By Daniel Farish and Aaron Smith
RICHMOND, Va. - Shannon O'Keefe of Shiloh, Illinois, put the finishing touches on a dream season by winning her second career Professional Women's Bowling Association Tour Championship on Wednesday.
O'Keefe rolled eight consecutive strikes on her way to a 268-179 win over Ukraine's Dasha Kovalova in the title match to claim the $20,000 top prize and her third major championship.
The 2019 PWBA Tour Championship was held inside the Old Dominion Building at Richmond Raceway, and Wednesday's knockout-style championship round was broadcast live on CBS Sports Network.
The 40-year-old right-hander won her fifth title of 2019, after securing her second consecutive PWBA Player of the Year award earlier in September. She made seven championship-round appearances in 13 events and finished the season with an 11-2 record in those appearances.
"This is beyond any of my wildest dreams," said O'Keefe, who won the 2017 Tour Championship. "To have a season like this - to win five titles, come back to Richmond Raceway, where I won my first major, and be able to win again, to be player of the year - it's mind boggling to me, and I'm so humbled and grateful."
After delivering in a must-strike situation to defeat Stefanie Johnson of McKinney, Texas, in her semifinal match, 234-223, O'Keefe elected to make a ball change heading into the title tilt against Kovalova.
O'Keefe's first shot against Kovalova crept high on the head pin, leaving a 4-7 combination, which resulted in a spare. Her adjustment from the first frame helped her quickly distance herself from Kovalova, who opened twice in her first seven frames.
"Going off the first match, Dasha's ball motion was really good and her ball was hitting like a ton of bricks," said O'Keefe, who now owns 13 career PWBA Tour titles. "We felt like I could shoot 220 with the ball I used in the semifinals, but it was starting to get lazy downlane. We thought the other ball, with a little surface, would still retain through the front part of the lane and still come off it. The first shot was really good, so I made a one-and-one move on both lanes, and it was such a good choice."
Wednesday's victory also was amplified for O'Keefe as she celebrated the win with her husband, Bryan, on their 15th wedding anniversary.
"He's been in the fire with me, and it's so awesome to be able to share moments like this with him," O'Keefe said. "I wouldn't be the player I am today without him, and to win this on our anniversary is very special."
Kovalova was dominant in her semifinal win against Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, New York, delivering 11 strikes to record a 279-230 victory.
Kovalova started the game with four consecutive strikes, but she found herself trailing as McEwan began with six consecutive strikes. Kovalova took the lead after back-to-back spares from McEwan in the seventh and eighth frames and found herself in the driver's seat after McEwan was unable to convert the 1-2-4-6-10 in the ninth frame.
Kovalova had a breakout year on the PWBA Tour in 2019, winning her first career title at the United States Bowling Congress Queens to earn her first trip to the Tour Championship. She followed the major victory with a perfect game in the championship match of the Pepsi PWBA Louisville Open to claim her second title of the season.
"No, I didn't expect this," Kovalova said. "I wanted to make one show this season. I made four and won two of them.
"In the title match, I knew I needed to make a ball change, but I was just stubborn. It's OK. I'm going to take a little break and heal some of the aches and pains and come back stronger next year."
O'Keefe and McEwan were automatically seeded into the semifinals based on their ranking on the season-long points list, which determined seeding for this week's bracket.
Kovalova and Johnson each had to make their way through best-of-five matches to advance to Wednesday's championship round. The Tour Championship is a single-elimination event.
The 16-player field at the Tour Championship included all of this year's eligible PWBA Tour champions, and the final spots in the bracket were filled in using the 2019 PWBA points list.
Four lanes once again were specially installed inside the Old Dominion Building by QubicaAMF, the official supplier of bowling equipment for the 2019 PWBA Tour Championship.
All rounds leading up to the championship round were broadcast live on BowlTV.com.