Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bowling Under the Reno Arch

Missy Parkin practices on the outdoor bowling lanes, which were specially constructed for the U.S. Women's Open Finals held June 27 in downtown Reno.
Kelly Kulick claims her third U.S. Women's Open title under the famed Reno Arch.

Photos by Matthew B. Brown

For one week, the stretch of Virginia Street between Second and Fourth Streets was closed. Reno locals have gotten used to this, especially in the summer, but this time it was for an event unlike the downtown area has seen before—an outdoor bowling stadium.

On June 27, Bowling’s U.S. Women’s Open Finals came to “the unofficial home of bowling” in The Biggest Little City as the five finalists—emerging from a field of more than 200 competitors, from 12 countries—competed for the top title in the sport. According to Bart Burgers, vice president of the Bowling Proprietors Association of America, this is the culmination of 42 games that each competitor played to get here.

From the limited-access stadium seating area, which held 500 spectators, we had an unparalleled view of the four-lane bowling platform built for the event. “The logistics of this were incredible,” Burgers said. “A crew has been working literally around the clock since Sunday (June 24), at 6 a.m., to get this set up. …Building four lanes on a street that’s not level is an engineering marvel.”

At about 7 p.m., the opening ceremonies commenced. First, the five finalists were introduced: Lynda Barnes of Double Oak, Texas; Stefanie Nation of Grand Prairie, Texas; Shannon O’Keefe of Arlington, Texas; Missy Parkin of Lake Forest, California; and defending champion Kelly Kulick of Union, New Jersey.

A color guard then brought in the flags of Nevada and the United States, followed by the National Anthem, sung by the Silver Dollar Chorus. The "Star-Spangled Banner" was unexpectedly punctuated by the firing of a fireworks cannon, much to everyone’s surprise, right next to the grandstands. After the chorus was finished, a group of C-130 war planes flew over downtown Reno.

The one-on-one competitions were single-elimination, stepladder games, with Kulick ultimately defeating Parkin in the championship match to earn a purse of $40,000. The outdoor competition posed a number of new obstacles for the competitors: the setting sun shining on the wood and pins caused glares and shadows, the dry desert heat, and the difference in altitude. Just as the first match was starting between Nation and Barnes, the evening winds picked up from the east, which appeared to have an affect on ball movement.

The competitors were in their element, their faces masks of serious focus. The women showed no break in concentration; their focused expressions not even cracking as they gave a fist-pump after a nice strike. The exception being when it was clear they had lost, hearing their opponent’s final score and realizing there was no way to overcome it.

Although she lost in the semifinals to Parkin, O'Keefe was the high-scorer of the tournament with a 182 in her defeat of Nation in Match 2. “This is the most prestigious bowling tournament that we have,” said O’Keefe, before the competition started. “This is the best of the best. To make it this far is pretty awesome.”

The Bowling’s U.S. Women’s Open will air on ESPN2 on Tuesday, July 3 at 8 p.m. Eastern time.


Match 1
Stefanie Nation, Grand Prairie, Texas, def. Lynda Barnes, Double Oak, Texas, 166-158. (Barnes finishes fifth, earns $10,000.)

Match 2
Shannon O'Keefe, Arlington, Texas, def. Nation, 182-165. (Nation finishes fourth, earns $12,500.)

Match 3
Missy Parkin, Lake Forest, Calif., def. O'Keefe, 150-148. (O'Keefe finishes third, earns $15,000.)

Match 4
Kelly Kulick, Union, N.J., def. Parkin, 170-160. (Parkin finishes second, earns $20,000; Kulick finishes first, earns $40,000.)

The five finalists (from left to right: Barnes, Nation, O'Keefe, Parkin, and Kulick) stand with members of the U.S. National Guard and Navy during the opening ceremonies.

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