SOUTH GLENS FALLS, N.Y. - Nearly 10 months ago, Josie Barnes of Hermitage, Tennessee, made history when she won the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open, claiming the coveted green jacket and, in the process, earning $100,000, the richest prize in the history of women’s bowling.
Barnes is back in the field this week looking to make another long and grueling run to the stepladder finals. Last year, she earned the top seed and defeated Singapore’s Cherie Tan, 198-194, to win her first major title.
The 2022 event kicks off Wednesday at Kingpin’s Alley Family Fun Center with the tournament’s official practice sessions, and the season’s second major will conclude June 21 at 7 p.m. Eastern, live on CBS Sports Network.
This year’s winner will receive $60,000, with the event’s overall prize fund at nearly $255,000.
The allure of defending a title would be prominent for any player, but Barnes is focusing her energy in a different way. She tries not to use the word “defend” or the phrase “defend your title,” because whether the feat is accomplished or not, she’s always going to be the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open.
It’s a layer of additional pressure she’s going to try and stay away from as the week begins and gives her an opportunity to “practice what she preaches” to her student-athletes as the associate head coach at Vanderbilt.
The most recent player to successfully defend a title at the U.S. Women’s Open was Liz Johnson, who won four straight editions of the tournament from 2013-2017. There was no event held in 2014.
Marion Ladewig and Dorothy Fothergill are the only other players to have successfully defended a U.S. Women’s Open title, and each accomplished the feat when the event still was known as the Bowling Proprietors’ Association of America All-Star. The name of the event was changed to the U.S. Women’s Open in 1971.
“I really try not to see it that way because at the end of the day, I could finish dead last this week, and I'm still going to be the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open champion,” Barnes said. “I'm really trying to not put that kind of pressure on myself, because it's not like there's been many people to do it. It's not an easy event to win. In a lot of ways, I'm trying to keep my perspective very similar to last year in the sense that I just want to go out and control what I'm doing. And, at the end of the day, if that puts me in a position to win again, I'm going to be really freaking happy. But, if I start thinking about defending, it’s not going to be a very good week.”
Barnes entered last year’s event in the midst of what she called “not a good season,” and the first day “started really poorly.” The event looked like it might be a continuation of her season to that point, but the 33-year-old right-hander turned things around, which was a lasting memory of understanding what she was capable of along with her belief in her abilities during a season and tournament that could’ve been lost.
What also stood out to Barnes in retrospect was her performance down the stretch in match play, specifically during the position round. Barnes made some pivotal shots against Tan on a pair that provided her numerous problems just a couple of games prior to securing the No. 1 seed.
“I had bowled on that pair a couple games before and it tricked me,” Barnes said. “I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t feel like I executed that poorly, but my score was not very high. And, to be able to throw two (strikes) in the 10th (frame) to take the top seed, on a pair that I wasn’t comfortable on … I don’t know if I have great words to describe it. It was a pretty remarkable feeling.”
The 2022 event will feature three eight-game qualifying rounds, starting Thursday at 8 a.m. Eastern, to determine the 30 players advancing to a fourth eight-game block. Each of the four rounds will feature a different oil pattern.
After 32 games, 24 athletes will begin round-robin match play, starting Sunday, with the fourth oil pattern being used for the remainder of the event.
Match play will consist of three eight-game rounds, with total pinfall and bonus pins for each victory determining the five players advancing to the stepladder finals.
All rounds leading up to the CBS Sports Network broadcast will be livestreamed at BowlTV.com.
As a young girl growing up in Vandalia, Illinois, the nine-time Team USA member grew up watching U.S. Women’s Open champions like Johnson, Kelly Kulick and Kim Terrell-Kearney just to name a few. All three are United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famers, while Terrell-Kearney was recently inducted into the Professional Women’s Bowling Association Hall of Fame last May. Johnson and Kulick certainly are shoe-ins for future induction once eligible.
It’s every athlete’s dream to win the U.S. Women’s Open, and even now, it’s something Barnes still is in awe about, because she now shares the historical stage with many of her childhood idols.
As much as the win means to Barnes, she’s hoping to become an inspiration to future U.S. Women’s Open champions, much like the previous champions have inspired her.
“It’s honestly hard to imagine, because I’m still that little girl,” said Barnes, who is seeking her fifth PWBA Tour title this week. “Sometimes, I have to pinch myself, because I can’t believe one of the people I’m closest to (Kim) is really my friend. They’ve inspired me and so many young girls. I just hope I can do a minute amount to future generations of what they did for me.”
Along with Barnes and Johnson, additional past U.S. Women’s Open champions competing this week include the Capital Region’s own Liz Kuhlkin of Schenectady, New York, and Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, New York.
Kuhlkin climbed the stepladder during her victory in 2018 for her first major championship. Last week, she won her third career PWBA Tour title at the PWBA Long Island Classic at Maple Lanes in Rockville Centre, New York.
McEwan captured her win at the U.S. Women’s Open at the 2019 event. It was her second career major championship.
For more information about the U.S. Women’s Open, visit BOWL.com/USWomensOpen.