MacLeod wins 2023 PWBA Rockford Regional for first PWBA tournament victory

MacLeod wins 2023 PWBA Rockford Regional for first PWBA tournament victory

ROCKFORD, Illinois – Amber MacLeod of Conway, South Carolina, topped Gianna Brandolino of Channahon, Illinois, 289-209, on Sunday to win the 2023 PWBA Rockford Regional at The Cherry Bowl.

The win earned MacLeod her first PWBA tournament victory, the $2,000 first-place prize and an automatic berth into the match-play portion of the season-ending PWBA Regional Showdown, which will be held at Aloma Bowl in Winter Park, Florida, from Dec. 7-9.

The 27-year-old right-hander planned on bowling the Regional Showdown all along, but she figured she’d have to battle her way through qualifying if she hoped to reach the final 16.

That’s no longer the case, however, as Sunday’s win in Rockford, which was broadcast live on BowlTV, allowed MacLeod to add her name to the list of 2023 regional champions who will automatically be seeded for match play at the Regional Showdown. 

“It’s crazy that I’m already in the match-play portion of the Regional Showdown now,” MacLeod said. “I don’t even know how to put the value of that into words other than to say that I’m grateful.”

MacLeod more than proved that she deserved the spot, however, as she was stellar throughout Sunday’s competition.

She earned the top seed for the stepladder finals by leading the 75-player field with an eight-game qualifying score of 1,761 (a 220.13 average), which included games of 246, 267, 208, 204, 235, 215, 202 and 184.

MacLeod saved her best for last, however, using a 10-bagger in frames two through 11 to put up 289 – the highest game of the tournament – in the title match against Brandolino.

Some spectators may have been surprised to see such a big number during the title tilt, but MacLeod knew the potential was there all along.

“I had a good look the first two games of qualifying this morning, so, honestly, I knew 280 was going to be out there during the stepladder as well,” MacLeod said. “I made a good ball choice, had some miss room and just made good shots. The only thing that was different was that I did more breathing during the title match.”

Brandolino, a Junior Team USA member and the tournament’s youngest competitor at just 16 years old, did her best to do her own breathing, as in breathing down MacLeod’s neck.

The young right-hander shook off a 2-10 split and open in the second frame by striking on six of her next seven shots, which allowed her to keep MacLeod within striking distance as the final frames drew near.

Nevertheless, MacLeod just wouldn’t let up, and when she struck in the ninth frame to run her string to eight in a row, it was clear that Brandolino wouldn’t be collecting her first PWBA win on this day.

Instead, she walked away with a second-place finish and $1,000 in scholarship money.

MacLeod, meanwhile, took the winner’s check and the added confidence that comes with knowing that she has what it takes to win at the professional level.

“I work six days as a week as a physical therapist and waitress, and I’m saving to buy a house, which means being out here bowling full time isn’t really an option for me right now,” MacLeod said. “It’s nice to know that I’m still able to keep up with everybody out here. Honestly, it’s surreal.”

What’s even more surreal is the fact that if MacLeod were to win the Regional Showdown, she wouldn’t just have the opportunity to bowl more regional events; she’d be able to take a shot at the national level by competing full time on the PWBA Tour.

That’s because the winner of the 2023 Regional Showdown will not only receive a cash prize, but she will also have her entry fees covered for all 2024 PWBA National Tour singles events as well.
Still, MacLeod wasn’t looking that far ahead in the moments following Sunday’s victory; instead, she was trying to enjoy the moment.

“I still have no words for this right now other than to say that it’s amazing,” MacLeod said. “I don’t really look at the scores too closely when I bowl, so it wasn’t until around the eighth frame that I knew I was going to win. 

“I’ve felt really good physically for the last few months, so it’s great to see it finally pay off. I’ve wanted this for a very long time.”

So did Brandolino, but the 2023 Junior Gold Championships 18-and-Under division girls’ national champion will have to wait at least a little bit longer.

Brandolino earned her shot at MacLeod by topping Jessica Earnest of Hermitage, Tennessee, 238-210, in the semifinals, which forced Earnest to settle for third place and $800.

One match earlier, Earnest kicked off the stepladder by defeating No. 3 seed Kayla Pashina of Otsego, Minnesota, by a final score of 218-183. The fourth-place finish earned Pashina $600.

The next PWBA Regional event will be Sept. 24 at the PWBA Twin Cities Regional. The tournament will be held at Cedarvale Lanes in Eagan, Minnesota. 

Categories: Tournaments, Players
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