LAKE WALES, Fla. - Team USA's Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, N.Y., won the women's singles gold medal Thursday at the 2012 Pan American Bowling Confederation Champion of Champions.
Johnson finished with a 12-game total of 2,809 (234 average) at the Kegel Training Center to take the top spot. Marcelo Suartz of Brazil won the men's gold medal with a 12-game tally of 2,928 (244 average).
In the final three games, Johnson pulled away from the field, shooting games of 278, 280 and 244 for an 802 total.
"It always feels great to win the gold medal for your country," Johnson said. "Those last three games I made a ball change, got in the right part of the lane and had amazing ball reaction. It all just came together at the right time."
Paola Gomez of Colombia took the silver medal with 2,673, while Guatemala's Sophia Granda earned the bronze with 2,647.
In the men's division, Suartz maintained the lead the entire day Thursday as he pulled away to win the title. Jean Perez of Puerto Rico earned the silver medal with 2,773, while Andres Gomez of Colombia took the bronze with 2,754.
It was the second big win in as many weeks for Suartz as he was part of the Webber International squad that won the men's title at the USBC Intercollegiate Team Championships recently.
"Within two weeks two of my dreams have come true - winning the collegiate national title and winning my first PABCON gold medal," Suartz said. "This was really emotional for me because my parents are here to watch and this is a very hard field. There are still other medals to be won, so now I need to focus on that."
Team USA's Steve Smith of San Diego was in eighth place after Wednesday's opening round of singles and rebounded to move up to sixth place in the final standings. He finished with a 12-game total of 2,651.
In the national all-events race, which combines the all-events totals of both players from each country, Team USA leads the field with 5,460. Colombia is second with 5,234, while Canada is third at 5,234.
The PABCON Champion of Champions serves as the qualification event for the 2013 World Games with the top eight teams, including host Colombia, in the national all-events advancing.
Action shifts to Friday's mixed doubles competition, which will consist of six games on two patterns to determine the medalists.
The top eight men and top eight women in the all-events after 18 total games will determine the field for the individual Masters match-play competition on Saturday. The top eight mixed doubles teams in the national all-events standings will compete in the mixed doubles Masters.
A total of 18 countries are represented in the PABCON Champion of Champions, which features one man and one woman from each country.
2012 PABCON CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS
At Kegel Training Center, Lake Wales, Fla.
(Top 8; 12 games)
1, Marcelo Suartz, Brazil, 2,928. 2, Jean Perez, Puerto Rico, 2,773. 3, Andres Gomez, Colombia, 2,754. 4 (tie), Dan MacLelland, Canada and Ernesto Franco, Mexico, 2,718. 6, Steve Smith, United States, 2,651. 7, Manuel Fernandez, Dominican Republic, 2,650. 8, Amleto Monacelli, Venezuela, 2,642.
1, Liz Johnson, United States, 2,809. 2, Paola Gomez, Colombia, 2,673. 3, Sophia Granda, Guatemala, 2,647. 4, Karen Marcano, Venezuela, 2,538. 5, Felicia Wong, Canada, 2,516. 6, Aseret Zetter, Mexico, 2,478. 7, Aumi Guerra, Dominican Republic, 2,462. 8, Viviana Delgado, Costa Rica, 2,456.
(Top 8; 24 of 36 games)
1, United States, 5,460. 2, Colombia, 5,427. 3, Canada, 5,234. 4, Puerto Rico, 5,226. 5, Mexico, 5,196. 6, Venezuela, 5,180. 7, Dominican Republic, 5,112. 8, Brazil, 5,088.