ARLINGTON, Texas – Not long after the conclusion of her collegiate bowling career in 2013, the rebirth of the Professional Women’s Bowling Association gave All-American Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, New York, the opportunity to make a living as a professional bowler.
In the years since she left Fairleigh Dickinson University, McEwan has flown nearly a million miles to measure her abilities against the best bowlers in the world, women and men.
The return of the PWBA Tour in 2015 gave her a chance to become a star domestically, while her ambition, no-fear attitude and love of different cultures have helped her showcase her talents in dozens of countries across the globe.
The five-time PWBA Tour champion and nine-time member of Team USA had another busy year planned for her favorite baggage handlers and airline crews, before COVID-19 brought an unexpected halt to the turning of her passport pages.
McEwan already had logged a couple of overseas trips early in 2020 and was days away from heading to Germany with fellow PWBA champion Maria José Rodriguez for the Brunswick Euro Challenge, but health, safety and uncertainty led them to change their plans.
Instead, they headed to Las Vegas to compete for spots in the PBA World Series of Bowling XI, a decision that quickly proved to be a good one, or at least the best one, when the Euro Challenge was canceled and strict travel restrictions were put into place for travel between Europe and the United States.
McEwan ended up leading the pre-tournament qualifier at the South Point Bowling Plaza to claim one of 10 available spots in the multi-event World Series, while Rodriguez finished 11th to become the alternate, later earning a spot in the main field.
Before the majority of the World Series events could conclude, they were postponed until they could be contested safely at a later date. That includes the match-play portion of the Scorpion Championship, for which McEwan qualified.
Now, more than six months later, McEwan and Rodriguez will be reunited on the lanes at Bowlero Centreville in Centreville, Virginia, where they’ll be on opposing teams in the 2020 edition of the Professional Bowlers Association League.
They’ll be among the 10 PWBA stars competing in the event, which will run from Sept. 26-30.
McEwan, a 29-year-old right-hander, will join fellow PWBA champions Dasha Kovalova, Clara Guerrero, Liz Kuhlkin and Missy Parkin on the Miami Waves, and Rodriguez will compete on the Phoenix Fury alongside Stefanie Johnson, Liz Johnson, Shannon O’Keefe and Jordan Richard.
Bob Learn Jr., part of the 2020 United States Bowling Congress Hall of Fame class, is the Waves manager, and the Fury will be led by USBC Hall of Famer and 10-time PWBA Tour titlist Kim Kearney.
McEwan is especially looking forward to competing for Learn, who made a big impression on her when she was a young player aiming to make a name for herself.
“Bob was one of the first people who noticed me and saw me trying to get comfortable, and he pulled me aside,” McEwan said. “He said some really nice things I’ll never forget, and that meant a lot to me. To be on his team now means a lot, too.”
Since its inception in 2013, the PBA League traditionally has featured eight teams. The field previously was expanded to 10 teams for the 2020 season, and the addition of two women’s teams brings the total to 12.
For the race to the Elias Cup, the coveted prize of the PBA League, the teams, featuring the top stars from both the PBA Tour and PWBA Tour, will be split into two divisions – Carter and Anthony – named after two of the sport’s greatest competitors, Don Carter and Earl Anthony.
McEwan and the Miami Waves will compete in the Anthony Division, while the Phoenix Fury will be in the Carter Division.
Qualifying, scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Eastern on Sept. 26, will be broadcast live on FloBowling, and competition will move to FS1 starting Sept. 27 at noon Eastern, with the Anthony Division quarterfinals getting head-to-head match play underway. The championship match will take place Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. Eastern.
McEwan had the chance to travel to Florida in June to compete in the PBA Summer Clash, and while it allowed her to experience the new standards developed for traveling during a global pandemic, the short trip definitely didn’t make up for having her wings clipped in 2020.
In preparing for her upcoming visit to Virginia, she flirted with the idea of flying to the event just to feel the rush and excitement of the travel experience, from checking luggage to renting a car upon arrival.
Realistically, though, she knows the amount of time and effort it would take for just a 42-minute flight makes driving the logical option. The drive is less than 300 miles and should take about four hours.
“Honestly, I do hate driving, and I always just want to get on a plane and fly,” said McEwan, who also had trips to Asia, Australia and Qatar planned for 2020. “I really did look at flights for this. I wanted to go to the airport and get on a plane and wait for my luggage and rent a car – and complain the entire time, like you’re supposed to. I miss it all so much, I wanted to do it just to do it.”
McEwan’s longing for the friendly skies hasn’t slowed her hard work at all, however.
She’s already pretty well-known for her work ethic in the gym and on the lanes, and that has continued, despite the lack of competitive opportunities.
Workouts moved to her basement, and she built a lane in the garage to work on some things until her family’s bowling center was accessible again.
“In our situation, we were in the middle of doing a big renovation and transformation from a more traditional bowling center to a family entertainment center,” McEwan said. “We were doing everything – tearing down walls, pulling air conditioning units – there was construction everywhere.”
With the former Hi-Tor Lanes now transitioned to Break Point Bowl & Entertainment and open for business, McEwan has been back on the actual lanes for practice, usually before the center opens each day.
She knows she’ll be ready to compete when it’s time to head to Virginia, and she has no doubt her teammates will be prepared, too.
“I’m so excited to get back out there and do what we do and do it with and against the best bowlers in the world,” said McEwan, who also competed in the PBA League in 2016 and 2017. “We’ve got a great team. We know each other, we respect each other and we can’t wait to bring all our talents and strengths together to be the best team we can be.”
McEwan even joked that early conversations between the Miami Waves teammates have been more about selecting their matching skirts than about bowling. That’s something the 10 men’s teams probably won’t be worrying too much about but also is a testament to how confident McEwan and her teammates are about their individual preparation and team cohesion.
“I think all of the on-lane stuff will fall into place for us as soon as we get there, and our familiarity with each other and the Baker format (from college and international competition) will help us be more comfortable,” McEwan said. “I’m really looking forward to having my feet on the approach, having my team behind me and having each shot count toward something. It will be awesome to feel my heart racing and have to tell myself to breathe. I’m excited to be back out there doing my job again.”
The Portland Lumberjacks, led by USBC Hall of Famer Tim Mack, hoisted the Elias Cup in 2019. The team included the 2019 Mark Roth PBA League Most Valuable Player Wes Malott, Kris Prather, Kyle Troup, Ryan Ciminelli and Mitch Hupé.
In 2020, Mack’s team will include Malott, Prather, Troup, Packy Hanrahan and Sweden’s Martin Larsen.