By Jennifer Roback
From August 24 to 31, members of the Professional Women's Bowling Association will be competing at the 2021 U.S. Women's Open, hosted by Double Decker Lanes in Rohnert Park, California.
Not only will the bowlers be competing for a chance to bowl live on television in the finals but also for the league's first-ever six-figure grand prize.
It was also announced that this year's prize fund will continue into the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons as the four major championships presented by the United States Bowling Congress and Bowling Proprietors' Association of America will continue awarding $100,000 to each champion.
Those events include the U.S. Women's Open, U.S. Open, USBC Queens, and USBC Masters.
"The U.S. Women's Open has a long and storied history, and we're excited to be able to add to its legacy in 2021 with a record top prize and national exposure on CBS Sports Network," USBC President Melissa McDaniel told Bowl.com. "Looking ahead to 2022 and 2023, we're proud to be able to commit to $100,000 top prizes at our major championships, while continuing to recognize champions and build a future for the sport."
This year's event not only gives bowlers a chance at a big payday but also increases the exposure of the sport thanks to the live broadcast on CBS Sports.
The stepladder finals of the 2021 U.S. Women's Open will air on August 31, at 7 p.m. Eastern.
Following the announcement, many PWBA bowlers took to social media to talk about the historic decision and share pictures of just how excited they are.
"This is probably the biggest news for the Professional Women's Association, ever, in history!" PWBA bowler Daria Pajak said in a video posted on Instagram. "...How cool is this? ... The future of bowling is great, I have been making a living off of bowling since 2016 and, I love it but, it has never been as good as it's about to get."
"When you find out that the Finals of the US Women’s Open will now be LIVE on @cbssports AND with $100K for 1st place! Awesome news today announced from @usbowlingcongress and @pwbatour," PWBA bowler Missy Parkin added.
At the 2021 event, the top 36 bowlers will receive a cut of the estimated $298,125 prize fund. The champion will walk away with the historic $100,000 prize, while the runner-up will receive $50,000, and third place will take home $25,000.
"The PWBA Tour Championship has provided our athletes and fans with some incredible moments over the past five seasons, and it's fitting that it will help us wrap up another amazing year on national television, along with an increased prize fund," PWBA Director of Operations Tennelle Milligan continued. "We're excited to conclude our season live on CBS Sports Network while crowning our final champion of the year."
Stony Point, New York native, and Fairleigh Dickinson University Alum, Danielle McEwan, took home the win at the 2019 event and looks to defend her title this week after the 2020 tournament was cancelled due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
"The U.S. Women's Open is the biggest and most prestigious event we bowl, and it was such a huge honor and big success in my career to win in 2019," McEwan told PWBA writer Aaron Smith. "After 2020, though, it honestly feels like it happened in a previous lifetime. I would go back and watch that video to look for some things in my physical game. I would watch that 10th frame, and it was kind of like, 'How did I do that?' I feel like today kind of reminded me how I did that. I think that's going to help me going into the U.S. Women's Open."
McEwan, 29, is heading into the tournament fresh off a victory, as she won the PWBA Spokane Open less than a week prior, on August 21, 2021, marking her seventh PWBA Tour title.
Despite the six-figure payout, McEwan looks forward most to having the chance to compete on live tv again.
"Having the opportunity to possibly bowl on TV is going to give me a lot of encouragement and kind of be a driving force," McEwan said. "There's nothing like being able to bowl on a live show. If I'm thinking about the prize fund, though, then I'm a step behind. I never bowl for money. I bowl because I love bowling and want to be the best. I want to hold that trophy at the end. I'm going to do my best to not focus on the prize fund, and hopefully, it just works itself out at the end."
The 2021 tournament will feature three eight-game qualifying rounds, starting Thursday, to determine the top 24 players advancing to a fourth eight-game block.
After 32 games, the top 24 athletes will begin round-robin match play, starting Sunday.
Matchplay will consist of three eight-game rounds, with total pinfall and bonus pins for each win determining the five players advancing to the stepladder finals on CBS.
Each qualifying round will also feature a different oil pattern for the bowlers to compete on and, the fourth one will be used for the remainder of the event.
Junior Team USA member Jillian Martin, 17, will also be in the field this week looking to continue her historic season after she had made history earlier this month by becoming the youngest bowler to win a PWBA Tour event, after defeating England's Verity Crawley in the title match, 221-188 at the PWBA BowlTV Classic.