RENO, Nev. - A pair of bowlers hailing from Japan made their presence known at the National Bowling Stadium on Sunday as they shook up the Diamond Division standings at the 2012 United States Bowling Congress Women's Championships.
Mihoko Matsuoka and Takiko Naganawa made the more than 5,000-mile trip across the Pacific Ocean to compete in The Biggest Little City in the World, and their performance was worth the journey as they grabbed the top spots in Diamond All-Events and Diamond Doubles, respectively.
Matsuoka, a 38-year-old right-hander, fired sets of 741 in team, 686 in singles and 634 in doubles to finish with a scratch total of 2,061. She entered the tournament with a 203 average and received an additional 17 pins of handicap per game to make her final total 2,214. Lori Woodward of Stow, Ohio, previously held the lead with 2,125.
Matsuoka, who made her third USBC Women's Championships appearance, feels more comfortable around bowlers with backgrounds similar to hers, and it showed as the strikes kept coming for the one-time Japan Professional Bowler Association titlist.
"When I bowl among Japanese-American bowlers, I'm more comfortable because I'm bowling with someone who speaks my language," Matsuoka said. "I'm very happy with my bowling today, and I hope to stay up there, but you never know. There are a lot of good bowlers in America, so it should be quite interesting."
Naganawa teamed up with Sadie Oda of Seal Beach, Calif., to jump into the lead in Diamond Doubles with a handicap total of 1,469.
The 42-year-old right-hander rolled games of 218, 267 and 229 for a 714 series, while Oda added 167, 169 and 188 for 524 and 1,238 scratch total. The pair entered doubles with a combined average of 363 and received an additional 77 pins of handicap to reach their final tally. Julie Schaeffer of Hamden, Conn., and Cynthia Palmieri of Meriden, Conn., previously sat atop the leaderboard with 1,451. Schaeffer and Palmieri still hold the Scratch Doubles lead with 1,358.
Naganawa, who will be back in Reno at the end of June for the 2012 Bowling's U.S. Women's Open, attributed her success to making the proper ball selection.
"I brought the right bowling ball to use, and it worked really well," said Naganawa, who made her fourth Women's Championships appearance. "I'm very happy with our performance. I hope the same ball works just as well at the U.S. Women's Open."
Naganawa added a 724 series in team and 611 in singles for a scratch all-events score of 2,049. Receiving 12 pins of handicap per game, she finished at 2,157 to move into third place in Diamond All-Events. Oda finished with 499 in team and 494 singles for a 1,592 all-events score in the Ruby Division. Oda's totals include handicap.
Naganawa and Oda were paired up by group coordinator Marge Miyoda, who's been organizing teams at the Women's Championships since 1964 and has been welcoming female bowlers from Japan since 1995.
Also making the trip was two-time Women's Championships titlist Hidemi Mizobuchi of Tokyo. Mizobuchi was a member of the 1980 Classic Team champion and took home the Classic All-Events crown in 1999.
The Diamond Division includes bowlers with averages of 180 and above, with handicap based on 100 percent of 220.
Presenting sponsors for the 2012 USBC Women's Championships are Circus Circus, Eldorado Hotel Casino and Silver Legacy Resort Casino in Reno, Nev. Other sponsors include Harrah's Reno Casino, official brackets sponsor, Kegel, official lane maintenance provider, Humana, official registration sponsor, Steltronic, official scoring system, and supporting sponsors Storm Bowling Products, Nationwide Insurance, Sands Regency Casino Hotel and Atlantis Casino Resort and Spa and MyBowlingVacation.com.