August 24, 2019
LAS VEGAS – Team USA’s
Shannon O’Keefe and Danielle McEwan have been the player-of-the-year front-runners on the Professional Women’s Bowling Association Tour for two consecutive seasons, and their momentum continued Saturday at the 2019 World Bowling Women’s Championships, where they qualified for the singles semifinals.
Though two events remain on the 2019 PWBA Tour schedule, their entire focus this week is on Team USA’s success at the South Point Bowling Plaza, and O’Keefe was there with a laneside hug for her teammate moments after a final-frame double lifted McEwan into the singles medal round.
Korea’s Lee Nayoung averaged 235 over six games Saturday to pace the 176-player field with a 1,410 total, while Sandra Andersson, also a PWBA champion, flirted with perfection in her final game, and a 267 finish landed her in second place with 1,401.
O’Keefe claimed the No. 3 seed for the Aug. 29 semifinals with a 1,392 total, and strikes on four of her last five shots earned McEwan the final spot with 1,371. She finished three pins ahead of Colombia’s Maria José Rodriguez.
“I’ve never made a medal round in the singles event before, so this one of the goals I get to check off the list just by being there,” said McEwan, an eight-time Team USA member and four-time gold medalist at the adult World Championships. “Now, hopefully, I can keep it going and make it through the next two matches. It’s awesome to be off to such a good start, and I hope it carries over into doubles tomorrow.”
Team USA’s Liz Kuhlkin finished 26th with 1,298, Missy Parkin was 47th with 1,258, Stefanie Johnson was 52nd with 1,250 and Jordan Richard finished 58th with 1,223.
The United States failed to medal in singles at the 2017 World Championships, also at South Point.
This year’s singles semifinals and final will be part of an all-day TV extravaganza, one of two days of live television coverage, that will include the medal rounds for singles, doubles and trios.
Lee and McEwan will meet in one semifinal, and Andersson and O’Keefe will face off in the other. The two winners will bowl for the gold medal, and both semifinal losers will receive bronze medals.
All four semifinalists bowled on the second of the day’s two qualifying squads, which resulted from an overall different strategy on the 39-foot World Bowling Seoul oil pattern.
O’Keefe’s start Saturday was a bit misleading, as a few bad shots left her with opening games of 213 and 206, but she quickly was able to get comfortable and execute the way she wanted to on the way to games of 243, 279 and 238. She finished with 213 to solidify her spot in the top four.
“I threw a couple really bad shots in the first two games, and that’s on me, but once I settled in, I was able to trust myself and what I was seeing, and I stayed very focused on my execution, which is something I pride myself on,” said O’Keefe, a 15-time Team USA member and seven-time winner at the World Championships. “Once I got going, I never looked around and I didn’t know the situation. I was just executing and having fun.”
Saturday’s success was the continuation of a memorable 2019 for the 40-year-old O’Keefe, who has earned four PWBA Tour titles to help her bid for a second consecutive PWBA Player of the Year award. She also teamed with Stefanie Johnson to win the doubles gold medal at the recent Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.
McEwan’s year includes a win at the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open for her second career major title, and her success Saturday allowed her to show her mental toughness as well.
When the 27-year-old right-hander found herself in some trouble during the six games, she was able to remain calm and make the right decisions based on general experience and past visits to the South Point Bowling Plaza.
“Today was a grind, and even though I started off with a good look, I only shot 206 the first game, so that left me very unsure about how the day was going to go,” McEwan said. “I was able to put together a couple of really good games, and I definitely was seeing what the lanes were doing, before I felt like I fell off a cliff. I made a couple of ball changes and just got kind of uncomfortable. Luckily, I was able to grind the last couple games and make some really good shots when I needed them.”
The 2019 World Women’s Championships includes 176 competitors from 34 countries, who are competing for medals in singles, doubles, trios, team, all-events and Masters competition.
Competition at the Bowling Plaza will resume Sunday with doubles squads at noon and 4:45 p.m. Eastern.
Team USA’s Richard and Kuhlkin will bowl on the early squad, and the team’s afternoon pairings will be O’Keefe and Johnson and McEwan and Parkin.
Las Vegas and South Point hosted the 2017 World Championships, a combined event – men and women – something that happens every four years.
The 34 countries scheduled to participate this year are: Australia, Bahamas, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Colombia, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Guam, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, United States, Ukraine and Venezuela.
For more information on the 2019 World Women’s Championships, visit WorldBowling.org.