ARLINGTON, Texas – After a month-long competition break, the Professional Women’s Bowling Association returns to action this week with the Pepsi PWBA St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open at Seminole Lanes in Seminole, Florida.
Shannon O’Keefe of O’Fallon, Illinois, the 2018 PWBA Player of the Year front-runner, is the defending champion and will lead the top 24 PWBA players into the first of three elite-field events.
Along with the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open, which runs Aug. 2-4, the BowlerX.com PWBA Twin Cities Open (Aug. 9-11) and the Nationwide PWBA Columbus Open (Aug. 16-18) are elite-field events. Following the U.S. Women’s Open, the top 24 players on the 2018 PWBA Tour points list earned exemptions for these events.
Each elite-field event will feature a 32-player field, and each week an eight-game pre-tournament qualifier will complete the field. Elite-field events will have 16 qualifying games before cutting to the top 12 advancers, who will bowl six additional games. The top five after 22 games advance to the stepladder finals, which will be nationally televised live on CBS Sports Network.
Last season, O’Keefe entered the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open on a bit of a whirlwind after struggling in consecutive weeks, which she admits brought self-doubt. She considered taking off a couple of weeks but instead worked with her husband, Bryan, to refine and retool her mental game.
The results spoke for themselves – a win at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open and the biggest win of her career, the PWBA Tour Championship, to end last season.
“Right before St. Petersburg last year, I had a heart-to-heart with Bryan and refocused my mental game on controlling what I can control and letting things happen how they’re meant to be,” O’Keefe said “That took a lot of pressure off and I was able to stay in the moment and not think too far ahead.
“That’s how I’ve mentally approached each and every event I’ve bowled since and it has allowed me to throw key shots in pressure situations that in the past would hold me back.”
The elite events potentially will present different challenges, including one less round of competition. Adjusting to less games is something that briefly crossed O’Keefe’s mind, but she knows each player will have to navigate the same terrain.
“That has most certainly crossed my mind,” O’Keefe said. “But then I remind myself everyone is in the same boat, so staying in each moment and focusing on me is the space I will need to compete in. Even though the field will be smaller, all these ladies are the same ones we see week in and week out, so it will be just as competitive.”
Though the PWBA Tour took a break in July, that wasn’t quite the case for O’Keefe. She was busy with Team USA obligations, attended the Junior Gold Championships in Dallas and found time to lace up for the PBA/PWBA Striking Against Breast Cancer Mixed Doubles in Houston.
“Well, I flew to Team USA camp directly from the U.S. Women’s Open for a week,” O’Keefe said. “Then I was home for a few days before flying back to Dallas for nine days to attend Junior Gold and recruit for my college team at McKendree. After, I was home for five days working and practicing before heading to Houston to bowl the Striking Against Breast Cancer Mixed Doubles with Bill O’Neill.
“So, even though the PWBA Tour was on a little hiatus, I was not.”
In August, the PWBA will have live televised finals every Saturday night. Along with the three elite events, the final two majors of the season, the QubicaAMF PWBA Players Championship (Aug. 22-25), and the season-ending PWBA Tour Championship (Sept. 16-19), will have live finals on CBS Sports Network.
BowlTV, the YouTube channel of the United States Bowling Congress, will live stream the qualifying rounds for all events leading up to the live televised finals on CBS Sports Network.
The excitement of live television didn’t get past O’Keefe, who already has won two titles in 2018, including the first major of the season, the USBC Queens. She’s also looking forward to returning to Seminole Lanes.
“I’m excited for the PWBA to be back on TV regularly,” said O’Keefe, one of only three players to win a title in every season since 2015. “And, to return to a center I’ve had success. The Krauss’ are great hosts and it will be nice to be back!”