Published: February 16, 2016 | Bowl.com
ARLINGTON, Texas – Before her first year on Junior Team USA, Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, New York, didn’t even have a passport.
Now, less than five years later, the 24-year-old has been to places she didn’t know existed, and she had to add pages to the passport she acquired in order to represent the United States in international competition.
Bowling has taken McEwan to far-away destinations like Thailand, Germany, Vienna, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Along with obvious perks like airline and hotel status, she also has earned status as one of the top three woman bowlers in the world.
All of the nights away from home and miles logged lugging bowling balls through airports and hotel lobbies helped McEwan to a spot in the World Bowling Tour Finals presented by the Professional Bowlers Association. The opportunity pitted her against two bowlers who inspired her to reach for the greatness she continues to achieve.
Since 2011, the WBT Finals has brought together the top three men and top three women on the World Bowling Tour points list and given them a chance to showcase their talent, as well as a variety of unique scoring formats, on national television in the United States.
McEwan, Kelly Kulick of Union, New Jersey, and Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, New York, qualified for this year’s WBT Finals based on a two-year rolling points list, and it required a long-term commitment McEwan was more than happy to make.
“It was a year or two ago that I first saw the WBT Finals show, and after I looked into it, it became a goal of mine to get there,” McEwan said. “I knew it would take a while to get there, but it gave me a chance to see the world in the process. Now that I’ve done it, I want to do more than just be here.”
Kulick and Johnson each qualified for the WBT Finals for the fourth time in the five years of the partnership between World Bowling and the PBA, with Kulick entering this year’s event as the two-time defending champion.
And, while the guaranteed payday for all the finalists is appreciated – $20,000 for the winner, $10,000 for the runner-up and $5,000 for third place – traveling the world and inspiring young bowlers, like Kulick and Johnson did for McEwan, are priceless bonuses.
“Being in the finals shows I’m dedicated to my craft and willing to travel the extra distance to do it, but being in the top three in the world is special because World Bowling is everywhere, and there’s so many great players out there,” Kulick said. “This all has created a lot of opportunities and relationships and shown we’re all committed to growing the sport. To be a trailblazer with people like Liz is an honor, and it means a lot to know we can have such an impact on younger bowlers.”
For Kulick and Johnson, bowling on the world stage initially wasn’t a common venture outside of Team USA, and once they joined the Professional Women’s Bowling Association, much of the year was spent competing in week-long events across America.
When the PWBA went on hiatus in 2003, it opened a few competitive doors Kulick and Johnson were able to burst through, including competing alongside the men in the PBA and traveling to more international events.
With the PWBA’s return in 2015, it gave top players the best of both worlds and offered up-and-comers like McEwan, just removed from a standout collegiate career at Fairleigh Dickinson, the opportunity to bowl for a living – something she didn’t think she’d have after college.
McEwan has excelled at every level and credits her progression through bowling’s natural stepping-stones as the keys to success.
Competing with Junior Team USA helped prepare her for international travel and competition, while the expertise of the Team USA coaches and other bowlers were there to strengthen her game for college and beyond.
Three appearances on Junior Team USA (2011-2013) transitioned to a current stint of five consecutive years on the adult team. She was a 2010 collegiate national champion, the 2012 and 2013 NCAA Player of the Year and is a three-time USBC Team USA Trials winner.
The re-launch of the PWBA helped McEwan have a memorable 2015, which included her first professional title, a major, at the 2015 Smithfield PWBA Tour Championship.
McEwan then ended the year, where else? Traveling abroad to represent Team USA at the World Bowling Women’s Championships in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where she won team and doubles gold medals. Both Johnson and Kulick were on the winning team, and McEwan teamed with Kulick for the doubles title.
“Making Junior Team USA was a big thing for me because it has all been stepping-stones from there, and I have had so many great experiences, thanks to a solid foundation,” McEwan said. “I feel so fortunate that I can travel and do what I love. I enjoy getting to see different places, experience different cultures and meet people from all over the world.”
Among McEwan’s favorite things are the food in Japan, quiet and peacefulness of Qatar and the history of Vienna, many of which she gets to share with her boyfriend Marshall Kent, a young star on the PBA Tour.
Kent, who bowled well into match play at the 2016 USBC Masters at Woodland Bowl in Indianapolis, stayed around to support McEwan for the tape-delayed WBT Finals, where she’d need to beat two of her idols to win.
How did it turn out? Tune into ESPN on Sunday, Feb. 21 at 3 p.m. Eastern to find out.