Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, N.Y. made history during Wednesday’s Tournament Qualifying Round (TQR) of the Cheetah Championship at AMF Thruway Lanes, the seventh stop on the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour. Johnson made the cut for the Cheetah Championship men’s field, becoming the first woman in PBA history to qualify for a men’s tournament during an event where a PBA Women’s Series is running concurrently.
Johnson, who grew up in the Niagara Falls area, is an alternate on the PBA Women’s Series, now in its second year and is sponsored by the United States Bowling Congress (USBC). Because all of the exempt Women’s Series bowlers are competing this week in Cheektowaga, Johnson entered the men’s TQR for her shot at the Cheetah Championship.
“I bowled the past two weeks as an alternate but all of the Women’s Series bowlers are here this week so I entered the men’s TQR,” said Johnson. “I was able to compete against the guys and have been able to compete well against the ladies too. I’ll be back on the Women’s Series next week.”
The Cheetah Championship is right in Johnson’s comfort zone. The Cheetah pattern, which measures 36 feet in length (shortest of all five lane patterns) with a potentially fast scoring pace and play near the gutter, is a specialty of Johnson’s, though her overall scores were lower than expected.
“I feel really good about how I bowled, considering the low scores,” said Johnson. “I made a ball change, had a good look and it fell into place.”
In addition to excelling at the pattern, Johnson lives five minutes away from AMF Thruway Lanes in Cheektowaga, the event’s host bowling center and works at events at the center a few times a year.
“It’s nice to come back and bowl in front of family and friends,” said Johnson.
In addition to her accomplishment Wednesday, Johnson was the first woman to make the televised finals of a PBA event in Grand Rapids, Mich. during the 2005-06 season. She won her semifinal match in that event over Wes Malott by a score of 235-228. She was unable to complete the quest for a title, falling 219-192, to eventual 2005-06 PBA Player of the Year Tommy Jones in the final match.
Johnson finished second in Wednesday’s TQR to Scott Newell of Deland, Fla., who finished with a 228.71 average over seven games. Johnson averaged 226.71. In addition to Newell and Johnson, PBA members John Nolen of Waterford, Mich., Walter Schaub II of Schaumburg, Ill. and Jeff Zaffino of Warren, Pa. made the cut, as well as amateur, Dave Guindon of West Seneca, N.Y.
Failing to make the cut was youth bowler Robert Mushtare of Carthage, N.Y. The only youth bowler in the competition, Mushtare is the only person to ever shoot two sanctioned 900 series (three consecutive 300 games). Mushtare’s record is controversial, as the first 900 series was not recognized as a sanctioned score by the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) because Mushtare was not competing in a certified league. Mushtare finished the day in 66th place with a 179.00 average.
Cheetah Championship Format:
The field of 64 players will bowl two, 7-game qualifying rounds for a total of 14 games on Thursday, Dec. 4 in which the top 32 players advance to match play. Bowlers making the cut return on Friday morning, Dec. 5 for the first nine games of an 18 game round robin match play schedule. The field will then be cut to the top 16 players who will return on Friday evening for the second round of match play competition. At the conclusion of match play, the top four finalists will advance to stepladder competition, i.e. No. 4 vs. No. 3, winner vs. No. 2, winner vs. No. 1 in championship match, aired live on ESPN on Sunday, Dec. 7 at 1 p.m. ET.
PBA Women’s Series Format
The Cheetah Championship also hosts the PBA Women’s Series, sponsored by the United States Bowling Congress. It is the fourth stop on the PBA Women’s Series schedule. The field of 16 players will bowl two, 7-game qualifying rounds for a total of 14 games on Thursday, Dec. 4 in which the top 10 players advance to match play. Bowlers making the cut return on Friday evening, Dec. 5 for nine games of round robin match play competition. At the conclusion of match play, the top two finalists will compete in the championship match on Sunday, Dec. 7, aired live on ESPN at 1 p.m. ET.