Colombia's Rodriguez wins 2014 USBC Queens

RENO, Nev. - Maria Jose Rodriguez of Colombia outlasted two-time United States Bowling Congress Queens champion Kelly Kulick of Union, N.J., to win the 2014 event, presented by Storm, in a dramatic 190-189 finish at the National Bowling Stadium on Thursday.

Rodriguez, a 25-year-old right-hander and former collegiate standout at Maryland Eastern Shore, missed the 2-4-5-8 combination in her final frame, but Kulick still was forced to throw a double in order to become the third player in history with three USBC Queens titles.

Kulick hadn't struck since the fourth frame of the championship match and was coming off a 7-10 split in the ninth fame. The 37-year-old right-hander, who won the Queens in 2007 and 2010, left a 10 pin on her first shot in the 10th frame, handing Rodriguez the title.

"I couldn't believe it," said Rodriguez, who earned the $20,000 first-place prize and coveted Queens tiara. "I opened, and I still won. I wanted everything to be perfect, and it wasn't, but it turned out exactly how I hoped it would. I am so happy right now."

Rodriguez cruised through match play this week on the way to a 5-0 record, despite struggling early when the lanes were freshly oiled. As the top seed for the stepladder finals, there already had been three matches before she took to the championship lanes, so she was able to get into her comfort zone and play deeper on the 39-foot oil pattern.

"I tried to follow the transition while I was practicing and while I was watching on the TV," said Rodriguez, who helped UMES to three national championships from 2008-2011. "I knew I would be able to play my A-game, and that was important. You never know with Kelly, though. She's a great bowler. She was having trouble carrying the 10 pin, but it could've gone either way at the end."

With the win, Rodriguez became the second consecutive foreign-born player to wear the Queens tiara. Last year, Diana Zavjalova of Latvia became the first foreign player since 1989 to win.

Kulick, who was looking to join USBC Hall of Famers Millie Ignizio and Wendy Macpherson as the only three-time Queens winners, averaged 257 in her first three matches, but was unable to strike in her final six frames. She also finished second at the Queens in 2001 and 2009. This time, she earned $10,000 as the runner-up.

In the semifinal, three consecutive splits in the first four frames left second-seeded Tannya Roumimper of Indonesia 55 pins behind and unable to recover as Kulick cruised to a 248-137 victory.

Kulick advanced to the semifinal with a 268-209 win against Jennifer Higgins of Westerville, Ohio. Kulick started the match with seven consecutive strikes before a 2 pin ended her run and her shot at an additional $10,000 from Storm Bowling Products. Higgins struggled with carry throughout the game and finished fourth for the second year in a row.

In the day's opening match, Kulick and Missy Parkin of Laguna Hills, Calif., were even halfway through the game, but Kulick pulled away, posting strikes in seven of the first eight frames on the way to a 255-220 win over the 2011 Queens champion.

The Queens is open to all female USBC members, and this year's event featured 178 players from 11 countries, vying for the major title and top prize from the more than $91,000 prize fund, which included a $20,000 contribution by presenting sponsor Storm.