SINGAPORE - Singapore bowler Cherie Tan came agonisingly close to the US Women's Open title on Tuesday (Aug 31), but fell just short after a 198-194 pinfall defeat by top-seeded American Josie Barnes in the final.
Tan had qualified for the step-ladder final as the second seed and beat another American Shannon Pluhowsky 178-166 in the semi-finals to set up a meeting with Barnes at the Double Decker Lanes in California.
After the final, the 33-year-old Singaporean told The Straits Times: "It was disappointing to come so close and not win the tournament, but I felt I bowled well overall and did the best I could.
"I stuck to my process to handle the pressurising situation. It was great to be able to be in such a situation after such a long break from competition."
For her runner-up finish, the 33-year-old took home US$50,000 (S$67,300), while Barnes collected the record top prize of US$100,000.
The US Women's Open, which is the second major championship on the 2021 Professional Women's Bowling Association (PWBA) Tour, was Tan's second international competition since she won the Storm-Domino's Pizza Cup in South Korea in December 2019.
Along with fellow national bowlers Shayna Ng, Daphne Tan, New Hui Fen, Jazreel Tan and Bernice Lim, she had flown to the United States about a fortnight ago to compete in the PWBA Spokane Open and the US Women's Open, thus ending their 20-month Covid-induced hiatus from competition.
Following the conclusion of the US Women's Open, national head coach Helmi Chew said: "A huge congratulations to the team for their overall performance.
"After a gruelling 56 games in five days over four very difficult patterns with only 10 balls to play from, the team's energy and fighting spirit were very commendable."
To prepare for their trip to the US, the bowlers came up with challenges in training to simulate a high-pressure environment.
They trained daily, which Tan feels helped them stay in tune with the sport, and she also had a training plan that mimicked competition situations with equipment constraints to fine-tune the tactical aspect of her game.
Despite this, it took her some time to adjust to competing again.
She said: "The hardest part was to simulate the competition environment and to handle the adrenaline whilst competing.
"Also, being exposed to high-level competitions keeps our mind sharper which took a while for me to adjust after a long hiatus from competitions."
The next competition for the bowlers, who will return to Singapore on Friday, is the 2021 International Bowling Federation Super World Championships in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in November.
But one of the first things on Tan's agenda when she comes back is to use part of the US Women's Open prize money to treat her family to a meal after she serves her mandatory quarantine.
Of her experience in the US, she said: "We relish the opportunity to be able to compete in the PWBA.
"It was great to be out here competing against the best women bowlers after not being able to do so for 20 months."
In 2019, Tan made history by becoming the first Singaporean to win the Masters title at the World Bowling women's championships and is the first Asian to capture the Professional Women's Bowling Association Players Championship.
She was also voted the World Bowling Athlete of the Year by the international bowling community and public in January last year.