Among the 26 players who advanced out of the U.S. Open PTQ Sunday at Woodland Bowl in Indianapolis were a trio of interesting names, including two teenagers and one PWBA Tour champion.
The teenage contingent includes a player who is enjoying a weekend she is not soon to forget — Jillian Martin — who bowled the PTQ on barely five hours sleep after flying into Indy from Dallas-Fort Worth, where she defeated Kayla Starr, 201-179, to successfully defend her girls’ PBA Jr. National Championship title at Bowlero Euless. That taped broadcast aired Sunday afternoon on FS1.
Martin’s plane landed in Indy around 9:30 p.m. Saturday night, and she did not get to sleep until after midnight. Today, she woke up at 5:50 a.m. to get ready to bowl, then proceeded to advance out of the U.S. Open PTQ for the second consecutive year.
Martin, who became the youngest champion in PWBA Tour history when she won the 2021 PWBA BowlTV Classic last August, said the day’s pattern tested her patience often.
“It was just a lot of good shots that didn’t carry, bad shots that didn’t have good breaks, mediocre shots that just didn’t go my way.”
As often has been the case for Martin, who struck out in the 10th frame of the 2022 PBA Jr. National Championship title match to defeat opponent Kayla Starr and also doubled in her 10th in the 2021 event to defeat Victoria Varano, she found it when she needed it. Her 225 in the final game included a four-bagger followed by a 5-pin spare in her 10th to squeak into the tournament by seven pins. Groggy as the sleep-deprived Martin may have been, her highest score of the eight-game round came with an opening game of 245.
“It was a long, grinding day. She made a lot of spares, and it kind of took a lot of emotional and mental maturity to get through the day,” said dad John. “It was fun watching her.”
For Martin, it was just as fun bowling the event.
“I really love bowling against the men,” she said. “It’s totally different than bowling against the women, just the way the lanes break down, the way you see things, the higher rev rates, higher speed, all of that. I look at it as a new challenge, a way for me to learn more about the sport and apply that in different ways.”
Martin’s fellow teen advancer, Deo Benard, already has two PBA Regional titles to his credit at age 18 — and a young 18 at that, as he just celebrated his birthday on Christmas Eve. But it quickly was apparent to Benard that this was no regional.
“It was my first U.S. Open, so I came in kind of nervous,” said Benard, who nonetheless posted a respectable 213 in his opening game. “It was a really tough pattern. I just kept shooting 200s and 190s and kept hanging around the cut.”
Benard, who averaged 201 for the block, took the last spot by a single pin over 27th-place finisher Chad Roberts.
“I just kept making small moves, and if I hit the pocket, I was happy. It was very draining. I felt like I always had maybe two boards of area, and then if I leave a washout, it’s like, ‘Oh, man. Now I gotta spare this and shoot a double to save the game.’”
Benard said he planned on readying himself to bowl his first U.S. Open by getting in a good night’s sleep, and then, “I’m just going to try to relax more. I was a little too nervous and tense.”
Maria José Rodriguez is no stranger to tense moments in a pro-tour setting, as each of her PWBA Tour titles have been majors — the 2014 USBC Queens and the 2018 PWBA Players Championship. Thanks to a stellar showing in Sunday’s PTQ, she will have the opportunity to add to those accolades after a fourth-place finish during which she averaged 214.
“I’ve been bowling these PTQs — the U.S. Open and World Series of Bowling — for about the past five years, and I’m usually the last to make the cut or I am one out of the number, or two out of the number, and the patterns are always so hard, but, I don’t know, maybe I just threw it really good today,” she said.
That, Rodriguez certainly did, blasting a field-high 256 in the opening game of the round and never looking back to finish far above the cut this time out.
Rodriguez has no expectations heading into the week, but she knows one thing: “I like it when [the lanes] are hard.”
Rodriguez will be the only PWBA member in the field when U.S. Open qualifying gets underway Tuesday morning with A Squad taking the lanes at 8 a.m. ET. All rounds will be broadcast live on BowlTV heading into the live TV finals Sunday at 5 p.m. ET on FS1.