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By Aaron Smith
Hello again! Emil and Daniel covered the previous two eras, so it’s back to me to complete the first round of the Ultimate Queens Bracket Challenge. Today, we’ll be looking at the champions from 1980-1990.
Four players from the 1980s won multiple Queens titles. Pretty awesome, right? Donna Adamek won the 1979 and 1980 titles, and Tokyo’s Katsuko Sugimoto won the event in 1981 and 1982. Aleta Sill was victorious in 1983 and 1985, and Wendy Macpherson won the first of three titles in 1988 (Macpherson was included in the 2000s bracket for her wins in 2000 and 2003).
Adamek, Sill and Macpherson each have spots in both the PWBA and USBC Hall of Fame. Other USBC Hall of Famers in this bracket include Cora Fiebig (1986 champion), Patty Ann (1990) and Australia’s Carol Gianotti (1989), who will be inducted into the PWBA Hall of Fame in 2020. Here’s a look at the matches – remember to vote for the winners on Twitter, Facebook Story and Instagram Story:
(1) Aleta Sill (1983, 1985) vs. (8) Katsuko Sugimoto (1981, 1982)
(4) Donna Adamek (1979, 1980) vs. (5) Cathy Almeida (1987)
(3) Cora Fiebig (1986) vs. (6) Patty Ann (1990)
(2) Kazue Inahashi (1984) vs. (7) Carol Gianotti (1989)
Much like our other regions, there are many great champions and some incredibly tough matchups to consider.
My focus for this piece, though, is going to look at the runs of Adamek and Sill during this time. Because, well, they were ridiculously great.
As mentioned, Adamek won in 1979 and 1980. She followed her quest for a third consecutive title by finishing fourth. She finished third in 1982. For good measure, she added three additional trips to the championship round during her career – third in 1986 and fifth in 1987 and 1992.
Only two players have made more championship-round appearances at the storied event – Macpherson and Liz Johnson (eight appearances each).
Sill’s wins in 1983 and 1985 surrounded a second-place finish as the top seed in 1984 to Tokyo’s Inahashi. She added another runner-up finish at the Queens in 1994 and finished third in 1989.
The powerful left-hander bowled for the title three consecutive years, joining fellow hall of famer Millie Ignizio as the only player in tournament history to accomplish the feat (Ignizio finished second in 1969 and won in 1970 and 1971). Two players (Macpherson and Ignizio) have won the Queens three times, and no player has won three consecutive years.
Digging a little deeper into the quest for three consecutive wins at the event, Sill’s match against Inahashi was much closer than the 248-222 final score suggested. In my opinion, it serves as one of the greatest showdowns in tournament history, especially considering the history up for grabs.
After exchanging strikes and spares for the first three frames, the fourth ultimately ended up giving Inahashi a lead she would never give up. But the final six frames didn’t lack drama.
Inahashi was unable to convert the 3-6-9-10 in the fourth, giving Sill the chance to take the lead with a mark. Sill’s delivery hit the 1-2 pocket but left the 5-10 split (it was 1984, folks). Sill made a run at the conversion but missed both, giving Inahashi a two-pin advantage.
The final six frames rivaled any great heavyweight bout between two tremendous competitors. Inahashi, noted as the top-ranked bowler in Japan during the broadcast, and Sill, who would win five titles and Player of the Year in 1984, continued to roll strikes after their miscues in the fourth, continually putting the pressure back on their opponent.
Stepping up in the 10th frame, both were working on five consecutive strikes. Inahashi finished first. Needing a double and nine pins to shut out Sill, she rolled three strikes to secure the title.
Inahashi showed her poise by continuing to keep the pocket in play, and Sill showed the fire that eventually would lead her to 31 professional titles. A fantastic effort by two phenomenal champions.
As we review history, though, that’s how close Sill was to winning the coveted tiara for a second consecutive year, and, as things played out, what would’ve been a historic three-peat. In addition, a sixth title in 1984 and a stronger argument for the greatest season ever.
The fan in me wishes Sill would have finished the match first. I would have loved to see those pressure-filled shots and the fire from Sill if she were able to put additional pressure on Inahashi. And, of course, if Inahashi could respond in the same fashion.
As the top seed, though, Sill elected to start the match, meaning Inahashi would finish first. That’s just part of the game.
Sill left no doubt the following year against USBC Hall of Famer Linda Graham, rolling 279 in the title match to win.
There’s your history lesson for today, good folks. Be sure to vote on social media!