McCarthy must tackle PTQ to defend Pepsi PWBA Louisville Open title

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The Professional Women's Bowling Association will make a stop in Louisville for the second consecutive season, and fifth time in the tour's history, when the Pepsi PWBA Louisville Open takes place at Executive Strike and Spare.

The second elite-field event of August kicks off Thursday with a pre-tournament qualifier to determine the final eight players for the 32-player elite-field event. Two eight-game qualifying rounds will take place Friday, after which the top 12 players will bowl six more games on Saturday to determine the top five players for Saturday's stepladder finals.

CBS Sports Network will have live coverage of the Pepsi PWBA Louisville Open stepladder finals on Saturday at 5 p.m. Eastern.

Louisville is the city of a career-defining moment for defending champion Erin McCarthy of Omaha, Nebraska. Leading up to last season's event, McCarthy had proven she had the talent and skill to eventually become a PWBA champion by making the stepladder finals in two majors, the 2015 United States Bowling Congress Queens and 2017 U.S. Women's Open.

But because she was unsuccessful, McCarthy had developed some "self-doubt" and sometimes questioned herself on where she stood among the tour's best. That changed last season at Fern Valley Strike and Spare when she defeated Colombia's Maria José Rodriguez, 259-210, in the championship match.

But, believe it or not, the win itself was not the most memorable moment from that day.

"I think what I remember most is having my best friend, Josie (Barnes) do the commentating for the final match (on BowlTV) and present me with the trophy," McCarthy said. "It made the moment even more special for me. The final day of that event is kind of a blur. I look back on the event and still can't believe I actually won a professional title.

"After that win, I think it definitely gave me an extra boost of confidence. Something others may not know about me is that I have quite a bit of self-doubt. I get in my own head too easily and it can affect me in the middle of competition. This win allowed me to finally get rid of some of that self-doubt and realize I truly belong out here with the best of the best."

McCarthy's road to a title defense now will include the pre-tournament qualifier, after falling out of the top 24 last weekend. She was unable to compete at last weekend's PWBA East Hartford Open because of work commitments.

This season, the elite-field of the top 24 will constantly evolve as points are updated each week. Since McCarthy, who was 19th on the PWBA points list entering last weekend, was unable to attend the event, it increased the possibility of players below the cut line moving past her with a great week on the lanes.

And, Germany's Birgit Pöppler made the biggest jump of all, moving from 33rd to 21st after a runner-up finish, to essentially replace McCarthy. There was some additional movement as USBC Hall of Famer Kelly Kulick went from 25th to 19th, replacing Singapore's Shayna Ng, who won't be competing in August.

McCarthy now will need to finish eighth or higher during Thursday morning's PTQ to advance to the main field.

"Obviously, this week will be a bit different since I have to bowl the PTQ," McCarthy said. "However, I knew this may happen when the season first started. I knew I wouldn't be able to attend a few of the regular-season events so I could easily not be a part of the top 24.

"I put myself in this position so I'm going to look at the PTQ as just another qualifying round of the tournament. I'm not going to treat it any differently than I would a normal tournament. I'll take it one game at a time and hope for the best."

McCarthy not only is a professional bowler but a full-time nurse at two different hospitals in her native Omaha. It's why she knows missing an event or two each year always is a possibility and does her best to juggle her nursing and bowling careers.

This is who McCarthy is, bowler and nurse, and said she wouldn't be the person she is today having not taken the path she's traveled.

"We self-schedule at both hospitals, so I typically start planning my bowling schedule several months in advance," McCarthy said. "This allows me to figure out when I need to work at the hospital, which weekends I need to trade with co-workers and when I need to try to request time off. My co-workers often joke that if someone can't figure out how to make a trade work to just come to me since I've become a 'professional' at it.

"There are obviously times when I just can't make my nursing schedule work out with bowling, and that's okay. I'm beyond thankful for every opportunity I've had thus far. Not many people can say they have the best of both worlds at home and on the road."

Local players scheduled to compete in Thursday's pre-tournament qualifier include Emma Owens of Louisville. Owens finished as the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Girls singles runner-up as a junior at Ballard High School. The event also was held at Executive Strike and Spare.

In addition to this week's Pepsi PWBA Louisville Open, which runs Thursday through Saturday, next week's PWBA Orlando Open (Aug. 15-17) is the remaining elite-field event.

The stepladder finals of each elite event will be televised live every Saturday night on CBS Sports Network. Along with the three elite events, the final two majors of the season, the QubicaAMF PWBA Players Championship (Sept. 3-8), and the season-ending PWBA Tour Championship (Sept. 15-18), also will have live finals on CBS Sports Network., the exclusive online home of the PWBA, will livestream the qualifying rounds for all events leading up to the live televised finals on CBS Sports Network.