Kulick top seed for finals at Nationwide PWBA Sonoma County Open

Matt Cannizzaro and Emil Williams
USBC Communications
Published: May 7, 2016 | Bowl.com
Results: Cashers’ Round | Match Play | Group Stepladders

ROHNERT PARK, Calif. – Statistically, Kelly Kulick of Union, New Jersey, had a terrific 2015 season on the Professional Women’s Bowling Association Tour, but there was one thing missing – a win.

Now, she’s in position to get that hurdle out of the way early in 2016 as the top seed for the stepladder finals of the Nationwide PWBA Sonoma County Open, which will be taped May 26 at The Orleans Bowling Center in Las Vegas and air Tuesday, June 14 on CBS Sports Network.

Kulick averaged more than 216 over 24 games Friday and Saturday and worked her way up the leaderboard at Double Decker Lanes, needing every possible frame along the way to find her way to the top.

She secured the No. 1 seed with a 183-171 position-round win against Latvia’s Diana Zavjalova, who started the event with a perfect game and stayed among the top two in the standings until a final-frame split allowed Kulick to pass her.

“I’m absolutely elated to be in this position and to be off to a strong start this season,” said Kulick, who was in the top five in all statistical categories last year and led the PWBA Tour with six championship-round appearances. “I’ve been getting stronger and more confident on these shorter oil patterns, and I’m also getting more comfortable each week with these longer formats again.”

While Kulick was passing Zavjalova in Group A’s half of the match-play field, Team USA member Shannon O’Keefe of O’Fallon, Illinois, was surging to the top of the Group B standings to lock up the No. 2 spot for the televised finals.

Three additional players from each group advanced to an on-site group stepladder Saturday, with Singapore’s Hui Fen New and Jennifer Higgins of Westerville, Ohio, climbing their respective ladders to join Kulick and O’Keefe on the show.

In the Group A stepladder at Double Decker Lanes, New needed a mark in her final frame to defeat Zavjalova, and she delivered three strikes for a 213-198 win.

The Team Singapore standout earned the chance to face Zavjalova by defeating United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer Leanne Hulsenberg of Pleasant View, Utah, 201-200. Hulsenberg could’ve struck on her first shot in the 10th frame to win but left a 10 pin.

Higgins, who made back-to-back TV shows at the Queens in 2013 and 2014, downed Singapore’s Jazreel Tan, 185-163, to advance to the Nationwide PWBA Sonoma County Open finals.

In the opening match of the Group B stepladder, Higgins threw four consecutive strikes in frames five through eight to give herself enough of a cushion in a 207-202 win over Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, New York.

Saturday’s competition kicked off with a six-game block that narrowed the field from the 32 cashers to the top 12 players for round-robin match play.

The match-play finalists were split into two groups, each featuring six players. Each group bowled six games of match play, including a final position round, to determine the top seeds and advancers to each group stepladder final.

All rounds leading up to the TV finals were broadcast live on Xtra Frame.

For more information on the PWBA, visit PWBA.com. To subscribe to watch the action on Xtra Frame, visit XtraFrame.TV.

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