EAGAN, Minn. – After winning the first event of the 2021 Professional Women’s Bowling Association Tour season in January and capping a solid start to the year at the PWBA Kickoff Classic Series, Shannon O’Keefe quickly transitioned back to her role as head coach of the women’s bowling team at McKendree University.
The two-time reigning PWBA Player of the Year has been on the road with the Bearcats nearly every weekend since the Kickoff Classic Series, but she’s excited to return to Cedarvale Lanes this week to compete in the PWBA Twin Cities Open.
The Twin Cities Open begins Thursday with the official practice session, and competition kicks off Friday with two six-game qualifying rounds, before the field is cut to the top 32 players.
Advancers will bowl another six-game block Saturday to determine the top 12 athletes, and a final six-game round will determine to the four players for the stepladder finals, based on pinfall totals for 24 games.
The stepladder finals of the Twin Cities Open will take place Saturday at 7 p.m. Eastern, with the champion taking home $10,000. All qualifying rounds and the stepladder finals will be broadcast live on BowlTV.com.
The 2021 event will mark the tour’s third consecutive season visiting Cedarvale Lanes, and O’Keefe captured the title at the most recent trip to the center, claiming the 2019 Twin Cities Open by defeating England’s Verity Crawley in the title match, 189-182.
The win at the Twin Cities Open in 2019 was the first of five victories on the season for O’Keefe, who recorded her second consecutive PWBA Player of the Year award. She hopes her previous success at the venue plays a part in another successful week on the PWBA Tour.
She was the top seed for her win in 2019 and qualified third for the stepladder finals in 2018, ultimately finishing in fourth place.
“I’m not going into this week thinking of defending anything, because you can’t defend something you haven’t earned yet,” said O’Keefe, a 14-time PWBA Tour titlist. “I look at it as going back to a place that I’m comfortable with. I’ve made two shows there and have all of my notes in my journal. I’m ready to go bowl, have a good time and compete.”
O’Keefe, from Shiloh, Illinois, admits she may have not put in the hours she’s used to on the lanes in preparation for the second swing of the tour season, due to her responsibilities at McKendree, but she’s relying on a couple of other factors to help her this week.
After her win at the PWBA Bowlers Journal Classic in January, she stayed in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to meet up with the Bearcats as they prepared for the Prairie View A&M Invitational.
From there, she had a nine-week stretch of traveling with the team across the country as they completed their regular season and prepared for postseason play. The Bearcats finished third at the NCAA Women’s Bowling Championship earlier in April and recently qualified for the Intercollegiate Team Championships.
Even though the constant travel has not allowed her to physically roll a bowling ball as much as she would like in preparation for the PWBA Tour, a reminder from her husband, Bryan, allowed her to relax a bit heading into the Twin Cities Open.
“I freaked out a little going into the NCAA finals,” O’Keefe said. “We had been going non-stop. Being gone from Thursday through Sunday each week had left me with not as much time to practice and prepare. Bryan told me I would be OK because I’m still reading ball motion every weekend and trying to help the team get lined up for a couple hours each day. I’m still working out a lot and reading my mental toughness books. He also reminded me I already won a title this season, which felt like so long ago with as busy as we’ve been.”
When she’s been able to get to the lanes to practice, the 42-year-old right-hander has tried to make the most of each opportunity and is attempting to focus on knowing the work she has put in over her career will have her ready for all challenges.
“I have to allow my brain to understand that I’ve been working my tail off for 20-plus years to get where I’m at,” O’Keefe said. “I need to be confident that those 20 years are the foundation I’ve created. Although I’m not physically able to throw a bowling ball as much as I want, I’ve tried to incorporate more drills and have been more detail-oriented in my practices. I’m excited and ready to go in with a fresh mindset and will be ready to compete.”
The Twin Cities Open is the fourth event of the 2021 season, which features 20 total tournaments on the schedule, and first event of the second swing of the season. The Kickoff Classic Series, which included three national tour stops and one regional competition, took place from Jan. 20-26 at the International Training and Research Center in Arlington, Texas.