SEMINOLE, Fla. – Daria Pajak showed she was ready for more bowling and nine other bowlers earned their spots in the first of three elite-field events on the 2018 Professional Women’s Bowling Association (PWBA) Tour schedule.
The pre-tournament qualifier (PTQ) for the Pepsi PWBA St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open took place Thursday at Seminole Lanes. While the top 24 players on the PWBA points list already earned their way into the three elite-field events that will take place in August, at least eight spots are available each week through a PTQ.
With two of the top 24 qualifiers unable to make this week’s event, two additional players were able to qualify from the 41-player PTQ field.
Pajak, of Pila, Poland, was at No. 27 at the cutoff for the elite-field events (after the U.S. Women’s Open), averaged 226 over the eight games to finish more than 100 pins ahead of second-place Summer Jasmin of Beckley, West Virginia.
Florida residents Taylor Bulthuis of Coral Springs and Samantha Infantino of Wellington, both non-members, also were among the 10 players to make the Pepsi PWBA St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open field out of the PTQ.
“It feels really good I was able to do it,” Bulthuis said. “It came down to the last game for me, to make good shots. I wanted it, especially being in my hometown. I wanted to be able to continue to bowl for the weekend, since I’ll have family and friends coming out to support me. I’m grateful.”
Bulthuis is no stranger to success on the lanes, having won the 2017 USBC Women’s Championships Diamond Singles title in 2017. It came on the heels of runner-up finishes at the 2017 Intercollegiate Team and Singles Championships, when she bowled for Webber International.
“I didn’t get to bowl all the (PWBA Tour) stops this year and I’m pretty disappointed,” Bulthuis said. “With working, and fresh out of college, I had to be able to support myself. So, going into next year, I’m going to be able to bowl full-time.”
She said her job with Wyndham will allow her to take a few breaks and she appreciates the opportunity to chase her dream. And she’s happy her dad will get to see her bowl this week.
“He only had a four-hour drive to come see me, and to make the cut is special not only to me, but to him,” Bulthuis said.
Infantino made the three-and-a-half hour drive from Wellington to compete in her first PWBA event. She comes from a family of bowlers but had been out of the sport for several years. She went to college on a basketball scholarship but recently returned to bowling and now has a spot in the Pepsi PWBA St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open field.
“The adrenaline rush is unexplainable right now,” Infantino said. “I’m having the time of my life and happy I get to book another hotel room tonight.”
Starting with games of 208, 268 and 223 helped to calm Infantino for the rest of the eight-game set, and gave her some wiggle room when she struggled with thumb issues that resulted in games of 162 and 156.
“I’m going to get my thumb holes opened up so I won’t have that wall in the middle of the squad,” Infantino said.
The Pepsi PWBA St. Petersburg-Clearwater Open gets underway Friday at 10 a.m. (Eastern) with the first of two eight-game qualifying rounds. After 16 qualifying games, the top 12 will bowl six games on Saturday morning to determine the stepladder finalists for the TV show which will be televised live on Saturday at 6 p.m. (Eastern) on CBS Sports Network.
BowlTV, the YouTube channel of USBC, will have livestream coverage of all qualifying rounds.