2014 Liz Johnson

photoPro-Bowler Liz Johnson Receives 2014 National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame “Excellence in Sports” Award June 19, 2014

Befittingly deemed the 1993 Alberta E. Crowe Star of Tomorrow, no one could have predicted just how Liz Johnson would rise to the honor over the next 20 years. Following her passion and always determined to excel, Johnson often strayed from the traditional path, persistently re-routing herself to blaze a stunning trail to a stellar bowling career.
Although she was both Rookie and Bowler of the Year her freshman year, Liz left Morehead State University and would become the “back-to-back” U.S. Amateur Champion in 1993 and 1994, earning a spot on Team USA to represent the United States in international competition.
Winning her first Gold medal in 1994 at the World Tenpin Team Cup in Malaysia, Liz decided to join the Professional Women’s Bowling Association (PWBA) and started the tour out strong, winning the 1996 U.S. Open and again capturing Rookie of the Year honors.
Accumulating various awards too numerous to mention, Liz’s class both on and off the lanes would also earn her the respect of her peers, receiving the PWBA Robby Sportsmanship Award — twice.
Liz Johnson_Team USA action shot
She was “on a roll”, racking up 11 pro titles in just six years when the PWBA suspended operations. Professing, “I just gotta bowl”, Liz joined the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA), a.k.a. men’s tour, in 2004; just so she could continue to compete. That season, she made history by becoming the first woman to qualify for a standard PBA tour event, then topped that by becoming the first woman to make the PBA television finals in the 2005 Banquet Open, finishing 2nd only to the eventual PBA Player of the Year, Tommy Jones. On a roll of “firsts”, she then became the first woman to win a PBA regional title: the 2005 PBA Kingpin Lanes Open.
Making her living bowling, and unlike many other athletes that sign contracts for guaranteed pay, Liz has always been paid based on performance. And it always requires having to pay for travel and entry fees, with no assurance of getting a check in return. Furthermore, she always has to qualify to bowl in PBA national events, which means incurring these same expenses just for the chance to actually compete, then to bear the same demands on performance to hopefully earn a paycheck.
Liz continues to travel worldwide to compete in both domestic and international tournaments. Her endurance to withstand the grind, pressure and expense of both travel and competition has always been fueled by her unwavering passion to bowl. And yet again, she became the first-ever American woman to win a European Bowling Tour tournament: the Vierheim Open in Germany.
The 1996 U.S. Open title would not be her only Major title; Liz went on to win the 2009 USBC Queens, and the 2007 and 2013 U.S. Opens. With this, she would become only the 4th woman in history to win the U.S. Open at least three times; in her case, over a 17-year period. Following the 2013 U.S. Open title in the first ever “Battle of the Sexes”, Liz defeated the men’s U.S. Open champion, Wes Malott, to win an extra $10,000 on that telecast.
On Team USA again for her 9th year, Liz continues to add to her medal count, including the one she won when the 2011 team went to the WTBA World Women’s Championships in Hong Kong to take home the gold for the United States in the team event for the first time in 24 years (since 1987).
She has competed in over 10 countries, is on the Storm Bowling Pro Staff and was named the 2000-2009 “Female Bowler of the Decade” by US Bowler. She has bowled 54 perfect 300 games and holds the highest women’s league average in the U.S. — a 244 — which she held in the 2004-05 season. Inducted into the Buffalo and New York State Bowling Halls of Fame, Liz Johnson remains strong in her already prolific career, named the 2013 International Bowling Media Association (IBMA) Woman Bowler of the Year.