NORTH BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Ryan Shafer maintained his lead, the magical ride of 14-year-old Kamron Doyle came to an end, and Missy Parkin made history when she became the first woman to reach the match play finals in the 69th U.S Open Friday at Brunswick Zone-Carolier.
Shafer, a 25-year Professional Bowlers Association Tour veteran from Horseheads, N.Y., completed the 26-game qualifying portion of the U.S. Open with a total of 5,825 pins – averaging at a 224.04 pace – and took a 170-pin lead over Mike Fagan of Dallas into the start of head-to-head match play competition Friday night. Bill O’Neill of Southampton, Pa., was third with 5,642 pins followed by amateur Ron Nelson Jr. of Bridgeview, Ill., with 5,570 pins and veteran PBA East Regional competitor P.J. Sonday of Luzerne, Pa., with 5,562 pins.
“Hopefully things will keep going the way they have been going,” Shafer said. “It’s hard not to think ahead. I look at the leader board. I knew I was ahead, but I just want to keep adding pins. You can never have too many.”
Shafer, a four-time PBA Tour titlist, wants to stay in command to reach Sunday’s live ESPN stepladder finals, where he hopes to end his PBA-record streak of 13 television appearances in major championships without winning a title. The top four players after three eight-game rounds of match play Friday night and Saturday will meet Sunday at 3 p.m. Eastern to battle for the $60,000 first prize and an automatic berth in the end-of-season PBA Tournament of Champions.
Doyle, the Brentwood, Tenn., eighth-grader who set a PBA record as the youngest player ever to cash in a national tour event, ended his run in 61st place, averaging 200.77 on the most difficult lane conditions the sport has to offer and earning $1,340 for his United States Bowling Congress SMART scholarship account.
Parkin, who just turned 30, would like to join Kelly Kulick of Union, N.J., as the second woman to win a PBA Tour title. Kulick made sports history when she won the 2010 PBA Tournament of Champions, becoming the first woman to ever win a major sports title without the help of a horse or a race car.
Parkin, who lives in Lake Forest, Calif., also has an impressive portfolio. She was the first woman to join the PBA when the formerly all-male tour opened its doors to women in 2004, and she was the first woman to win two PBA Regional titles, in her home PBA West Region.
A former Collegiate All-American at Cal State-Fullerton and a former Team USA member, Parkin won the 2011 USBC Queens title – a major championship in women’s only bowling competition – and in March, she recorded the highest finish ever by a woman in the USBC Masters in Las Vegas, finishing in a tie for ninth.
On Friday, she and Kulick both came into the cashers round in position to make the top 24 match play cut (Kulick 28th, Parkin 32nd), but Parkin made the big move, advancing into ninth place for the start of match play. The previous highest finish by a woman in the U.S. Open was 27th by Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, N.Y., in 2009.
“This is my first U.S. Open ever,” Parkin said. “I’ve wanted to bowl it for a long time. All the years it was in Fountain Valley (Calif., near her home in Fulllerton), it wasn’t open to women yet. When they opened the tournament to women, they moved it to the other side of country and I never made the trip.
“This year I’m throwing the ball well, so I wanted to come. I like the idea that it’s a hard tournament. I’ve heard that for years, but you never really understand until you try it. In my first 10 minutes of practice here, I was like a deer in headlines. I thought, oh my gawd, but figured it out.
“In my last game in my first block of qualifying, I had the first nine strikes and I couldn’t believe. Then I left a 5 pin,” she grinned, “and I finished with a 289.”
Parkin had no idea she was the first woman to qualify for match play in the U.S. Open, but she really wasn’t impressed with herself.
“I feel like I’m throwing the ball better than I ever have,” she said. “At this level, a lot of your success is based on confidence. We all know how to bowl. Having confidence helps you throw the ball better. I made a lot of changes last year, and they have really made a difference. The thing is now, if something goes wrong with my game, I know exactly what to do and how to fix it.
“At the U.S. Open, it’s all about hitting your target and making spares, and I did pretty good at that.”
Bowling against the best male bowlers in the world also doesn’t intimidate her.
“I’ve bowled against guys my whole life; not a big deal,” she said. “They’re just bowlers. I’m a bowler. The fact that they are males doesn’t really matter.
“I’m looking at making the TV show,” she added. “TV shows are so much fun, but I’ll take it one step at a time. I want to get there and then I want to bowl well. For now, I love match play. I love having to throw a shot when you need it, and in match play, you have to do that a lot. I’m excited.”
Also advancing to match play were 2005 U.S. Open winner Chris Barnes of Double Oak, Texas; four-time U.S. Open champion Pete Weber of St. Ann, Mo., in 10th place; defending champion Norm Duke of Clermont, Fla., in 11th, and newly-elected PBA Hall of Famer Jason Couch of Clermont, Fla., in 20th.
The final three rounds of match play Friday night and Saturday will be webcast live on the PBA’s exclusive online bowling channel, Xtra Frame. To subscribe to Xtra Frame, click on the logo on the home page of pba.com.