ARLINGTON, Texas - Former Junior Team USA members Ashley Rucker of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and Stephanie Schwartz of Racine, Wisconsin, cruised unchallenged Monday into the main field of the upcoming 2021 Professional Women's Bowling Association Summer Classic Series.
The two past collegiate standouts were among the seven players advancing from Monday's pre-tournament qualifier into the three-event PWBA Summer Classic Series, which will bring 56 of the world's best female bowlers to the International Training and Research Center from Aug. 3-10.
Rucker, a 28-year-old left-hander who starred at Arkansas State, was the lone southpaw in the 13-player PTQ field. She opened with a 220 game and averaged more than 209 for her nine games to top the standings with a 1,886 total.
Schwartz, a 25-year-old right-hander and two-time national champion while at Stephen F. Austin, shot 243 in her eighth game to close the gap between her and Rucker and put herself in comfortable position heading into the final game. She finished with a 1,853 total.
The players advancing from the PTQ will complete the field for the Summer Classic Series. The action officially kicks off Wednesday, after a full day of practice Tuesday.
Rucker and Schwartz, the only two competitors to average more than 200 on Monday, were followed in the PTQ standings by Hannah Brookins of Casselberry, Florida (1,729), Japan's Misaki Mukotani (1,714), Jennifer Russo of Monmouth Junction, New Jersey (1,710), and Melanie McDaniel of Crest Hill, Illinois (1,690).
It took an average of 183.78 to advance to the main field, and the final spot went to Mexico's Tannya Lopez, who locked up the spot with a strike to start her final frame. She finished with a 1,654 total.
"My whole goal was to have a hot start and get as many pins as I could early, in case it started opening up on the right side," Rucker said. "It didn't change too much until the end when I hit a couple of pairs I bowled on, but I was lucky to get enough pins to begin with and then grind it out."
The other 49 bowlers scheduled to compete this week earned direct entry into the event based on their success during the 2021 PWBA Tour season - 48 from this year's points list and one United States Bowling Congress/Bowling Proprietors' Association of America exemption.
The special exemption went to 17-year-old Junior Team USA member Jillian Martin of Stow, Ohio, who was the breakout star at the season-opening PWBA Kickoff Classic Series, also at the ITRC, in January.
Each round of competition from the ITRC will be broadcast live at BowlTV.com. Monday's PTQ can be revisited in the BowlTV archives.
The 40-foot oil pattern the competitors faced Monday was the first of a handful of versatility testing challenges they'll face during the Summer Classic Series.
All 56 players will compete at the Go Bowling Classic and International Bowling Campus Classic. Both events will feature nine games of qualifying, before the top 12 players advance to round-robin match play. After 12 games of match play, the top four bowlers will advance to the stepladder finals, based on total pinfall and bonus pins for each victory in match play.
The BowlTV Classic will feature the top 24 players from the Go Bowling Classic and International Bowling Campus Classic, based on 18-game qualifying totals. Total pinfall will drop at the start of the BowlTV Classic, and the 24 advancers will bowl 24 games of round-robin match play to determine the five bowlers for the stepladder finals, based on total pinfall and bonus pins.
Both Rucker and Schwartz have enjoyed time on the lanes and past success at the ITRC, where they trained as members of Junior Team USA and competed with their respective collegiate teams.
This Summer Classic Series will be the first PWBA action of the year for both bowlers.
"This is my first PWBA event of the year, so today was a nice opportunity to get some more practice and help get me ready for the actual tournament," Schwartz said. "I'm excited to have bowled well and made the cut, and I'm feeling a little more confident after this."
The festivities at the ITRC also will include a regional competition. The PWBA Dallas/Fort Worth Regional will feature an eight-game qualifying block, with the top four players, based on total pinfall, advancing to the stepladder finals.
Bowlers with PWBA national titles, as well as those who qualify for the BowlTV Classic, will not be eligible for the regional event.
Each of the stepladder finals will air live at 9 p.m. Eastern on BowlTV.com. The dates of the stepladder finals are Aug. 5 (Go Bowling Classic), Aug. 7 (International Bowling Campus Classic), Aug. 8 (Dallas/Fort Worth Regional) and Aug. 10 (BowlTV Classic).
The three national events at the Summer Classic Series will further develop the tightly contested race for the PWBA Player of the Year and PWBA Rookie of the Year awards for the 2021 season.