Monday, August 26, 2019

2019 World Bowling Women's Championships: Day Two

I love the biggest international bowling tournaments for women because the best players and teams from all over the world compete in them. Unlike professional PWBA and WTBA tournaments and regional amateur tournaments such as the Asian Games, PABCON, and Pan American games which draw either individuals or individuals and teams from what tends to be a fairly narrow range of countries and which are often not streamed here in the States or at least not comprehensively so, the World Bowling Women’s Championships is streamed comprehensively in the States throughout qualifying and perhaps also finals and semi-final rounds, and it features most of the best female players from the world over.

One of the countries that sends players and teams to the World Championships that I seldom if ever get to see elsewise is Korea. Unlike Asian countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, and even China, and for reasons I don’t understand, I never see Korean women competing in PWBA or WTBA tournaments, and I think that’s a real shame. Why is that? Because Korea has some outstanding women bowlers and teams that have shown themselves plenty capable of competing head-to-head with the best players and teams anywhere. And they’re proving it so far in the World Championships.

As I reported yesterday, Team Korea member Nayoung Lee led singles qualifying Saturday, and what I didn’t report is that five of the six Team Korea members placed in the top 34 in the field of 176. I don’t think any other team placed so many that high. And then yesterday, one of their teams placed second in doubles qualifying just 29 pins behind a powerhouse Colombian team. And another Colombian team placed third in the group of four teams advancing to the semi-finals on Thursday, followed by a Swedish team in the fourth spot and two more Swedish teams below them in the fifth and sixth spots. A USA team finished seventh.

Incidentally, I’m writing this blogpost after the first three-game block of qualifying for trios, and Korea has a team in second, behind a Colombian team, and another team in fifth. A USA team currently sits precariously in fourth. They’ll all bowl three more games of qualifying this afternoon, and, as with the other events, only the top four placers will advance to the semifinals in a brutally brief elimination process.

I wish I didn’t have to say it, because I think elite bowling and elite bowling coverage face more than their share of criticism and pandemic negativity, but I’m hugely disappointed with Dailymotion’s live-streaming so far. I don’t know how much, if any, of it is their fault as opposed to South Point’s data-handling capability and other infrastructural components and functions outside Dailymotion’s control. But to be blunt, the streaming has sucked. Often times, only one stream has been up when five were supposed to be. And, just as with Saturday, yesterday and today I’ve frequently found a stream I was watching intently, as I followed my favorite players and teams, buffering and then stopping altogether followed by a dreaded “Server Error” message.

Some might say I should just be grateful the Championships are being streamed to any extent, and I am. But I can be and am both grateful for what coverage there is and disappointed, frustrated, and sometimes downright angry over how spotty and limited it’s often been.

Anyway, we’ll see what today’s next trios block of three games brings in terms of results and the quality of the live-streaming.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

2019 World Bowling Women's Championships: Day One

I had hoped and even planned to drive to Las Vegas Friday to watch all seven days of the 2019 World Bowling Women’s Championships competition taking place from August 24-30. I even reserved a room at South Point so I could be conveniently close to the action. That’s how enamored I’ve become with elite women’s bowling and with the powerhouse teams and top players competing.

But days before the tournament commenced, prudence dictated that I cancel my plans and settle for watching as much of the action as I could via live-streaming.

I don’t know why I thought the live-stream coverage would be good enough to allay a fair portion of my disappointment over not being able to attend the tournament, but I was quickly disabused of my optimism. The disillusionment began when I went to the Championships website at the scheduled starting time of the first event, singles, at 9 am Saturday, clicked on the link labeled “WATCH LIVE,” and repeatedly got the message “COMING SOON.” By 9:10, I figured that the bowling must have started and that I needed to look elsewhere for a functional link to the action, so I did what any reasonably knowledgeable bowling fan would do and checked out Jeff Richgels on Facebook. The chances are overwhelmingly good that he’ll know what’s happening and how you can see it online if it’s anywhere to be seen.

Thanks to Jeff, I found three camera feeds. But the wide-angle views afforded took some getting used to. For while I could see the competition occurring on several pairs at a time, it all had a kind of offputtingly distorted and distant look to it, and I couldn’t make out the scores displayed on the wall above the pins. Watching it might have been the next best thing to being there, but it was a far, far cry from being there, and it took me a while to settle into making the best of it. Worse still was the fact that of the three cameras operating, one or more of them often lost the feed for significant periods of time, preventing me from watching almost entire games of bowlers I really wanted to see.

Fortunately, one of my favorite lady bowlers, Team Singapore’s Bernice Lim, winner of the USBC Queens title in 2016, was on one of the live-streams, and she came right out of the chute striking her way to a first game of 245, which she followed up with a 247 en route to placing first in Squad 1 after the six games of qualifying with a total of 1354 for a 225.67 average. Team USA’s Liz Kuhlkin finished 12th at 1298 (216.33), and Jordan Richard finished in 29th place with a total of 1223 (203.83).

I was thrilled to see Team Malaysia’s fabulous Sin Li Jane on one of the live-streams for the first game of the second squad. And after she shot 248 her first game and 237 her second, I posted to Facebook that I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she took the gold in singles and all-events. But a singles gold was not in the cards as she ended up in 22nd place in that squad with a total of 1269 (211.50).

As it turned out, the top four who qualified for the singles semifinals on Thursday and the top five finishers from both squads all came from the second squad. They were led by Team Korea’s Nayoung Lee who finished with a 289 for a total of 1410 (235.0). Second went to Sweden’s Sandra Andersson at 1401 (233.5). Third was none other than the amazing Shannon O’Keefe at 1392 (232.0). Shannon is arguably the best female bowler on the planet right now. She’s the reigning PWBA Player of the Year, has won a phenomenal four PWBA titles already this season coming off her victory last week in the PWBA Orlando Open, and appears to be at the top of her game physically and in possession of an indomitable will to pravail. It’s a real pleasure watching her compete so masterfully and with such a determined spirit. And rounding out the field of qualifiers to the semifinal round was Team USA’s great Danielle McEwan, the defending all-events champ from the 2017 World Bowling Women’s Championships. She totaled 1371 (228.5) and shot a clutch 242 her final game to edge out Colombia’s Maria Jose Rodriguez who totaled 1368 (228.0).

What I didn’t realize until nearly the end of the bowling yesterday was that only four players in the stellar international field of 176 advanced to the next round in singles and that they had only six games to do it. I guess it can’t be any other way in a one week tournament with so many events, but it sure seems like a shame to make women’s bowling’s equivalent of the Olympics an all-out sprint to the finish line.

Oh well, it is what it is. And what it is will keep me watching as much of the action as I can for the rest of the week. Coming up is qualifying for the doubles event, and I can’t wait to see how my favorite lady bowlers fare in that.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

All Good Teams Must Change

I've been a huge fan of Women's Team Singapore for years and have even had the pleasure of watching them practice and compete in my home bowling center. They've been one of the world's best women's bowling teams throughout that time, which is remarkable given the diminutive size of their country, and they seem like a delightful group of young ladies besides.

But a team is not a static entity. Talented players are always looking to make it to the big leagues, and they eventually come along to unseat the veterans who are referred to as "senior players" even though Team Singapore's so-called "seniors" are only in their late 20's to early 30's.

Good luck and great bowling to marvelous Team Singapore (and New Hui Fen) at the World Bowling Women's Championships later this month, and may the established "seniors" show the young whippersnappers that they're not ready to be retired to pasture just yet.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Bowling--You're Not Worthy!?

I got mad at a friend yesterday for saying bowling doesn’t get good media coverage because it isn’t “worthy” of it. What I found especially maddening about this was that he and I subscribe to FloBowling and regularly and enthusiastically follow professional male and female bowling and chat about it virtually every day. Watch some televised PWBA stepladders from early in the 2016 season, and you will see him sitting in the stands watching and texting me about what’s happening. And although you can’t see him in the audience of the televised PBA Masters stepladder recently that Jacob Buturff won, he was there.

I confess that I felt his remark like a slap in the face. And when he defended it against my protests and then said I needed to stop being so “emotional” and "honestly" face up to the truth, I didn’t exactly feel more favorably disposed to his point of view. Because what I understood him to mean, which he did not dispute, by his “not worthy” remark is not that bowling simply isn’t popular enough to garner more media coverage, but that it isn’t GOOD enough to deserve greater popularity and coverage. And while I realize that many people believe this, to the extent that they ever even give elite bowling a thought, it shocked me that HE would believe and say this to ME.

And because I felt my temperature rising as this discussion unfolded, I quickly made it very clear that I didn’t see any point in continuing along that line because it seemed that we had made our respective views plenty clear and that there was nothing to be gained (and, by implication) much to possibly be lost by chatting any more about it at the time.

Was I being too “emotional”? In hindsight, I’m willing to consider that possibility. In fact, I concede that a wiser or more mature response would have been to dispassionately take note of my friend’s opinion and then just let it go like I would a similar remark from a child or adult who knew nothing about bowling and was just talking out of his ass or trolling.

But my friend knew a lot more than nothing about bowling and he knew full well whom he was talking to, and he still said bowling wasn’t “worthy” of more popularity than it enjoyed or coverage than it received and that he had the right to hold this opinion and to express it. Well, I disagree with his opinion of bowling’s worthiness, but I agree with him that he has a right to that opinion and to express it. By the same token, I could say that I had a right to disagree with him and to express my emotional antipathy to his holding and expressing his opinion so long as I didn’t didn’t do it any more disagreeably than I did. But I’m not sure our asserting our respective rights in this regard gets us anywhere we want to go. I don’t know how he feels in the aftermath of our disagreement, although his uncharacteristic silence may well provide a clue, but I do know that I don’t feel particularly good about it.

And it’s not only because I don’t like having angry confrontations with people whose friendship I value and then having, with unpleasant awkwardness, to try to reconcile, but I also wonder if I don’t deep down agree with his opinion of bowling and am angry over the fact that he forced me to confront and examine it. Is elite bowling NOT worthy of the greater popularity and media coverage that other sports including football, basketball, baseball, boxing, soccer, tennis, and golf enjoy and receive? And am I foolish to be working, as I now am, to produce a podcast devoted to covering elite bowling?

I don’t have any solid answers. Just unsettling questions. I guess I’ll mull on them a while.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Shayna Ng and the New PWBA Season

Hearty congratulations to Singapore's Shayna Ng for capturing the first title of the 2018 PWBA season at Las Vegas' South Point Bowling Plaza in the PWBA Las Vegas Open on April 28. As a paragon of consistency, she was in first place after the first and second rounds, third place after the third, and the second seed for the stepladder finals in which she defeated Hall-of-Famer Leanne Hulsenberg 193-167 and top seed Diana Zavjalova 231-211 for her first PWBA title.

After watching most of the action live on the webcasting service PBA Xtra Frame, all I can say is that players not on Team Singapore's 9-player juggernaut are fortunate that the Singapore Slingers, as I fondly call them, are scheduled to compete in only the first two tournaments of the season due to commitments back home. If not for that, they could very well crowd out many of their competitors for cash and titles. For in the Las Vegas Open, they held 7 of the top 32 spots above the cash line after the first round of eight games, six of the top 32 after the second round with two more players just out of the cut for the Cashers round of 32, and 3 spots in the final round of 12. Given the depth and quality of the field, I think that's pretty impressive.

I plan to drive to Rohnert Park, CA to watch the PWBA Sonoma County Open this Friday and Saturday, May 4 and 5, and blog about my experience there. I was very disappointed to learn that the PWBA wouldn't be stopping at my home (and much closer) house of Steve Cook's Fireside Lanes just outside Sacramento, CA this season as they did the past three seasons. But if the PWBA won't come to me, I guess I'll have to go to them at least once this season, because I love watching these awesome lady bowlers that much. And the fabulous Singapore ladies will garner a considerable share of my attention because they're THAT good.

If you can, I heartily recommend that you join me there. If you can't, please watch the livestreaming on PBA Xtra Frame. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Attending the 2017 PWBA Storm Sacramento Open

As I wrote in my previous post, I used to enjoy watching male professional bowlers more than I did female ones because they receive more publicity and their games are generally more powerful. But then the renascent PWBA and New Hui Fen and her Singapore teammates (or, as I like to call them, the "Singapore Slingers") came to my home house of Fireside Lanes near Sacramento, CA last May, and I became as big a fan of the female pros and a bigger fan of Hui Fen than I am of the male pros. 

As I explained previously, the average bowler, and especially old guys like me, can never come close to throwing it like Belmo, Osku, or E.J., but we might be able to at least crudely approximate the masterful techniques and results of a New Hui Fen, Danielle McEwan, Kelly Kulick, or Liz Johnson and be fairly effective in our leagues or local tournaments. I believe that emulating Hui Fen's relaxed fluidity, effortless release, and outward equanimity as best I can has helped my game immensely over the past year. And so I think most of us have as much if not more reason to follow the women's game than we do the men's.

So, I was delighted to learn months ago that the PWBA was returning to Sacramento this May for the third consecutive year. But I was extremely disappointed that Hui Fen and her team weren't on the roster and that she didn't know, even a few weeks out, whether they were coming or not.

I finally resigned myself to their not coming but still looked forward to the Storm Sacramento Open on May 5-6. And then one day out of the blue, Hui Fen messaged me that she and some of her teammates would be competing in Sacramento after all, and I was like a little kid anticipating the imminent arrival of Christmas Day.

That anticipation swelled to near manic excitement the day before the tournament began when I drove the ten or so miles from my house to Steve Cook's Fireside Lanes that Sacramento summer-like evening to watch the ladies warm up for an hour-and-a-half. When I began walking from my car to the building, there was the legendary Kelly Kulick walking right in front of me, and I shyly said, "Hi, Kelly" to one of my lifetime bowling idols.

When I got inside, there were a goodly number of the best female bowlers on Earth waiting for their practice session to commence, and, as corny as it may sound to the uninitiated, I don't know that I could have been happier anyplace else on Earth.

But it became immediately apparent that I wouldn't be seeing stratospheric scores over the next couple of days. Though, for reasons I still don't fully understand, the PWBA wouldn't be releasing the oil pattern specs until weeks later, it was obvious that the oil pattern went very long and would require well-executed shots with the right equipment from a tight, inside line to hit the pocket and carry with any consistency, and that superb spare-shooting would be imperative. In other words, it was going to be a challenging grind-fest to the Casher's Round, match play, and the stepladder final.

And that's what it was. I think 279 may have been the highest score of the tournament, a 194 average was enough to place in the top 32 for the Casher's Round, and a 207 average was enough to make the top 12 for match play.

What I saw again and again was players executing a great shot for a strike and then missing by just a tiny bit to the right or left or throwing the ball with just a little more or less speed or with a slightly different release in the next frame and missing the pocket entirely to leave a nasty washout or split respectively. And if right-handers threw the ball outside ten board, the ball would skid as though on ice and they'd be lucky to get a three count, and lefties were playing deep inside. It certainly wasn't the Fireside house shot that enabled an old and mediocre bowler like me to average 218 for 136 games this season in my senior league throwing old urethane equipment.

A case in point was the struggles of my favorite bowler New Hui Fen. Last year she was the only right-hander to make the televised stepladder final of the Sacramento Open. And, for almost two games of the stepladder final conducted on last year's oil pattern but held in Las Vegas weeks later, she made the pattern look, in the words of commentator Kelly Kulick, "like league" with powerful strike after strike after strike. But she wrestled incessantly with the lanes this time around. She'd throw one or two great shots and then miss a little right or left or with some other aspect of her delivery and leave washouts, splits, or multiple pin spare combinations that sucked the pins from her score. She seemed to have almost no margin for error, and many of her high-rev shots went high, since she was especially afraid to miss right in the long oil. I had the impression that by late in the Casher's Round Saturday morning, she was mentally exhausted even though, at least on paper, she remained in contention for the top 12 and match play until she was a few frames into her final game.

But it also became apparent that some of the players were likely to do comparatively well with their games and the way they were playing the lanes. Liz Johnson, Rocio Restrepo, and Diana Zavjalova, among others, distinguished themselves relatively early on with their consistently good shotmaking and scoring. 

Rocio qualified first last week in the Sonoma County Open on a very challenging flat pattern, and if someone were to ask me who I thought will win PWBA Player of the Year this season, I'd pick Rocio without hesitation. First of all, the Singapore bowlers will only be bowling three tournaments here this season because their main focus is on team competition overseas that takes place during the same time as most of the PWBA season, while Rocio will probably bowl every tournament if she's physically able. Second, there seems to be no lane condition out there right now that Rocio can't hit and carry on as well as anybody. And finally, Rocio may be small in physical stature, but she's a tiger on the lanes. She seems to put everything she's got into every shot, and this appears to keep her enthusiasm high and her focus sharp through every game if not frame of the tournament. I don't see anybody else out there who appears to want to win as badly as Rocio does, and when you combine that attitude with her great physical and mental game, you have a potentially dominant combination. I'd pick Liz Johnson, the previous two seasons' Player of the Year, and the formidable Danielle McEwan as Rocio's main competition for PoY.

In my next blogpost, I'll have more to share about the Storm Sacramento Open and, especially, about some of my personal reflections on my experiences over those two wonderful days.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

New Hui Fen: Bowling's Rising Superstar

I haven’t published a new blogpost here in ages. It’s not that I’ve lost that loving feeling for elite level bowling. I love it as much as ever. But I confess to having lost enthusiasm for writing pieces about it that hardly anyone but me will read when I could be doing more constructive things with my time.

Until now that is. For something has happened that has me feeling so excited and joyful that I couldn’t stop myself from writing this post no matter how hard I tried. There is a new star in the bowling firmament, and it burns with a wondrous brightness unlike almost any other I’ve ever witnessed.

I grew up watching professional bowling on TV and, whenever I could, in person. As a boy, I idolized the immortals such as Dick Weber, Don Carter, Ray Bluth, Carmen Salvino, and Billy Hardwick. A little later, Dave Soutar and Don Johnson were my inspiration. Later still, Earl Anthony, Mark Roth, and Marshall Holman. Then along came Wayne Webb, Pete Weber, Walter Ray Williams, Norm Duke, Parker Bohn, and Robert Smith. And now there are Sean Rash, Tommy Jones, Bill O’Neill, Mike Fagan, Wes Malott, and the awe-inspiring Jason Belmonte, with hordes of tremendously talented younger players such as Dominic Barrett, EJ Tackett, and Jesper Svensson nipping at their heels.

But as you may have noticed, I’ve named only male bowlers despite the fact that I’ve also respected female greats such as Betty Morris, Tish Johnson, Lisa Wagner, Leanne Barrette Hulsenberg, Liz Johnson, and, of course, Kelly Kulick. Yet, I always had more respect for the top male bowlers and enjoyed watching them more than I did the ladies. Until four months ago.

Then I saw a young lady I’d never seen bowl before. She was a member of the Singapore national women’s bowling team that had come to the USA to compete in a few PWBA tournaments and to test their mettle against Kelly, Liz, Shannon, Danielle, Rocio, Clara, Diana, and many of the other best professional female bowlers this nation and the world had to offer.

One Tuesday afternoon last May, Team Singapore walked into my home house, Steve Cook’s Fireside Lanes just outside Sacramento, CA, while I was bowling in my senior league. They had arrived, I think, the day before to begin meticulous preparations for the PWBA Storm Sacramento Open commencing there later that week. They had their national coach and also Storm Pro Tour Consultant Jim Callahan with them as they powered through an extended warmup period of stretching, jumping jacks, and the like that I’d never seen other players go through to that degree if at all. It was immediately obvious that these young women approached the game with a special kind of refined dedication. They then began playing low ball, where the object is not to throw strikes but to hone accuracy by leaving as many pins on the deck and shooting as low a score as possible after throwing two balls each frame but without guttering. In low ball, a gutter ball counts as a strike, and the last thing you want to do is strike.

These young ladies all looked plenty capable. I had already seen Jazreel and Daphne Tan compete in tournaments on TV and in YouTube videos, and I was well aware of the Singapore team’s reputation for formidability in international competitions, but I hadn’t seen the other women on their team bowl before, or I hadn’t remembered seeing them.

It was difficult to tell how good they were when they were throwing plastic balls at ten pins and seven pins in low ball, so I had to wait till Friday to see them throwing for strikes in tournament play. And as soon as I saw one of them throw a ball, my jaw dropped. And with each successive ball she threw, it dropped more and more, and I felt an awed thrill I’d never felt watching any woman and very few men bowl before.

That bowler’s name was New Hui Fen.

Have you ever heard a music group that radically transformed your taste in music? I did many years ago when I saw the original Mahavishnu Orchestra open for Emerson, Lake & Palmer in a concert in San Francisco. Have you ever heard anyone speak who utterly changed your view of the world? That happened to me decades ago after I heard an Alan Watts lecture on the radio. And then there was that Ken Wilber book that transfigured the way I understood human consciousness.

Well, watching New Hui Fen had that magnitude of impact on me. Until then, I was most impressed by bowlers with scorching speed and ridiculously high rev rates. Now don’t get me wrong. The Belmos and Palermaas and Tacketts and Smiths and Svenssons still set my heart to racing. But there’s a disconnect between what they do on the lanes and what we mere mortals can do. No woman or older man I’ve ever seen can throw the ball like Osku. But New Hui Fen is different. She does something that is theoretically possible for many women and normal men to do to some degree that could significantly enhance their games without requiring prodigious strength and/or transcendent technique and without destroying their bodies.

I don’t really know how to describe what New does except to say that she has a kind of remarkable, relaxed fluidity and efficiency to her style that manages to generate effortless power that is more than adequate to the task of knocking down all ten pins. There are other women on the PWBA Tour who throw powerful balls, and controllable power to a point is a big plus at all levels of the game, but they do it with a noticeable degree of muscular effort. New Hui Fen is different. She looks like gravity is doing almost all of the work and she’s just along for the smoothest of rides. In Chinese Taoist philosophy, New’s game epitomizes a prized quality known as wu wei.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the beginning of this video should be worth a lot more than that. But what the whole video and other videos of her bowling reveal better than the most masterful use of words ever could is not just the exceptional efficacy of New’s physical game, but also the preternatural strength and equanimity of her mental one. Even when she makes a rare mistake, she looks completely unruffled and usually bounces right back with the right adjustment and with flawless execution on her next shot. This would be unusual and highly impressive in the most seasoned and successful of veterans. But New is only 24-years-old, and this, despite her extensive experience in international competition with Team Singapore, was her rookie season on the PWBA Tour.

And what a rookie season it was!

It auspiciously began at the Las Vegas Open where New made the group stepladder semifinal and narrowly missed the televised stepladder finals, finishing sixth overall.

New bowled her way into her first televised stepladder finals the following week in Rohnert Park, CA and won her first match, recorded in Las Vegas two weeks later, before narrowly succumbing to the eventual tournament champion in the next match. She finished third overall.

Then it was on to the Storm Sacramento Open where she, once again, qualified for the televised stepladder finals, recorded in Las Vegas the following week, and made the lanes look easy in her first match and for most of her second until a missed 2-8 conversion and solid effort from her outstanding opponent Shannon Pluhowsky prevented New from advancing to the title match. She finished third again and was the only righthander in the stepladder. Her teammate Cherie Tan won the title.

Then it was time for the prestigious USBC Queens tournament in Las Vegas featuring a Who’s Who of great female bowlers from all over the world, and New bowled her way to a very impressive seventh place finish among a huge and outstanding field of competitors via a double-elimination format. Her Singapore teammate Bernice Lim won the coveted title.

After that, and much to my disappointment, New and her teammates went back to Singapore and missed eight tournaments before returning for the U.S. Women’s Open in Addison, IL. Who knows how well she and they might have done had they remained in the States to compete in all the tournaments?

And if anyone thought that New fared so well in her other appearances because the lanes weren’t that hard and that her unusually powerful release gave her a sizable edge on easier conditions over her less powerful competitors, she proved them wrong by sitting near the top in the standings during most of qualifying and match play and even leading the stellar international field at times in match play on a brutally challenging oil pattern. She made the televised stepladder finals, qualifying third, and bowled a strong, close match against the perennially great Liz Johnson who went on to beat fellow Singaporean Shayna Ng and then Shannon Pluhowsky for her third consecutive U.S. Open title. New finished fourth in the most prestigious and difficult women’s tournament of the season.

After that, it was back to Singapore for three weeks before returning to the U.S. to compete in the single-elimination Smithfield PWBA Tour Championship. This tournament was open only to the season’s previous champions and top point earners who hadn’t won a title during the season, and New qualified on the basis of the accumulated points she earned from her previous tournaments even though she bowled in only five out of thirteen of them.

If you’re one of the handful (or fewer) of people reading this blogpost, you probably already know who won this third of the season’s three major titles. Here's how it all went down. In qualifying for and winning this prestigious tournament, New was crowned the PWBA Rookie of the Year, which is amazing given that she competed in only six of the season’s fourteen tournaments.

But beyond that, New Hui Fen served notice to the bowling world that she’s an up and coming superstar in the sport, and she corroborated the praises I’ve been tirelessly singing to my friends and bowling buddies ever since I first saw her compete.

And beyond even that, as I alluded to earlier, she’s transfigured my own approach to the game. While I’m an old man with a thumbless strikeball delivery and could never hope to physically throw the ball like New no matter how hard I worked at it, there are two qualities in her extraordinary game that I’ve taken to heart.

First of all, I’ve gone from trying to force and rev up the ball with muscular effort to relaxing my arm and hand and letting gravity and a smooth release do the work. And it’s been working fabulously the last few weeks in league. My accuracy and carry both have improved markedly, and I’m able to throw the ball just as fast or faster by relaxing than when I strained to throw it fast and rev it up.

Second, when I make mistakes or get a bad break, I visualize New’s relaxed, impassive face under the crushing pressure of competition and worldwide television exposure, and I strive to manifest that focused equanimity in myself instead of getting tense, impatient, or angry. This too has had a big, positive effect on my game. I call her relaxed, fluid physical game and concentrated impassivity being in a “New state of mind.” And I think that if more men and women were to closely watch New bowl and adapt what they see in her physical and mental game to their own games, they could benefit just as I have.

New says she hopes to return to the States next year to compete again, and I hope for this probably almost as much as she does. What’s more, I pray that she and the entire Singapore team can and will stay here for the whole season and compete in all the PWBA tournaments instead of in fewer than half of them. But no matter what she does, New Hui Fen has already enriched my bowling and, consequently, my life immeasurably, and I’m grateful for this and wish this sweet and amazingly talented young lady the very best with her bowling career and life.