The story of the 2007 U.S. Women's Open

    08/21/07

    Column

    By Joe Lyou (Tenpin Slants)

    2007WomensUSOpenLogo.jpg This is the story of the 2007 U.S. Women’s Open, presented by the USBC (United States Bowling Congress) and the PBA (Professional Bowlers Assn.).

    The action takes place from Aug. 13-18 at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno. The plot (a.k.a. tournament format) starts out as a mystery, but as the tournament progresses, it makes a lot of sense. In fact, you could even say that the format, devised of television, was brilliant.

    The characters in this story are the 132 entrants, which included Kelly Kulick, who won the 2003 U.S. Open, then had to wait four long years before she had a chance to defend her title.

    Supporting roles are played by other members of the old PWBA (Professional Women’s Bowling Assn.) along with past and present members of Team USA.

    A good story line contains surprises, and the U.S. Women’s Open supplied them in spades.

    For example, after four grueling days of qualifying—consisting of eight games each day on a different PBA lane pattern—the No. 1 seed was an amateur. She’s Shannon O’Keefe, a former Team USA member from Rochester, N.Y.

    A free-wheeling righthander, O’Keefe finished the 32-game qualifying round with a total of 6874, a fine 214.81 average. O’Keefe edged out two pros, Michelle Feldman (6790) and Kulick (6780) for the top spot.

    That was in the overall USBC Women’s Open standings. Since O’Keefe is an amateur, she chose not to pay the additional $750 fee in order to gain one of the 16 exempt spots for the PBA Women’s Tour Trials. Thus, she was not listed in the PBA standings.

    (Are you still with me? I told you that the plot/tournament format was a mystery. But stay with me and you’ll know how the story ends.)

    The 32-game qualifying scores were used to determine the 16 women for the PBA competition. These 16 women were divided into four groups and paired according to where they finished in the standings.

    In other words, the No. 1 seed bowled against the No. 16 seed; No. 2 against No. 15, and so forth.

    The four group roll-offs were taped by ESPN and will be shown over four Sundays—Sept. 16, Sept. 23, Sept 30 and Oct. 7.

    Rather than trying to explain the four roll-offs in detail, let’s simplify them by telling you that the four group winners were two amateurs (O’Keefe and Lynda Barnes of Double Oak, Texas—and yes, she’s married to PBA star Chris Barnes)—and two pros (Carolyn Dorin-Ballard, North Richland Hills, Texas, and Liz Johnson, Cheektowaga, N.Y.).

    These four players will return to Reno on Sunday, Oct. 14 and battle for the ’07 U.S. Women’s Open championship—and the $25,000 that goes to the winner. The action will be shown live by ESPN.

    Tom Clark, the USBC Director of Communications, said he hopes the four taped shows will build a lot of suspense and excitement so that there will be a huge audience for the live championship showdown.

    So, if you want to see how this story ends, you’ll have to watch ESPN on Sunday, Oct. 14.


    TOURNAMENT NOTES:


    Amateurs Shannon O’Keefe and Lynda Barnes rolled the two highest games in the group roll-offs. Barnes rolled a 289 in eliminating Michelle Feldman, who had a fine 258. Then, in the title match, O’Keefe fired a 299—she left a soft 10 pin on her final ball—as she defeated Team USA’s Stefanie Nation, who ran into split troubles and had to settle for 159…

    The darling of the group roll-offs was Missy Bellinder, the fearless little right-hander who once starred at Cal State Fullerton. In her first match, Bellinder rallied to upset Kelly Kulick, 233-196…In the title match against Liz Johnson, Bellinder was leading going into the seventh frame, when she left a pocket 7-10. She then missed an unlikely 10 pin in the next frame, losing to Johnson, 213-194…Nevertheless, it was a great showing by Bellinder, who was making her very first TV appearance…

    In addition to Chris Barnes, two other PBA champions, Tony Reyes and Tommy Jones were on hand to coach their respective staff members…International megastar Tim Mack was giving wife Brenda tips when he wasn’t taking care of their beautiful 9-months-young girl, Lana…Tim says his right shoulder is “getting better every day” and his bowling is “improving a little bit each day.” He hopes to return soon to do some serious bowling (for money)…

    One of the most dramatic sights in the U.S. Women’s Open was watching Chris Helf of West Valley, Utah, compete while wearing a prosthetic just below her right knee. Although she has just one good leg, it didn’t stop her from competing in the biggest women’s bowling tournament of the year. And she looked like she was enjoying herself, even though she finished ahead of only 12 players. Helf averaged 165 for her 32 games of qualifying…