthday, Bond rebounded from a ninth-frame split with a title-clinching double, defeating top seed Lindsay Boomershine of Perry, Utah, 222-210.
The Hall of Fame Classic was the final event of the PWBA Kickoff Classic Series, which included three national tour stops and one regional event during its seven-day run at the International Training and Research Center, the home of Team USA.
The victory, broadcast live on BowlTV, earned Bond a $10,000 top prize.
The right-hander already was a three-time PWBA regional winner, in addition to a victory at the made-for-TV Go Bowling! PWBA Regional Showdown in 2019, but the cancellation of the 2020 season due to the pandemic delayed her opportunity to build on the things she learned during her rookie campaign in 2019.
"I'm extremely proud of myself and how far I've come," said Bond, who had sixth-place finishes at the 2019 PWBA Lincoln Open and 2017 U.S. Women's Open. "There's naturally going to be some doubt when you go to the next level, but being able to push through in such a pressure situation and come away with my first title feels amazing."
The five-time Team USA member and former standout at the University of Nebraska entered Tuesday's championship round at the ITRC as the No. 4 seed and rolled through the stepladder with 28 strikes in her four matches.
As she did throughout the four games, Bond was able to strike early in the title match and put pressure on Boomershine, who was looking for the first championship-round win of her PWBA career.
Consecutive strikes from Boomershine in the sixth, seventh and eighth frames allowed her to cut into a deficit of more than 40 pins, and a 4-6-7-10 split from Bond in the ninth frame gave Boomershine the chance to lock up her first title with two more strikes and a nine-count.
Boomershine, a 35-year-old right-hander, struck in the ninth frame but left a 4 pin on the first offering of her final frame. After the conversion, she left the 3-6-9-10 combination to let some of the pressure off Bond. Had Boomershine gotten nine on the fill ball, she would've forced Bond to throw a double. Instead, Bond only needed to fill 19 pins.
In five previous stepladder appearances, Boomershine averaged just 165. Her best finish on the PWBA Tour was a second-place effort at the 2016 PWBA St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open.
To help move on from her past struggles, Boomershine has worked hard on her mental game. Her focus on keeping matches close and finishing strong allowed her to compile a 19-5 record on the way to the top of the standings in the all-match-play Hall of Fame Classic.
While the hard work and preparation didn't translate to her first PWBA Tour win, Boomershine collected three top-10 finishes at the Kickoff Classic Series. She was sixth in the Bowlers Journal Classic and seventh in the ITRC Classic.
"It didn't turn out the way I wanted, but I didn't miss a spare, and I shot over 200, so we're making moves, and I bowled the best game I could," said Boomershine, who was slowed by a 7-10 split in the fourth frame against Bond. "(This week) shows me I'm getting better. My spare shooting was good, I stuck to the game plan and I had a bad break. I wish the 7 or the 10 would've fallen. I only missed the pocket, I think, on the fill shot. I didn't really want to give away the head pin. I didn't want six, but it is what it is at this point.
"It has been a great week, I'm happy with my performance and I'm looking forward to the rest of the year. I'm up there in the points, so hopefully it's not devastating this time. I have a great support system, and I just hope I made everyone proud."
On the way to the title, Bond was able to showcase many of her strengths as the 41-foot oil pattern broke down, and the display of versatility included keeping her angles tight when the pattern was fresh, staying patient and using her ball speed to combat the transition.
A ball change heading into her semifinal meeting with 16-year-old Jillian Martin of Stow, Ohio, provided the firepower Bond needed to win the high-scoring matchup, 245-211.
Bond started the game with four consecutive strikes, and eight strikes in her first nine frames, while Martin kept the pressure on with five consecutive strikes after a first-frame spare. Back-to-back single pins and a 2-4-8-10 split from Martin ended her bid to become the youngest bowler in history to win a PWBA Tour event.
Martin had two opportunities this week to replace United States Bowling Congress and PWBA Hall of Famer Wendy Macpherson in the record book as the tour's youngest winner. Macpherson won the U.S. Women's Open in 1986 at the age of 18.
Martin's week also included a runner-up finish to Bryanna Coté of Tucson, Arizona, in the ITRC Classic and an eighth-place performance in the season-opening Bowlers Journal Classic, won by two-time reigning PWBA Player of the Year Shannon O'Keefe of Shiloh, Illinois, for her 14th PWBA Tour title.
In each of the first two stepladder matches Tuesday, Bond was able to pile on the strikes out of the gate to pull ahead early.
Against Erin McCarthy of Omaha, Nebraska, a PWBA Tour champion in 2018, Bond struck five times in her first six frames to set the pace. A late ball change and double from McCarthy, coupled with an open frame from Bond, gave McCarthy a chance to add some pressure, but a 10 pin on the first shot of her final frame ended her run. Bond advanced to the semifinal by a score of 213-191.
Bond opened the night with a 213-157 victory over two-time PWBA Tour champion Dasha Kovalova of Ukraine. Bond struck three times in the first four frames to build a sizable lead, while three open frames never allowed Kovalova to gain any momentum.
"I had a good rookie season, but I felt in my heart I could've done better," Bond said. "I used the time off to work on some things, including my speed control, opening up my angles and making smarter, quicker choices, and to be able to test that progress on the biggest stage for women's bowling and find success means so much."
The field for the Series-ending tournament featured the week's top 24 performers, based on their combined qualifying totals from the Bowlers Journal Classic and ITRC Classic. The 18-game pinfall totals then were dropped, and the contenders battled over 24 head-to-head matches, with 30 bonus pins awarded for each victory, to determine the five players for Tuesday's championship round.
Boomershine, Martin and O'Keefe were the only three players from the week's 36-bowler field to make the match-play portion of all three national tournaments.
Three competitors - Martin, McCarthy and Kovalova - each made two championship-round appearances during the Kickoff Classic Series.
All of the qualifying and match-play rounds at the Kickoff Classic Series were broadcast live at BowlTV.com and will remain in the BowlTV archives for fans who want to revisit the action.
The 2021 PWBA Kickoff Classic Series marked the first national PWBA competition since September 2019. The 2020 PWBA Tour season was canceled due to COVID-19.
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 resume April 22 for the PWBA Twin Cities Open in Eagan, Minnesota.
In all, the 2021 PWBA Tour schedule 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.