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Johnson hits jackpot, wins third U.S. Open bowling title

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga enjoyed the biggest payday of her pro career, $50,000, by winning her third Lipton’s Bowling U.S. Women’s Open Saturday.

Then she picked up another $10,000 by defeating men’s U.S. Open winner Wes Malott in a special Battle of the Sexes final at Western Bowl.

“After winning the U.S. Open, the rest is just icing on the cake,” said Johnson, who was the first woman to qualify for a standard PBA Tour event and then the first woman to make a television final of a PBA tournament.

“To be in that position to bowl in the Battle of the Sexes was a fun bonus,” she added, “and it was pretty awesome that I was able to win.”

“It’s still going to take some time to process all of this,” said Johnson, who won Open titles in 1996 and 2007.

“Coming into the week, I felt really strong physically and mentally prepared for sure, and it’s nice to have so much support from my family and friends.”

Johnson won the women’s title by defeating No. 1 seed Kelly Kulick of Union, N.J., 257-195. Johnson opened the match with six consecutive strikes. The two are now tied with three U.S. Women’s Open titles. Kulick won in 2003, 2010 and 2012. USBC Hall of Famer Marion Ladewig owns a record eight U.S. Women’s Opens.

“I am so fortunate to be part of such an elite group,” said Johnson. “I am so proud of this week, and I can’t believe this is my third title here. To win this week, after such a grind in three different centers, is amazing.”

To get to the final, Johnson had to defeat Team USA teammate Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, 227-203.

Johnson defeated Malott, 194-188. Ironically, Johnson defeated Malott in the semifinal of the historic 2005 PBA Banquet Open before losing to Tommy Jones in the title match.

Malott now owns eight PBA titles, but this was his first major. He also earned $50,000 for his win.

Malott, 36, routed Jason Belmonte in the men’s Open final, 214-156, after the Australian Belmonte had led the tournament by a huge margin from the first day on.

McEwan defeated reigning USBC Queens champion Diandra Asbaty of Chicago, 192-171, in the opening women’s match.