Ledford captures 2024 USBC Senior Queens title

LAS VEGAS – Kathy Ledford of Boise, Idaho, won the 2024 United States Bowling Congress Senior Queens held at Gold Coast Bowling Center in Las Vegas, and did so in thrilling fashion.

She was the final player to advance to the match-play bracket – by one pin – and was the No. 32 seed, but match play can almost feel like a new tournament is underway.

Ledford took advantage of the fresh start and qualified as the No. 3 seed for the stepladder finals, and she had a tough road to make it to the title match. Her first opponent was Sharon Powers of Lakewood, Colorado.

The two bowlers had already faced off against each other in the opening round of match play, where Ledford won over the No. 1 qualifier and sent Powers to Elimination Bracket. Powers then powered through the Elimination Bracket just to get into the finals as the No. 4 seed, where she took down Jill Friis of Canada in the opening match of the stepladder Monday, 199-158.

The match between Ledford and Powers started off rough for both competitors, as they each opened twice in the first four frames. Ledford recovered by placing four straight strikes on the board in frames five through eight, while Powers was unable to get the 10 pin out and did not roll a double until the final frame. By then, Ledford only needed to mark in the 10th, which she accomplished by striking to put the game away, 203-186.

Waiting in the semifinals was Kristin McEntee of Homewood, Illinois, who managed to stay undefeated until the final match in the Winners Bracket.

The semifinal match proved to be a thrilling one, as neither McEntee or Ledford could pull away from each other. 

With McEntee finishing first, she could have shut out Ledford with a double in the 10th frame. McEntee’s first ball of the frame skidded and never made the turn, leaving a bucket, which she converted and got nine in the fill for 221, opening the door for Ledford.

Ledford struck on her first delivery in the 10th and spared to move on with 224 to battle the defending champion, Dana Ausec of Colorado Springs, Colorado, for the title.

Ausec was coming off an astounding win for the No. 1 seed, shooting 813 with a 299 in Game 2 of the Winners Bracket final, and she had to be beaten twice in the true double-elimination format. 

The finals match continued the tread of close finishes, with Ledford missing a 10 pin in the third frame before throwing four straight strikes. Ausec kept things clean, but she was unable to string strikes like Ledford and pull away.

Ledford was the first to finish the 10th frame, leaving a stone 7 pin and converting it before striking in the fill ball to end at 213. 

Ausec needed to strike on the first ball of the 10th to seal the victory and win back-to-back USBC Senior Queens titles, but her ball hooked early, leaving the 3-6 combo. She spared and knocked down seven on the fill to end at 206, forcing one final match for the title.

That match proved to be the Kathy Ledford show, as she stayed clean with an early double in the first four frames, while Ausec fell behind with two opens. Ledford would add another five strikes in a row, punctuated by a slow messenger to solidify her win over Ausec and the $8,000 top prize, 247-202. Ausec earned $6,200 for the runner-up finish.

After the match was over, Ledford was surrounded by many other competitors that stayed to watch, all offering support of hugs and high fives.

She expressed that she thought she had missed the cut after a rough Round 3 of qualifying, where she shot 860 for five games.

“I missed so many spares during that third block, and I honestly didn’t deserve to make the cut,” Ledford said. “The fact that I snuck in was by the grace of God, and I learned a lot throughout the week and what kind of moves to make. I only used one ball the whole time for all those games.”

In total, Ledford bowled 33 games on her way to the win.

Ledford had previously won regional titles, but this win is at the top for her, putting her with names like Tish Johnson, Lucy Sandelin and Paula Vidad.

“I’ve waited for it for years, and I can know when I am retired, I will have won an event like this and be happy that I did it,” said Ledford.

The 2024 event started April 13 with the first of three five-game qualifying rounds for the 93 competitors, with the top 31 bowlers after 15 games joining Ausec in the double-elimination match-play bracket.

BowlTV.com livestreamed the 2024 event from Gold Coast, including the stepladder finals. 

For more information on the USBC Senior Queens, visit BOWL.com/SeniorQueens.