BY EMIL WILLIAMS JR.
ADDISON, Ill. – Colombia’s Clara Guerrero went undefeated through two days of match play to earn the top seed for the stepladder finals at the 2022 United States Bowling Congress Queens.
The 40-year-old right-hander defeated Germany’s Birgit Noreiks, 674-564, in the final Winners Bracket match Monday at Stardust Bowl. Noreiks will be the No. 2 seed.
The finals of the 2022 USBC Queens will be broadcast live on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Eastern on CBS Sports Network. The champion will take home the $ 60,000 first-place prize and the coveted tiara.
Joining Guerrero and Noreiks in the stepladder will be No. 3 Laura Plazas of Colombia, No. 4 Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, New York, and No. 5 Hope Gramly of Aubrey, Texas. All qualifying and match play rounds were streamed live at BowlTV.com.
Plazas, McEwan and Gramly advanced out of the Elimination Bracket on Monday. The final four athletes in the Elimination Bracket bowled a three-game total-pinfall contest, with the top three scores advancing to the stepladder.
Plazas earned the No. 3 seed with a 696 series. McEwan advanced with a 637 three-game set and will face Gramly (581) in Tuesday’s opening match. England’s Verity Crawley rolled a 565 series and was eliminated, finishing in sixth place. Crawley needed two strikes and six pins in the 10th frame to advance ahead of Gramly, but she left a 2 pin on her first shot in the final frame.
Guerrero is looking for her second major and second Professional Women’s Bowling Association Tour title, but this will be the first time she’ll make a championship-round appearance as the top seed. Throw in the fact that she’s the top seed at the Queens simply elevates the accomplishment.
“It’s truly a dream,” Guerrero said. “When you work on your game, practice hard, commit to your plan and look into the schedule, you always hope and dream to be the No. 1 seed in a major. It just gives you that opportunity to be in the right position to win. Just making a show is amazing, but this is my first time being the No. 1 seed, and I’ve been bowling for a long, long time. I have competed for many, many years and this is the first time, so I’m very emotional. I’m very excited. I just feel, in a way, rewarded.”
This week’s 42-foot oil pattern proved to be tricky throughout qualifying and match play, and Guerrero, who prefers to play the lanes a bit straighter and toward the outside part of the lane, didn’t see many opportunities to play her “A” game this week.
She did notice a few players during match play trying to play the lanes in that area, with some success, which made Guerrero give it a try in certain situations. She found she was unable to repeat the success from that area of the lanes consistently as she moved pairs for each match.
Ultimately, she kept an open mind and made the decision to move left and play her “B” game when she was unable to play to her strengths, showing the versatility she has amassed during her outstanding career. It was a major key to earning the top seed.
Guerrero averaged more than 217 in her six wins Sunday and Monday.
“It was just tough,” Guerrero said. “I think as we re-oiled, the lanes got harder and harder and flatter and flatter, and the outside didn’t look as good. There were no easy matches. There were matches where I had to double, mark or strike to win. But, I think what saved me through the matches is I was open-minded to move left when that didn’t work. I think that was the key to my success. I always had to try outside because my ‘A’ game is what I feel comfortable doing. I know I’ll be better than many other people playing out and straight, but I was open-minded today, so I think that was an advantage.”
Guerrero was inducted into the World Bowling Writers Hall of Fame in 2009, and she’s still producing hall of fame moments. She has been a member of Team Colombia for 24 years. World champion. National champion. Gold medalist. Back-to-back QubicaAMF World Cup champion. One PWBA major title, the 2016 PWBA Players Championship.
Guerrero’s career doesn’t need any validation, but if she’s able to add the Queens to her resume Tuesday, the win would add personal validation.
“Obviously as a professional bowler, I always want to win,” said Guerrero, who finished third at the 2019 Queens. “I’m here to compete and win every week. I want to be player of the year, and that’s the attitude and the mentality that I come here with. However, just winning one more major, either of those (Queens or U.S. Women’s Open) will be just spectacular for my career. It’s just more motivation to keep working hard.”
Noreiks will be looking to win her first career major and third PWBA Tour title. She is making her second stepladder appearance at the Queens after finishing fourth at the 2016 event.
Plazas is making her first career television appearance and is looking for her first win as an amateur.
McEwan is looking for her third career major title and eighth PWBA Tour title. Like Noreiks, she was part of the televised finals in 2016, where she finished third.
Gramly, a collegiate standout at McKendree, also is an amateur and making her first stepladder finals appearance. She led McKendree to the 2022 NCAA Women’s Bowling Championship, is a two-time National Tenpin Coaches Association Division II Player of the Year and two-time NTCA First-Team All-American.
The last amateur to win the Queens was Singapore’s Bernice Lim in 2016.
The 2022 event started with 204 competitors. After 15 games of qualifying over three days, the top 63 players and Julia Bond of Aurora, Illinois, who was guaranteed a spot in the bracket as the defending champion, advanced to match play.
Bond won three matches at Stardust Bowl on Sunday before losing two matches Monday to be eliminated. She lost to Noreiks, 721-689, and Gramly, 677-642. Bond finished tied for ninth.