Liz Johnson of Niagara Falls, a 25-time champion on the Professional Women’s Bowling Tour, is back on television.
On Monday night at ABC Gates Bowl in Rochester, Johnson secured the No. 4 seed for the stepladder finals of the U.S. Women’s Open – a major tournament that she has won six times, beginning in 1996.
The finals will be televised live at 7 tonight on CBS Sports Network. First place is worth $60,000.
Johnson defeated Maria Jose Rodriguez of Colombia, 225-191, in the position round match last night to capture the fourth seed, and will take on another New Yorker – Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, who earned the No. 5 spot despite a 215-195 loss to Diana Zavjalova of Latvia.
Zavjalova is the third seed, while Clara Guerrero of Colombia and Bryanna Cote of Tucson, Ariz., are the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, respectively. All of the finalists are right-handers.
Guerrero amassed 12,227 pins (including 30 bonus pins for each match play victory) en route to a 16-8 record. She posted a tournament-high 209.77 average for the 56 games.
For Johnson, who turned 49 in May, the finals’ appearance is her first in a couple years.
“I feel good. I’ve been bowling everything, all year on tour,” she said. “This is my first show probably since the middle of 2021. So, I’m excited just to be able to bowl tomorrow.”
She stayed in the top five throughout last night’s final eight-game block, but uncharacteristically lost a couple matches – game two against Cote and game four against Birgit Noreiks of Germany -- with opens in the 10th frame.
“Yeah, I struggled with that all week. It’s gut-wrenching but you have to forget about it,” she said. “There were way too many of those to count. Open frames late in the games; that’s usually not me.”
She bounced back, however, winning her last two games with scores of 232 and 225 on the difficult oil pattern.
“The lanes change so fast. The lanes within the pairs – the left lane versus the right lane, they never played the same. The last couple games, I was using two different balls and, on and off, playing two different areas. It was one big grind.
“But, this is what the U.S. Open is all about. It’s not supposed to be a house shot.”
McEwan, 31, will be seeking her second U.S. Open title. She won the tournament in 2019, and was the runner-up last year.
“The U.S. Open is always a really hard tournament, but this week in particular was extra challenging and difficult in so many different ways. So, to be on the show took a lot of work,” she said.
“Every single lane and every pair plays totally different. The four different patterns made us play all different angles, lines, bowling balls, releases, speeds; every tool you had came into play this week.”
McEwan finished on the TV pair (31-32) last night and said she hopes to use that to her advantage in the opening match tonight.
“I have really good notes (on that pair) now,” she said. “The four and five seeds mean you're the first out on the pair and you have more of a ladder to climb, but it also gives you the advantage of figuring out what the pair is doing and getting comfortable on it before the other competitors come on.”
Unfortunately for the two New York bowlers, one of them will exit after just one game tonight and take home the $13,000 prize for fifth place.
The tournament pays $30,000 to the runner-up, $22,000 for third and $17,000 for fourth. For tickets to watch the show at ABC Gates Bowl, call 585-426-9099.
Shannon O’Keefe of Shiloh, Illinois, and Juliana Franco of Puerto Rico withdrew from the event prior to the start of the second round of match play on Monday morning. O’Keefe was replaced by Haley Richard of Tipton, Michigan, and Franco was replaced by Estefania Cobo of Puerto Rico.
All 108 competitors bowled 24 qualifying games over three days to determine the 36 players advancing to Round 4. After eight additional games, the field was cut to the top 24 bowlers for round-robin match play.
MATCH PLAY (56 games, 30 bonus pins for a win, 15 bonus pins for a tie)
1, Clara Guerrero, Colombia, 16-8-0, 12,227. 2, Bryanna Cote, Tucson, Ariz., 18-6-0, 12,173. 3, Diana Zavjalova, Latvia, 18-6-0, 12,112. 4, Liz Johnson, Niagara Falls, N.Y., 16-8-0, 12,102. 5, Danielle McEwan, Stony Point, N.Y., 13-11-0, 12,050.
DID NOT ADVANCE
6, Maria Jose Rodriguez, Colombia, 15-9-0, 12,008, $9,500. 7, Birgit Noreiks, Germany, 10-14-0, 11,929, $8,500. 8, Missy Parkin, San Clemente, Calif., 14-10-0, 11,925, $7,900. 9, Jordan Richard, Tipton, Mich., 10-13-1, 11,667, $7,400. 10, Verity Crawley, England, 9-15-0, 11,663, $6,950. 11, Erin McCarthy, Elkhorn, Neb., 14-9-1, 11,651, $6,550. 12, Dasha Kovalova, Muskegon, Mich., 10-13-1, 11,619, $6,150.
13, Kelly Kulick, Union, N.J., 11-13-0, 11,617, $5,900. 14, Lauren Pate, Ballwin, Mo., 10-13-1, 11,600, $5,700. 15, Shannon Pluhowsky, Dayton, Ohio, 10-13-1, 11,573, $5,500. 16, Taylor Bulthuis, New Port Richey, Fla., 11-13-0, 11,558, $5,300. 17, Olivia Farwell, Elizabethtown, Pa., 13-11-0, 11,530, $5,150. 18, Sydney Brummett, Fort Wayne, IN, 11-13-0, 11,493, $4,900.
19, Lindsay Boomershine, Brigham City, Utah, 9-15-0, 11,481, $4,750. 20, Stefanie Johnson, McKinney, Texas, 9-15-0, 11,449, $4,600. 21, Julia Bond, Aurora, IL, 11-13-0, 11,448, $4,450. 22, Haley Richard, Tipton, MI, 7-17-0, 11,404, $4,300. 23, Stephanie Schwartz, Racine, Wis., 11-13-0, 11,385, $4,150. 24, Estefania Cobo, Puerto Rico, 4-20-0, 11,046, $4,000.