Season Preview: Contenders for 2021 PWBA Player of the Year

Season Preview: Contenders for 2021 PWBA Player of the Year

ARLINGTON, Texas – Working from a points-based format, the winner of the Professional Women’s Bowling Association Player of the Year award has been determined prior to the start of the final event of the year in each of the last three seasons.

Two of those seasons registered on the recent countdown of the top 20 seasons in the history of professional women’s bowling (Liz Johnson’s 2017 and Shannon O’Keefe’s 2019), so one could expect a player to run away from the rest of the tour on the points list. And, they were incredibly fun to watch.

While it may be hard to recreate the drama from the 2015 season, (Stefanie Johnson had to double in the 10th frame of the title match to win the season-ending PWBA Tour Championship AND PWBA Player of the Year), the upcoming 2021 campaign may offer the most overall excitement we’ve seen yet.

With six additional events on the schedule, and the twist of the Classic Series events, the scenarios for player of the year (and rookie of the year) heading into the Fall Classic Series to finish the season in October and November could be endless.

Players only are guaranteed spots in two of the three events of the Fall Classic Series, and they must earn their spots into the final event of the season.

What does this mean for PWBA fans? If someone has locked up player-of-the-year honors before the Fall Classic Series, that player likely has put together a season worthy of being included in the next edition of the top 20 seasons.

If the award is up for grabs? Well, let’s just say it’s going to be fun crunching the numbers during those final three events, live on

Speaking of crunching the numbers, you won’t find a better deal on a one-year subscription to BowlTV than between now and the end of 2020. Pick up the entire 2021 PWBA Tour season, and much more, for just $49.95 – a savings of $30.

Which players could be in the mix for the award at the end of the season?

We already discussed in this story the reasons why Shannon O’Keefe, the two-time reigning PWBA Player of the Year, could be on her way to another big season in 2021. She has a permanent spot on this preseason prediction list.

O’Keefe’s closest challenger the last two seasons has been five-time PWBA Tour champion Danielle McEwan, who finished second in points in both 2018 and 2019.

McEwan has been in the top five in points in each of her five seasons on tour, finishing third in 2016, fourth in 2015 and fifth in 2017.

Her consistency has been incredible and matched only by the two players who have won the player-of-the-year award in the last five seasons – O’Keefe and Liz Johnson.

What could make 2021 McEwan’s breakthrough year?

During a recent stop on The PWBA Podcast, McEwan was asked about her goals going into the 2021 season. She previously has kept those to herself in other interviews but did say that “I have been sitting here for the last year thinking about my goals and how bad I want to achieve them. So, they’re going to be bigger and better than ever.”

We certainly can speculate winning the PWBA Player of the Year award is one of those goals, but the biggest moment for McEwan leading into the 2021 season could have been her performance at the PBA League All Star Clash.

Although she didn’t collect the win that day in Centreville, Virginia, she packed an entire year’s worth of clutch strikes and pressure moments into one session on her way to a third-place finish.

Add those to her big-time double to win the U.S. Women’s Open in 2019, and it seems like McEwan’s confidence is at an all-time high.

Dasha Kovalova was the tour’s breakout star in 2019. With two wins, a major and a major moment (300 on TV!) during the year, she finished the season third on the points list.

The 26-year-old right-hander made the stepladder finals in three of the four majors in 2019, and she looked comfortable and confident during each of those appearances.

After a season like that, expectations moving forward for Kovalova are high, but the progression she’s exhibited through her first four seasons on tour suggests she’ll be staying near the top of the points list.

Kovalova has shown improvement each year since joining the tour in 2016, and she’s continued to add new facets to her game to become a more versatile competitor.

Now, she knows how to win.

We could continue moving along the points list to name other players in contention for PWBA Player of the Year honors in 2021.

Liz Johnson still is Liz Johnson, so she’s always in the mix for a big season after winning the award three consecutive times (2015-2017). Jordan Richard will be in the discussion every year after just two seasons on tour.

The athlete looking to make the biggest jump in 2021, strictly looking at the 2019 points list, is Colombia’s Rocio Restrepo.

Restrepo nearly won player of the year in 2016 after capturing a pair of titles and finishing second in points to Johnson. She’s won four PWBA Tour titles and was in the top 10 in points in each of her first four seasons on tour (2015-2018).

Injuries have slowed her down the past two seasons, though, and she only competed in eight events during the 2019 season to finish 27th in points.

Restrepo started to heat up toward the end of the 2019 season, however, finishing third at the PWBA Orlando Open and 11th at the QubicaAMF PWBA Players Championship.

Don’t be surprised to see her near the top of the standings and making a return to player-of-the-year form in 2021.

Categories: Tournaments, Players
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