Before I begin my belated recap of Sunday's PBA Women's Series Showdown (thanks to my DVR for not understanding that two PBA episodes listed back-to-back means to record BOTH), I just want to say (so I'm going to say...well, OK write) how much I hope the ladies are back again next season. I've thoroughly enjoyed watching them compete this year, and with Kelly Kulick's victory in this season's T of C, no one can any longer argue the obvious, incredible skill these ladies possess at the sport of bowling.
I guess I could've saved that for the end of the recap, but I wanted to get it right out there in the open at the start, kind of like the way the unapologetically refreshing Michelle Feldman informed Randy in her pre final-match interview of her intentions to partake in a limo-assisted birthday-week drinking binge after the event. You could literally hear all the air go out of the newly baptized USBC International Training and Research Center. You could also literally hear the thoughts of the USBC execs on hand and hard-core bowling fans throughout the U.S. screaming out, "Nooooooooooo! Another ten years of beer-drinking stereotypes for bowlers!" Of course, the USBC just decided to allow competitors to drink at their national championship tournament, so why all the fuss?
That little bit of awesomeness (I fancy awkwardness as awesomeness for my entertainment dollar) aside, this year's edition of the Women's Series Showdown gave us some good competition, plus the return of women's sports superhero Kelly Kulick to the TV stage to close out the "official" TV schedule for the PBA Tour season (the next time we'll see pro bowling on TV will be this June 27 with the start of the annual Six Flags summer series special event).
Like last year, this year's Showdown was again conducted using the Petraglia Scoring System...a unique format where the object is to accumulate the lowest score by knocking the pins down in as few shots as possible. Within the system, a perfect score is 10 (a strike in each of your 10 frames), and in each frame, you must throw as many shots as it takes to knock all the pins down...so a nasty spilt or missed spare can easily lead to score-wrecking frames of 3, 4 or more.
In Match 1, we had Kulick taking on Feldman and Stefanie Nation. Feldman qualified for the telecast by finishing 4th (!) in the Women's Series Scorpion Championship (the top 3 in that event had already qualified by winning earlier events, so Michelle got the spot), so she was definitely playing on house money. Plus, Randy also mentioned how excited she was to be bowling on the Scorpion pattern (a longer, higher-volume pattern) versus last year's Cheetah, which heavily favors the straighter games of Liz Johnson, Nation and defending champ Carolyn Dorin-Ballard.
This match came down to an exciting conclusion, with Nation striking to force Feldman to strike to win. Instead, Michelle cut through the nose for a 3-4-6-7 split. Needing to convert to force a roll-off, Michelle nailed the tough split, leaving her and Nation tied at 14. Nation's 6-count on the first shot of the roll-off sealed her fate, and Feldman advanced to the final game by striking. Kulick also posted a respectable score of 16, giving her a decent chance of securing a wild-card spot in the semifinal match (the Wild Card match would take the top three scorers from the opening two matches who did not advance to the final).
In Match 2, we were treated to the grouping of Shannon Pluhowsky, Johnson, and Dorin-Ballard. This contest was owned by the elegant and graceful lefty Pluhowsky, who mowed down the first nine strikes of the game and had a chance for a perfect 10 heading into the 10th. Shannon left a pesky 7-pin and had to settle for 11, but her near-perfect score was easily enough to put her in the final with Michelle.
That left us with a battle between Johnson and CDB for the remaining spot in the semifinal match. Johnson earned said spot with a solid 13, leaving CDB in need of a score of 15 or better (to surpass Kulick) to advance. Unfortunately, she ran into transition mid-game and racked up too many points early. A good ball change gave her a better look the last few frames, but it was only enough to post a 17, leaving her one shy of moving on.
In the Wild Card match, Johnson ran into similar problems on her lane, getting off to a very slow start and putting her out of the running. That left Kulick and Nation to battle for the final spot, a fight that came down to the 10th frame with Nation striking for a 13 to secure the third and final spot in the Championship Match.
The final was another two-woman race between Pluhowsky and Feldman. As Nation scored a horrendous 6 in her opening two frames to put her out of the ballgame, Shannon and Michelle traded strikes for most of the game, up until Shannon yanked one through the nose for a 4-7 in the 9th. Michelle's strike in that frame put her in the driver's seat, and when Shannon's pitch in the 10th hooked high for a 4-6-7-10 (on what looked like a pretty darn good shot) the win was all but Michelle's. She sealed the deal with another perfect strike and was headed off to her birthday limo-party with an extra $25,000 in spending cash.
Yep, it just goes to show that you can never underestimate the advantage of playing on house money! Congrats to Michelle Feldman and Happy thirty-something-ish Birthday!
And I'll be seeing you fans in the coming weeks here on PBA.com...lots more to write about as the Senior Tour gets into full swing and next year's PBA season schedule takes shape! Plus don't forget to come back this Friday for the first of seven weekly episodes of PBA:39X60 on Xtra Frame...featuring the return of P.B. Atkinson, bowling tips with The Most Important Chair in Bowling and interviews with some of the best bowlers in the world!