LAS VEGAS – Shannon O’Keefe of O’Fallon, Illinois, struck on six of her first seven shots on the way to a 246-203 victory over top seed Kelly Kulick of Union, New Jersey, in the title match of the Nationwide PWBA Sonoma County Open.
It was the first individual PWBA title for O’Keefe. She teamed with Bill O’Neill to win the PBA/PWBA Striking Against Breast Cancer Mixed Doubles last year.
“This is different,” O’Keefe said. “For some reason, it’s easier when you have someone with you. You can make mistakes, and there is someone there to pick you up. Bill and I work well together, but this one is different, this one is good.”
O’Keefe has been the women’s bowling coach at McKendree University the last two years. She has formed a strong bond with her players, saying they push and inspire her. But “Mama Bearcat” said she almost got a little ahead of herself during the title match.
“I actually started thinking, ‘Just a couple of more shots, and I’m going to win this, and it’s going to be about my kids,’” O’Keefe said. “I had to stop it. When you start thinking too far ahead, you lose focus and bad things happen. I had to refocus and trust the process.”
She almost saw the opportunity to bowl for the title slip away in her semifinal match.
O’Keefe also started quickly in that match against Hui Fen New of Singapore, opening with five consecutive strikes. But, O’Keefe left a 7-10 split in the seventh frame, while New strung together four consecutive strikes. That left O’Keefe needing to strike twice to start the final frame, which she did in a 235-226 victory.
“The one thing we’ve told our kids all year is that you just keep coming and never give up,” O’Keefe said. “The 7-10, it was a good shot, that lane was a little tighter. I just knew that if I’m going to tell my kids all year they have to just keep coming, I have to do the same, and hopefully, the pins are on your side that day.”
The victory also eased the memory of O’Keefe’s one-pin loss in the title match of 2015 U.S. Women’s Open, where she left a washout in the final frame and failed to convert. She kept a photo from that match, with head in hands, on her cell phone.
“It’s heartbreaking, but in the moments of defeat is the perfect opportunity to come back better, to come back stronger.” O’Keefe said. “I’m not going to let one moment define who I am. If I can’t bounce back, how can I expect to teach my kids that?”
New, the No. 3 seed, reached the semifinal match with a 225-211 victory over Jennifer Higgins of Westerville, Ohio, in the opening match. Higgins started with three consecutive strikes, while New missed a 10 pin in the second frame and could not convert the 2-4-10 in the third.
But, Higgins had an open frame in the fourth after leaving the 2-8-10, while New reeled off five consecutive strikes to advance.
The qualifying and match-play rounds of the Nationwide PWBA Sonoma County Open took place May 5-7 at Double Decker Lanes in Rohnert Park, California. The stepladder finals were taped for broadcast on CBS Sports Network on May 26 at The Orleans Bowling Center in conjunction with the USBC Queens. The stepladder finals of the PWBA Storm Sacramento Open also were taped for broadcast and will air June 21 on CBS Sports Network.
Visit PWBA.com for more information about the PWBA Tour, including news, 2016 schedule and player biographies.
NATIONWIDE PWBA SONOMA COUNTY OPEN
At The Orleans Bowling Center, Las Vegas
1, Shannon O’Keefe, O’Fallon, Illinois, 481 (two games), $10,000
2, Kelly Kulick of Union, New Jersey, 203 (one game), $5,000
3, Hui Fen New, Singapore, 451 (two games), $3,500
4, Jennifer Higgins of Westerville, Ohio, 211 (one game), $3,000
Match One – New def. Higgins, 225-211
Semifinal – O’Keefe def. New, 235-226
Championship – O’Keefe def. Kulick, 246-203