SPOKANE, Wash. – It has been nearly two years since fans of the Professional Women’s Bowling Association have been able to watch members of Team Singapore compete on tour, but that will change this week as six athletes from the national team make their return at the PWBA Spokane Open.
Cherie Tan, Shayna Ng, New Hui Fen, Jazreel Tan, Bernice Lim and Daphne Tan have traveled to the United States to compete at the next two stops on the 2021 PWBA Tour schedule, with their journey kicking off at Lilac Lanes & Casino.
The official practice session for the Spokane Open will take place Thursday, and competition will get underway Friday with two six-game qualifying rounds.
The top 32 athletes will advance and bowl another six-game block Saturday to determine the 12 players for the final round of competition. An additional six-game block will determine the four players for the stepladder finals, based on total pinfall for 24 games.
The finals of the Spokane Open will take place Saturday at 9 p.m. Eastern, with the winner earning $ 10,000. All qualifying rounds, and the stepladder finals, will be broadcast live on BowlTV.com.
Though the members of Team Singapore have only participated in a limited number of events since the relaunch of the PWBA in 2015, their impact certainly has been noticed in the standings and winner’s circle.
Five of the six players competing at the Spokane Open have won a PWBA event during the last five seasons, with Cherie Tan (2019 PWBA Players Championship), New (2016 PWBA Tour Championship) and Lim (2016 United States Bowling Congress Queens) capturing major victories. All six athletes have made an appearance in the stepladder finals of a major championship during that time frame, too.
Ng won a pair of standard PWBA Tour events (2018 and 2019), and Jazreel Tan won in 2015 prior to joining the PWBA.
New’s victory at the Tour Championship also helped her win the 2016 PWBA Rookie of the Year award, despite just six tournament appearances during the season.
The Spokane Open and upcoming U.S. Women’s Open (Aug. 24-31) will mark the first time the team members have competed in any capacity in approximately 20 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Singapore’s last events were in December of 2019 at the Southeast Asian Games in the Philippines, which included gold medals in singles (New), team (New, Ng, Cherie Tan, Daphne Tan) and Masters (New) competition, along with the Storm-Domino’s Pizza Cup in South Korea, which was won by Cherie Tan.
“We haven’t been able to compete at all since December 2019,” said Cherie Tan, a two-time PWBA Tour champion. “We’ve only been able to train on and off because of the COVID measures in our country.”
Even with the added logistics in traveling across the Pacific Ocean more than 8,000 miles to the Pacific Northwest and knowing they’ll have to quarantine at a hotel for 14 days upon their return to Singapore, it was important for the team to get back into the mix against the top players on the PWBA Tour.
These events also will serve as a tuneup for Singapore looking ahead to the International Bowling Federation World Championships in November. The 2021 IBF World Championships will take place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from Nov. 3-26, with the IBF Super World Championships (adult men and women) occurring from Nov. 6-15.
“The competition environment is something we can’t replicate at home, no matter how much we train,” Ng said. “It will be good for us to shake off some of the dust as we get ready for the World Championships in November.”
The international presence will be strong at the Spokane Open, with 13 countries being represented in the 67-player field. Historically, many of the athletes competing each week on the PWBA Tour have represented their countries at events like the IBF World Championships.
“These events will be a major help for us,” said Cherie Tan, who won the Masters gold medal at the 2019 IBF World Championships. “They are our only events prior to the World Championships, and most of these players compete at the World Championships, so the competition level will be quite similar.”
Though the trip certainly has a business-like feel to it, these six players also are ready to enjoy the moment and see if they’re able to continue the success they’ve found in previous seasons on the PWBA Tour.
“I believe that we’re all very, very excited,” Ng said. “Just to be able to be here to compete with the rest of the ladies on tour is quite a privilege for us, and considering how crazy it’s been, we feel extremely excited and lucky to be here. We have to manage our expectations, since we haven’t competed in so long, but if one of us can find a way to win, that’d be great. We are just here to get back into the motion of competing and ultimately have some fun, too.”
The PWBA is returning to Washington for the first time since 1986, when Leila Wagner won the 1986 Hammer Western Open in Tacoma, and this week’s event will mark the tour’s first trip to Spokane.
The PWBA Spokane Open is the 16th event out of 20 on the 2021 schedule, and the tournament also will feature several players in the midst of a highly contested race for PWBA Player of the Year.
Two-time champion Julia Bond of Aurora, Illinois, leads with 95,750 points, but she’s now just 275 points ahead of England’s Verity Crawley (95,475), who made her charge with three consecutive championship-round appearances at the PWBA Summer Classic Series earlier in August, after winning her first career title in June at the PWBA Greater Nashville Open.
Ukraine’s Dasha Kovalova (92,280) and two-time reigning PWBA Player of the Year Shannon O’Keefe of Shiloh, Illinois (90,645), also are less than 5,200 points away from the top spot.
Kovalova has collected a pair of victories this season and now is a four-time champion, and O’Keefe kicked off the 2021 season with her 14th career title at the PWBA Bowlers Journal Classic.
To learn more about the PWBA, visit PWBA.com.