EAST HARTFORD, Conn. – For a little more than a week, Josie Barnes of Nashville, Tennessee, reflected on a missed opportunity she let slip away during the first major championship of the Professional Women’s Bowling Association Tour season.
Now, at least for the next couple of days, Barnes will be thinking about how sweet it is to be a two-time PWBA Tour champion.
Barnes, the No. 4 seed, defeated top seed Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, New York, 224-216, on Saturday to claim the 2018 PWBA East Hartford Open title at Silver Lanes. In all, she won three matches during the stepladder finals to capture her first win since the 2016 season.
The stepladder finals were streamed live on Xtra Frame, the Professional Bowlers Association’s online bowling channel.
The championship match was exciting from the start, but it was McEwan who took the early lead after tossing strikes in four of her first six frames.
Barnes, who opened the match with a double, ran into trouble in the sixth frame after leaving a 4-7-10 split, which left her trailing McEwan by 24 pins. The resilient Barnes fired strikes in frames seven, eight and nine, while McEwan traded strikes and spares and had zero open frames.
Barnes stepped up in the 10th frame needing to double for the chance to shutout McEwan but was unable to get the second strike, giving McEwan an opportunity of her own to fill 26 pins and capture her second title of the season. McEwan, who won the 2018 PWBA Fountain Valley Open, left a 2-7-8 combination on her first delivery to allow Barnes to emerge victorious.
While her first title was one she’ll never forget, Saturday’s win confirmed all her hard work, struggles and close calls were worth every ounce of energy.
"I don't even know how I feel yet," said Barnes, who won the 2016 PWBA Rochester Open. "I feel like I put myself in position to be successful, but I gave Danielle the opportunity to step up and double to win it. When it didn't happen, I kind of just lost it. You know the first title means everything, since you work your tail off to achieve your ultimate dream, but the second one feels pretty cool. It's validation for all that you've put in.”
At the 2018 United States Bowling Congress Queens, the first major of the 2018 season, Barnes missed a 10 pin in the final frame of her three-game match against three-time reigning PWBA Player of the Year Liz Johnson of Palatine, Illinois, which would have helped her advance to the next round.
Johnson went on to throw three strikes in her 10th frame to defeat Barnes, 632-630, and it served as the ultimate learning experience in helping Barnes prepare for her next event.
“You know when you give someone like Liz Johnson a chance, she's going to close the deal," Barnes said. "I knew as soon as I missed that single pin that she was going to make it happen, and I kicked myself for an entire week because I don't miss spares. That's not what I do. Looking back, I just wasn't present for that shot. I wasn't overthinking it, I got ahead of myself. This week, I told myself that I would be present for every shot and not let the same mistakes hurt me."
Barnes now has earned an invitation to the PWBA Tour Championship at Richmond Raceway in September with her victory. She last appeared at the event in 2016 and looks forward to returning to the pinnacle event of the season.
"It's nice to earn it early on," Barnes said. "That's what we fight for, whether you win it or not. It kind of stunk not to be there last year, so I've been working really hard in the offseason gearing towards that. But the road doesn't stop. I'm still going to continue to work hard and take it one week at a time."
Barnes advanced to the title match by defeating Lindsay Boomershine of Perry, Utah, 238-190. Boomershine was looking for her first career PWBA title.
In the opening match, Barnes defeated the early front-runner for PWBA Player of the Year, Shannon O’Keefe of O’Fallon, Illinois, 233-217. O’Keefe already has two titles in 2018, winning the PWBA Sonoma County Open and USBC Queens.
Competition this week at Silver Lanes included two eight-game qualifying blocks on Friday to determine the 32 players for Saturday's Round of 32. An additional eight-game block Saturday morning narrowed the field to 12 players, who bowled six additional games to determine the stepladder finalists.
The 2018 PWBA Tour season continues next week with the sixth stop of the season at the PWBA Louisville Open at Fern Valley Strike and Spare in Louisville, Kentucky.
Qualifying and match-play rounds of PWBA Tour events are broadcast on Xtra Frame, which also will be the livestream home for the stepladder finals of seven standard events.