EAGAN, Minn. - Although the road to the season-ending Professional Women's Bowling Association Tour Championship may have had more bumps than planned in 2018 for Colombia's Rocio Restrepo, she returned to form Saturday on the way to winning the BowlerX.com PWBA Twin Cities Open.
Restrepo defeated top seed Liz Kuhlkin of Schenectady, New York, in the championship match at Cedarvale Lanes, 224-193, to claim her fourth career PWBA Tour title and $10,000 top prize.
The finals of the BowlerX.com PWBA Twin Cities Open were televised live Saturday on CBS Sports Network.
The tightly contested title match saw Restrepo gain the early lead after Kuhlkin was unable to strike in her first four frames, which included a missed 4 pin in the first frame. After a ball change to start the fifth frame, Kuhlkin found the right line and rolled four consecutive strikes to make up the difference and take the lead.
Kuhlkin delivered another pocket shot in the ninth frame but left the 7 pin standing, which she was unable to convert. Given the chance to seize the victory, Restrepo delivered a pair of strikes in the ninth and 10th frames to win her first title of the 2018 season.
Although the win came down to executing in her final frame, the decision at the beginning of her semifinal match to use a different bowling ball on each lane helped to put her in that position.
"I knew I needed to bowl really well against Liz, since she had been phenomenal all week," said Restrepo, who now resides in Louisville, Ohio. "The left lane had been giving the other girls trouble, but since I made the decision to use a different ball from the beginning, I was able to play them the same."
Restrepo, a 30-year-old right-hander, saw the trend earlier on Saturday as she earned the No. 2 seed for the stepladder finals.
"I saw the same thing this morning," Restrepo said. "Some of the pairs had the left lane playing tighter and the right lane hooking more, and on the show it felt like they played a lot tighter. I knew I needed to use something stronger just because of how the lanes were playing compared to earlier in the week, and I just tried to stay loose and make sure I could swing it to the right."
Restrepo, the runner-up for PWBA Player of the Year in 2016, has battled injuries and even some bad luck over the course of the 2018 season.
After recording a third-place finish at the PWBA Fountain Valley Open in May, she had not approached another championship-round appearance, with a best finish of 13th at the PWBA Greater Harrisburg Open.
At last week's Pepsi PWBA St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open, travel issues caused her to miss the first round of qualifying after competing for Colombia at the Central American and Caribbean Sports Games in Barranquilla, Colombia.
Although she's still working to get back to where she'd like to be on the lanes, Restrepo now is ready to take advantage of the rest of the season.
"I know my physical game is not 100 percent yet," Restrepo said. "I know there are a lot of things to work on in the next few weeks, but I'm looking forward to competing (at the Tour Championship). Last year, I didn't perform as well as I could have, so I want to have fun and make the best of the venue we have there."
Kuhlkin had led every round leading up to the stepladder finals and made her third consecutive appearance on CBS Sports Network after winning the U.S. Women's Open and placing third last week at Seminole Lanes in Seminole, Florida.
The 24-year-old right-hander trusted her next move after making the ball change in the fifth frame and hopes to continue the momentum she's found in the second half of the season.
"I felt really good about the ball I started with, but I was confident in moving down to the next ball after leaving the 3 pin in the fourth frame," said Kuhlkin, a two-time PWBA Tour champion. "Rocio was looking good, and I wasn't going to wait because I'm out here to win. I made the right change and made some great shots. I honestly thought I made the spare. Off my hand, I felt pretty good about it, but it caught some of the oil downlane and pushed. Those things happen, and all I can do is continue to put myself in position to win."
Restrepo earned her spot in the title match by defeating Jordan Richard of Tecumseh, Michigan, 201-170.
Restrepo was able to stay clean after an early open frame, while Richard, who's the leading candidate to claim PWBA Rookie of the Year after capturing the win at the PWBA Greater Harrisburg Open, had back-to-back open frames on the left lane to end the match.
Richard bested the front runner for PWBA Player of the Year, Shannon O'Keefe of Shiloh, Illinois, to advance to the semifinals, 197-192. Richard bounced back from a missed 4 pin in the fourth frame to put the pressure on O'Keefe in the 10th.
O'Keefe, a two-time winner this season, needed a double in the final frame to move on, but she left her third consecutive 10 pin to finish in fourth place.
In the opening match of the stepladder finals, Richard posted an early run of five consecutive strikes against Josie Barnes of Nashville, Tennessee, to collect the win, 236-203. Barnes, the only player to roll a 300 during the week at Cedarvale Lanes, was unable to make up any ground after a pair of 7-10 splits in the first five frames.
The BowlerX.com PWBA Twin Cities Open is the second of three elite-field events taking place in August. Following the U.S. Women's Open, the top 24 players on the PWBA points list earned their way into the elite-field events with the remainder of the 32-player field determined through a pre-tournament qualifier (PTQ).
Players had 16 games of qualifying on Friday before the field was cut to the top 12. Six additional games on Saturday morning determined the five players for the stepladder finals.