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Johnson claims USBC Queens title
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="200" caption="Kelly Kulick"][/caption]
RENO, Nev. - At the start of the week, Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, N.Y., had virtually written off her chances of capturing the 2009 United States Bowling Congress Queens, the one title that had always eluded her.
Fast forward a few days and Johnson found herself standing on the lanes wearing the Queens tiara, holding the trophy and savoring a moment she had only dreamed about up until that point.
Johnson defeated 2007 Queens champion Kelly Kulick of Union, N.J., 247-204, to earn the title before a crowd of nearly 1,500 at the Reno Events Center. The victory earned her $30,000 and a place among bowling's biggest names as Queens champion.
"This is the most prestigious women's event, and to be in the company of some of the women who have won this is amazing," said Johnson, who finished second to Shannon Pluhowsky at the 2006 Queens. "I was so close to winning the title in 2006, and it took me a couple of months to get over that loss, but this feels absolutely amazing."
Johnson, the top seed, never thought she would have a shot at the title this week after getting off to a rocky start and landing in 71st place after the opening round of qualifying at the National Bowling Stadium. She slowly moved up the standings and fought through the double-elimination match-play bracket undefeated to claim the title.
"This week I bowled OK but my reaction wasn't that good, and I barely won some matches," said Johnson, who now has 13 professional women's titles including the 2007 U.S. Women's Open. "I'm a fighter, though. When it comes to anything, especially bowling, I'm going to fight my way through."
Johnson and Kulick both got off to hot starts in the championship match. After Johnson left a 7 pin on a solid pocket shot, she rattled off four consecutive strikes.
Kulick, however, started the game with five strikes before disaster struck. In the sixth frame, Kulick left the Greek Church, the 4-6-7-9-10 split, and fell into a deficit from which she would never recover.
After converting the 2 pin in the sixth frame, Johnson strung together three more strikes to easily claim the championship.
"This is the one title that has eluded her, and she earned it today," Kulick said. "If there is any bowler I want to finish second to, it's Liz. She's having a great career. She just keeps fighting and seems to overcome everything."
In reaching the title match, Kulick took out Michelle Feldman of Auburn, N.Y., 221-170, in the semifinal. Feldman started with an open and Kulick never trailed in the match.
Kulick defeated Lisa Bishop of Belleville, Mich., the match before by starting with nine consecutive strikes in a 262-224 win. Stepping up in the final frame in her bid for a televised perfect game, Kulick threw the ball a tad slow and it hooked through the head pin and left the 3-4-6-7 split.
To open the championship round, Bishop defeated Brenda Edwards of Mansfield, Texas, 221-199. After leaving the 3-4-6-7-9-10 split in the final frame, Bishop converted the spare to keep her hopes alive. Edwards could have advanced with three consecutive strikes in the 10th frame, but left the 6-10 on her first shot.
The Queens championship round was conducted on lanes specially constructed inside the Reno Events Center, which will host the USBC Convention this weekend. The same lanes will be used to tape Bowling's Clash of Champions, a USBC event, which will air on CBS Sports on May 9 from 4-6 p.m. Eastern.
The Queens, which is presented by Eldorado, Silver Legacy and Circus Circus, featured a field of 251 of the top female bowlers in the world competing for a total prize fund of $200,000.
2009 USBC QUEENS
At Reno Events Center, Reno, Nev.
Lisa Bishop, Belleville, Mich., def. Brenda Edwards, Mansfield, Texas, 221-199 (Edwards finishes fifth, earns $7,500.)
Kelly Kulick, Union, N.J., def. Bishop, 262-224. (Bishop finishes fourth, earns $9,500.)
Kulick def. Michelle Feldman, Auburn, N.Y., 221-170. (Feldman finishes third, earns $13,000.)
Liz Johnson, Cheektowaga, N.Y., def. Kulick, 247-204. (Kulick finishes second, earns $18,000; Johnson finishes first, earns $30,000.)