PLANO, Texas – Liz Johnson won her fourth straight and sixth career U.S. Women's Open bowling championship Sunday, but it wasn't easy.
Although she averaged only 190 pins in three of her victories, Johnson climbed from the No. 5 spot in the nationally televised stepladder finals with victories over four talented young bowlers. Liz defeated Darla Pajak of Poland, 188-176 in the final match.
"I lost to the best bowler in the world, ever," Pajak said. "Liz is probably – not probably, she is the best bowler in the world. I could never take advantage of the fact she was missing a little bit. I'm upset that at the time I really needed to carry, I didn't, because I felt that could have changed the game. I don't like losing in the ninth frame, but it is what it is."
It was the 43-year-old Johnson's second major victory of the season on the Professional Women's Bowling Association Tour making her a virtual lock for PWBA Player of the Year for the third season in a row. Besides her victory in the Open and the PWBA Players Championship in June, she was runner-up in the USBC Queens in May. It was also her 10th title in a women's major tournament and worth $20,000.
Only legendary USBC Hall of Famer Marion Ladewig won more opens than Johnson. Ladewig won the tournament eight times, including five straight starting with the inaugural edition in 1949.
"It's probably cliché, but it's a dream-come-true season," said Johnson, who is in the process of moving from Cheektowaga to Deerfield, Ill., where she has purchased a house. "I never could've thought about winning two majors and finishing second in the third one, along with the possibility of a third player of the year, and I can't put into words the season I've had. With all the talent we have out here on the Tour, to be in the position I'm in is the best feeling in the world."
"Climbing up the ladder always is tough, and a couple of times I thought there was no way it was going to happen," Johnson said. "I was close early and then found my look, but in the third match, I lost my feel a little bit. I had to take a step back mentally, take some deep breaths and just focus on making better shots. It was a little more of a grind today than we saw during the week, and that's when experience really helps. Sometimes, you have to expect the unexpected."
Johnson defeated Nicole Trudell of Bridgeport, Conn., 191-178, in the first match Sunday. She had nine consecutive clean frames and took advantage when Trudell had splits in the seventh and eighth frames.
Liz came from nine pins down halfway through the match and bowled six straight strikes to defeat Valerie Bercier of Canada, 191-178, in the second match. In the semifinal, Johnson needed 15 pins in the final frame to get past Eric McCarthy of Omaha, Neb. Johnson converted the 3-6 then had a crossover strike to win, 199-195, McCarthy was hampered by a bad back which did not enable her to sit during the match.
In the final, Johnson threw two doubles to stay in front of Pajak. She needed just two pins in her final frame to secure the win and sealed it with a six-count on her first delivery.