Husker All-American Liz Kuhlkin won the 2018 U.S. Women's Open.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Husker Greats to Challenge for U.S. Women's Open Title

By NU Athletic Communications

An impressive collection of former Husker bowlers, including defending champion Liz Kuhlkin, are hoping to be in the hunt for the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open title as part of the PWBA Tour this week in Las Vegas.

The U.S. Women’s Open, which is the second major championship of the season on the PWBA Tour, began with pre-tournament qualifying at Texas Star Lanes inside the Texas Station Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on Sunday, June 16. The first round of qualifying begins on Tuesday at 10 a.m. (CT), as the first of three eight-game qualifying covering Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The top 36 bowlers after 24 games will advance to a cashers’ round and bowl eight more games to determine the top 24 round-robin match play. The match play portion of the tournament begins on Friday at 7 p.m. (CT) with the first of three eight-game rounds. Total pinfall, including bonus pins, for 56 games will determine the five finalists in the stepladder finals.

BowlTV will provide live coverage of qualifying and match-play rounds, while the top five competitors at the end of the week will compete for the U.S. Women’s Open championship live on CBS Sports Network with the finals taking place on Sunday, June 23 at 4 p.m. (CT).

Kuhlkin captured the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open crown by winning four consecutive games in the stepladder finals, including a 218-196 win over Stefanie Johnson in the championship match at Boardwalk Bowl in Orlando, Fla. Kuhlkin has not won a title yet in 2019, but she performed well with a third-place finish at the PWBA Tucson Open a few weeks ago, which included a 299 game in the opening match of the stepladder finals.

Kuhlkin, who was a three-time first-team NTCA All-American at Nebraska (2013-15) and the NTCA Bowler of the Year while helping the Huskers capture the 2015 NCAA crown, will be looking for a bounce-back performance in Las Vegas after missing her first cut of the season at the Fountain Valley Open. While Kuhlkin suffered an early exit in Fountain Valley, a pair of former Huskers produced top-12 finishes in California. 

Gazmine Mason, a three-time All-American and a two-time member of the NCAA All-Tournament team at Nebraska before completing her career in 2017, grabbed a 10th-place finish at Fountain Valley with a 204.30 average and a 6,121 total pinfall for the tournament. The standout from Cranston, R.I., earned $1,700 for her performance. She was followed by another three-time Husker All-American, as Meghan Straub took 11th in the PWBA Tour event. Straub, who completed her Husker career as a first-team All-American in 2019, posted a 202.17 average with a 6,065 total pinfall to earn $1,650 at Fountain Valley.

Straub and Mason will be competing alongside Kuhlkin and several other Huskers in the 108-player U.S. Women’s Open this week. The Open holds significance on the 2019 PWBA Tour as the final opportunity for bowlers to earn exemptions into the elite-tour events in August. The top 24 players on the 2019 points following the Open will earn exemptions for the PWBA East Hartford Open, the Pepsi PWBA Louisville Open and the BowlerX.com PWBA Orlando Open.

Kuhlkin entered the U.S. Open sat at No. 17 on the PWBA season money list ($9,800), just ahead of former Husker three-time first-team All-American and two-time bowling World Cup champion Shannon Pluhowsky at No. 18 ($9,525). Pluhowsky completed her Husker career in 2004.

The highest ranking Husker on the PWBA Tour money list heading into the U.S. Open was former Husker All-American Valerie (Calberry) Bercier, who has earned $11,950 to rank No. 12. A native of Brampton, Ontario, Canada, Bercier helped the Huskers capture the 2009 NCAA title.

Former Husker Erin McCarthy ranks No. 23 on the PWBA Tour money list. McCarthy, a Millard North High School graduate, was a freshman teammate of Bercier on Nebraska's 2009 NCAA Championship team.

Another former Husker, Lindsay (Baker) Boomershine gave Nebraska five bowlers among the top 25 on the PWBA list. Boomershine, who was a two-time first-team All-American and the 2006 National Player of the Year as a Husker, entered the U.S. Open at No. 25 on the tour money list ($7,425).

Mason moved to No. 31 on the money list with $6,300 earnings so far this season, while former Husker Julia Bond entered the Open at No. 37 ($5,050). Bond was a four-time Nebraska All-American who completed her Husker career in 2018, after being named the Most Outstanding Bowler in Nebraska’s run to the 2015 NCAA Championship.

Three-time first-team All-American and collegiate bowler of the year Diandra (Hyman) Asbaty placed another former Husker at No. 41 on the money list ($4,250). Asbaty starred for the Huskers from 1999 to 2002. Katie Ann Sopp-Schroeder put seven Huskers in the top-65 on the tour money list at No. 61 ($1,550). Sopp was an All-American at Nebraska in 2008 and completed her Husker career in 2011.

While Sopp-Schroeder is not competing in the U.S. Women's Open this weekend, Husker teammate, two-time first-team All-American and 2009 NCAA Championship Most Outstanding Player Cassandra Leuthold will be in action. Originally from Black Hawk, S.D., Leuthold currently makes her home in Lincoln.

The 2019 U.S. Women’s Open champion earns a green jacket and a $20,000 top prize.

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