PARMA HEIGHTS, Ohio – At the start of the 2023 Professional Women’s Bowling Association Tour season, Jordan Richard of Tipton, Michigan, was wondering when she’d win again.
Now, the question has changed to can she lose?
It certainly doesn’t seem like it at the moment as Richard defeated Stefanie Johnson of McKinney, Texas, 247-219, at Yorktown Lanes Saturday night to win the 2023 PWBA Bowlers Journal Cleveland Open, giving Richard back-to-back tournament titles and three wins in the first seven events this season.
The victory earned the 27-year-old right-hander $20,000 and pushed her PWBA Tour career win total up to five.
Johnson, who entered Saturday night’s championship match in search of her fifth win as well, took home $10,000 for the runner-up finish.
Richard’s journey to title No. 5 followed a similar roadmap to the one she used enroute to victory at the Great Lakes Classic in Grand Rapids, Michigan, just four nights earlier.
The 2018 PWBA Tour Rookie of the Year was in seventh place after Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying, but by the end of Round 3 on Saturday morning, she had moved up to third.
Richard saved her best for last, however, firing a six-game total of 1,360 (a 226.67 average) during Round 4 to take the lead and earn the No. 1 seed for Saturday night’s stepladder finals.
Even though Richard is always careful not to get too far ahead of herself, once she’d earned the top seed, the notion that she could actually pull off back-to-back victories started looking more and more realistic.
“Once I got to the top, it was like, ‘okay, I can win again,’ which made it more about trying to stay at the top,” Richard said. “That was really important because I only wanted to bowl one game.”
Richard certainly ended up making the most of that game, but things didn’t start off as favorably as she would have liked.
In fact, it was Johnson who held the early lead, capitalizing on a pair of Brooklyn strikes to jump out to a 16-pin advantage through five frames over Richard, who began the title match by leaving three 10 pins and a 7 pin during that stretch.
But Richard refused to let the early lack of pin carry get her down; instead, she made her spares, stayed patient and waited for the strikes to come.
And come they did.
After striking just once during the first five frames, Richard ripped off a six-bagger in frames six through 11 to go around Johnson and reach the winner’s circle for the second time in four days.
Richard’s ability to flip the switch and start striking when she needed to most certainly impressed the fans at Yorktown Lanes, but she just saw it as an exercise in patience.
“Stefanie (Johnson) caught a couple of breaks early while I was struggling to carry, but I knew that the pins would eventually fall my way,” Richard said. “So, I made a move and stuck to what I’d been trying to do all along, and they eventually did.”
Richard had very little reason to expect otherwise as she’s performed at such a high level so far this season that it’s more of a surprise when things don’t work out in her favor.
Through the first seven events on the 2023 PWBA Tour schedule, Richard has three wins (PWBA GoBowling! Spokane Open; PWBA Great Lakes Classic; and PWBA Bowlers Journal Cleveland Open) and a second-place finish (PWBA Stockton Open).
Her worst result was finishing tied for 49th at the 2023 United States Bowling Congress Queens in Las Vegas, where she made the cut to match play but then went 0-2 to be eliminated from the bracket.
Nevertheless, Richard will have an opportunity to redeem herself when the season’s second major, the 2023 U.S. Women’s Open, kicks off at ABC Gates Bowl in Gates, New York, on June 15.
Richard had success at the 2022 event in South Glens Falls, New York, where she made the stepladder finals and wound up finishing third.
Given the outstanding start that she’s off to so far this season, Richard has even higher hopes for this year’s U.S. Women’s Open.
“I bowled really well at the U.S. Open last year, so I have really high expectations,” Richard said. “I’m hoping that I can use what I learned last year and how well I’ve been bowling now to get to the top again. I’m really excited.”
The winner of the 2023 U.S. Women’s Open will take home $60,000. All rounds of competition leading up to the stepladder finals will be broadcast live on BowlTV.
The stepladder finals will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network on June 20 at 7 p.m. Eastern.
The 100-player field in Cleveland bowled 12 games Friday before the first cut to the top 33 athletes. Advancers bowled an additional six-game block Saturday morning with the top 12 competing in a final six-game round to determine the five bowlers for the stepladder, based on 24-game pinfall totals.
Saturday night’s stepladder began with 2023 USBC Queens champion Lindsay Boomershine of Brigham City, Utah, taking down Latvia’s Diana Zavjalova, a two-time Queens champion (2013 and 2017), by a final score of 256-172.
Zavjalova’s fifth-place finish was worth $5,500.
Match 2 was much closer, but Boomershine still emerged victorious, this time thanks to a hard-fought 269-258 victory over seven-time titlist and two-time major winner Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, New York.
McEwan could’ve struck out in the 10th frame to tie the score and force a one-ball roll-off, but her second shot left a 10 pin, which sent Boomershine through to the semifinals while sending McEwan home with a fourth-place check and $6,500.
Boomershine’s run would end one game later, however, as difficulties on the left lane resulted in one strike, two opens and three spares, which caused Boomershine to end the semifinal tilt with a final score of 171.
Johnson, meanwhile, had no trouble on either lane. After starting the match with a ringing 10-pin and high-flush 7-pin, Johnson proceeded to throw the last 10 strikes in a row to breeze past Boomershine and into the title match by a final score of 279-171.
Boomershine’s third-place finish earned her $7,500.
Johnson would go on to strike on her first two balls of the championship match, giving her 12 strikes in a row over the course of two games, which is often referred to as an Andy Varipapa 300.
Despite failing to make the stepladder finals, Germany’s Birgit Noreiks recorded a 300 of her own during Round 3 of qualifying. That made three perfect games total for the 2023 Bowlers Journal Cleveland Open. Richard and England’s Verity Crawley notched the other two.
All rounds of competition at the Cleveland Open, including the stepladder finals, were broadcast live at BowlTV.com.