ARLINGTON, Texas – When sports fans look back at 2015, the rebirth of the Professional Women’s Bowling Association Tour will rate as one of the top stories for bowling. The PWBA returned to give top young bowlers a place to continue to improve to be among the best in the sport.
Take a look at Danielle McEwan, for example. The first few years after leaving Fairleigh Dickinson, where she earned a national title and was named NCAA Player of the Year in 2012 and 2013, there was no PWBA Tour. Making a living in the sport meant competing against men and “trying to keep my head above the water.”
“During this time, having one bad tournament pretty much dictated a bad year, because there wasn’t anything else on the immediate horizon,” McEwan said. “At that point, there were definitely thoughts about how long I would realistically be able to do this – being right out of college, without a job, and spending an enormous amount on travel expenses was overwhelming.”
But, with great support from her family, McEwan was able to continue to bowl. And recently, she has not lacked the opportunity to compete. Since winning the PWBA Tour Championship in mid-September for her first PWBA title, McEwan has:
- Won the South Point PBA West Challenge to become the ninth woman to win a PBA regional title
- Was on the five-person team that won the inaugural PBA Team Challenge
- Finished 23rd at the Bowlmor AMF U.S. Open against a strong men’s field
- Was the top women finisher at the Qatar Open with a 14th-place finish
- Represented Team USA and won two golds (doubles, team) and a bronze (Masters) at the 2015 World Bowling Women’s Championships
- Selected by the Barbasol Motown Muscle of the PBA League, one of two women drafted for the 2016 season
- Earned a spot in the three-woman field for the World Bowling Tour Men’s and Women’s Finals presented by the PBA
After winning the regional title in October, she credited the PWBA Tour, saying that bowling regularly helped sharpen her game, which allowed her to beat the guys.
“I am thrilled to be one of the few women that have been able to accomplish this,” said McEwan, who qualified for the 2016 FireLake PBA Tournament of Champions with the victory. “I think it says a lot about how strong women’s bowing is, and I hope it proves to other women that it is possible to compete with the men.”
McEwan had gone to Las Vegas for the PBA Xtra Frame South Point Open, and, after she decided to stick around, was asked to replace injured Alex Aguiar on the Dead Money team for the inaugural PBA Team Challenge. Her team stunned a veteran squad that had a combined 46 PBA titles.
“I was going to stick around and watch Marshall (Kent) and his team bowl and cheer them on,” McEwan said. “When word started to spread that Alex was not going to be able to bowl, word also got out that I was staying and didn’t have a team. When the guys asked me if I would be willing to step in, of course I said yes! Any opportunity to bowl in a team format is special, and especially since this was with people I grew up bowling JBTs (Junior Bowling Tour events) with.”
Bowling, at one point, wasn’t McEwan’s sport of choice. She hadn’t bowled for years before the coach at her high school, needing girls to fill out his team, asked her to try out. But, it still was another year or so before she would turn her full attention to bowling.
“It wasn’t until about my sophomore into junior year that some of my friends on the team started bowling JBTs, and I started tagging along,” McEwan said. “I think that was the point that my desire to be the best I can be at whatever I’m doing took over. I had that same desire for tennis. I still, to this day, don’t know exactly what made me choose bowling, but I’m glad I did.”
Her desire meant training and learning as much as possible. While her training schedule is much different for travel and tournaments, when she is at home, she is on the lanes, sometimes twice a day, for about two or three hours at a time, and also heads to the gym for an hour or two. She also reads books, works with a sports psychologist and researches articles in order to strengthen her mental game.
“Being out on tour and competing every weekend this summer, I learned that I needed to adjust my training schedule in relation to my tournament schedule,” McEwan said. “When I only have a few down days between tournaments, I’ve found it more beneficial to be more specific to what I’m working on – quality over quantity. My gym days are also much more focused on cardio, foam rolling, stretching, and core, rather than heavy lifting. By learning how to structure my training, I have seen huge improvements in my performance.”
McEwan will head back to Las Vegas to start the year as the Team USA Trials takes place Jan. 2-7 at the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino. A two-time champion at the event, she made the final match last year.
McEwan then will head to the DHC PBA Japan Invitational in Tokyo, followed by the FireLake PBA Tournament of Champions presented by Oklahoma Grand Casino.
And, it won’t be too long before the expanded 2016 PWBA Tour season gets underway.
“It’s a dream come true to be able to compete that often and to get to see the world while doing it,” McEwan said. “As I said earlier, when I first came out of college, I was looking to bowl stuff once a month, if that. Now, my calendar scares me, and I love it!”