ADDISON, Ill. – For the third consecutive time, and fifth overall, United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer Liz Johnson will be taking home the U.S. Women’s Open trophy, and she will savor every moment.
Johnson, of Cheektowaga, New York, won four consecutive matches Sunday at Stardust Bowl, including a 208-143 victory over Shannon Pluhowsky of Dayton, Ohio, in the title match, to capture her fifth U.S. Women’s Open title. Her first one came 20 years ago, and she also won in 2007, 2013, and 2015 (tournament was not held in 2014).
Only fellow USBC Hall of Famer Marion Ladewig owns more U.S. Women’s Open titles with eight, five of which she won consecutively.
“You never know when the next title is going to happen, especially another major,” said Johnson, who became a little emotional in the final frame of the title match. “To be in the category of having five U.S. Opens, it just kind of hit me. I just so thankful I’m still able to do this at a high level. I’m just incredibly happy and proud that I got a fifth U.S. Open title.”
Pluhowsky, who qualified 24th for match play and made the run all the way to the top seed, was attempting to become first player to go from the No. 24 spot to a Professional Women’s Bowling Association Tour title since Jeanne Naccarato accomplished the feat in 1988.
“I came out today, and the lanes didn’t play anything similar to what they had all week,” Pluhowsky said. “You just take the good with the bad, I guess, and move on.”
Johnson said she didn’t feel great going into the tournament, especially coming off what she said was a “horrible” performance at the PBA/PWBA Striking Against Breast Cancer Mixed Doubles tournament. But, she quietly stayed near the leaders throughout the week, and then needed to strike out in the final frame against her last opponent in match play to reach the show.
“This was one of the biggest grinding U.S. Opens I’ve been a part of,” Johnson said. “I like the low scoring. I would rather have the low scoring and the grind, that’s what it’s about. That’s what makes it a major.”
That final match-play victory would earn her the No. 4 seed, meaning Johnson would lead off the TV show after not bowling well on the fresh 39-foot Sport condition, on which the average to make match play was 199.06.
“The higher the pressure, the better I focus,” Johnson said. “I started feeling more and more comfortable today than I have in the last couple of days. When you are in an uncomfortable area, and have to play your C and D game and try to place it, I think I was a little more in my comfort zone today. I tried a different ball, played with the conditions a little bit, and it was pretty good.”
Johnson started off her run to the title with a 207-168 victory over Kelly Kulick of Union, New Jersey. In the first four frames, Johnson struck, while Kulick had two open frames.
Against Singapore’s New Hui Fen in the second match, Johnson was looking to close out the match in the 10th but fouled on her first shot. She would spare, and then get a nine-count, but New couldn’t take advantage of the break, losing 215-200.
New’s Team Singapore teammate Shayna Ng also struggled early in her match against Johnson, failing to mark in three consecutive frames, as Johnson earned a 209-180 victory to advance to the title match.
Competitors at the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open bowled 24 qualifying games over three days before the field was cut to the top 47 for an additional eight games. After 32 games, the top 24 advanced to three rounds of match play to determine the five finalists for Sunday’s stepladder, based on the 56-game pinfall totals, including 30 bonus pins for each match-play win.
All qualifying and match-play rounds of the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open were broadcast live on Xtra Frame.
2016 U.S. WOMEN’S OPEN
At Stardust Bowl, Addison, Ill.
1, Liz Johnson, Cheektowaga, N.Y., 839 (four games), $20,000
2, Shannon Pluhowsky, Dayton, Ohio, 143 (1 game), $10,000
3, Shayna Ng, Singapore, 180 (1 game), $7,000
4, New Hui Fen, Singapore, 210 (1 game), $6,000
5, Kelly Kulick, Union, N.J., 168 (1 game), $5,000
Match One – Johnson def. Kulick, 207-168
Match Two – Johnson def. New, 215-200
Semifinal – Johnson def. Ng, 209-180
Championship – Johnson def. Pluhowsky, 208-143