Liz Johnson (bowler)

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Elizabeth Ann "Liz" Johnson (born May 2, 1974) is an American professional ten-pin bowler, currently residing in Cheektowaga, New York. She was best known as an 11-time winner on the Professional Women's Bowling Association (PWBA) Tour, which included the first of her five U.S. Women's Open titles in 1996, before that organization suspended operations in 2003. Since the rebirth of the PWBA in 2015, Johnson has won five more PWBA Tour titles, including three more majors, for a total of 16 PWBA titles. She won five additional professional titles during the PWBA Tour's hiatus, becoming a member of the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) and the PBA Women's Series. Johnson was elected to the USBC Hall of Fame in December 2014, and was officially inducted on April 29, 2015.[1]

Johnson is currently a member of the Storm and Turbo Grips pro staffs.[2]

Early life[edit]

Johnson was a standout youth softball player, playing the sport from age eight through her high school graduation at Niagara-Wheatfield High School in Sanborn, New York. Primarily a pitcher, she won 60 games during her high school years. Shortly after high school, she won the 1992 Coca-Cola Youth Bowling Championships in the Girls' Scratch division. Johnson then bowled at Morehead State University, earning both Rookie of the Year and Collegiate Bowler of the Year honors in 1993, but stayed in college only one year, as she was determined to make bowling her career. She claims that bowling is the only job she's ever had. She worked in her local bowling center early on, and has held various pro shop and pro staff positions in addition to earning a living on the lanes.[3]

PWBA career (1995–2003)[edit]

Johnson qualified for Team USA and joined the PWBA Tour shortly after leaving college. On the pro circuit, she started strong, capturing Rookie of the Year honors and a major tour victory at the U.S. Women's Open in 1996. She won a second PWBA major at the 2001 Hammer PWBA Players Championship.[2] Another PWBA career highlight came in 2001, shortly after the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. In an emotional event held on September 14 — the first professional sporting event to resume after the attacks — Johnson bowled the third televised perfect 300 game in PWBA history to defeat Carolyn Dorin-Ballard in the final match of the Paula Carter Classic.[4]

Competing in the PBA[edit]

Not to be denied the opportunity to bowl in professional competition, Johnson became a member of the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) — generally regarded as the "men's tour" — in 2004. Early in the 2004-05 season, she made history by becoming the first woman to qualify for a standard PBA tour event, making the Round of 64 at the 2004 Uniroyal Tire Classic. Later that season, she raised the bar even higher by becoming the first woman to make the televised finals of a PBA event (2005 Banquet Open). She won her semifinal match in that event over Wes Malott by a score of 235–228. But she was unable to complete the quest for a title, falling 219–192 to eventual PBA Player of the Year Tommy Jones in the final match.

Johnson posted another "first" in the summer of 2005 — becoming the first woman to win a PBA event, as she captured the title in a PBA Regional tour stop (2005 East Region Kingpin Lanes Open). To win that tournament, she had to defeat four-time PBA titleist Ryan Shafer in the semifinal, and PBA tour veteran Mike Fagan in the finals.

Major Wins and PBA Women's Series (2004–14)[edit]

Johnson won the 2007 U.S. Women's Open over close friend and tour roommate Shannon O'Keefe at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nevada. The event returned in 2007 from a three-year hiatus when its rights were acquired by the United States Bowling Congress (USBC).

Johnson's first PBA Women's Series title came in the Don and Paula Carter Mixed Doubles event, where she partnered with Norm Duke for the victory on January 6, 2009. In the Baker Doubles format, Johnson threw five of the ten frames in the final match, and had a strike in every frame.[5] Johnson won her first and only singles title in the PBA Women's Series on September 5, 2009, at the PBA Viper Championship. The PBA Women's Series would only last for three seasons, ending in April, 2010, again leaving Liz and other female professionals without a national tour.

Johnson won another major title at the 2009 USBC Queens tournament, which was not part of the PBA Women's Series, at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nevada.[6]

Johnson qualified as the top seed in the May 2010 U.S. Women's Open, but lost in the final match to Kelly Kulick.[7] Johnson got her revenge on Kulick in the 2013 U.S. Women's Open, with a convincing 257–195 win in the final match to earn her third U.S. Open crown.[8] With the victory, Johnson joined Marion Ladewig, Patty Costello and Kulick as the only players to win the U.S. Women's Open at least three times. Following the 2013 event, Johnson cashed an additional $10,000 by winning the "Battle of the Sexes" over men's U.S. Open champion Wes Malott, whom she had also beaten on television in 2005.

Johnson was part of Team USA in 2011. At the WTBA World Women's Championships in Hong Kong, this team took home gold for the United States in the team event for the first time since 1987.[9]

PWBA Tour rebirth (2015–present)[edit]

Johnson won a major title at the 2015 USBC Queens tournament, the opening event of the rebooted PWBA Tour, at the Ashwaubenon Bowling Alley [2] in Green Bay, WI. She entered the May 19 stepladder format finals as the number two seed. After eliminating 2006 Queens champion Shannon Pluhowsky in the semifinals, she then defeated top seed Erin McCarthy in the final match to win the title, the $20,000 top prize, and the coveted tiara. It was Johnson's second USBC Queens title and sixth career major championship.[10] Johnson continued her dominance in 2015, winning her fourth U.S. Women's Open on September 6, 2015. As in her 2007 U.S. Women's Open win, Johnson defeated Shannon O'Keefe in the final match to take the $50,000 top prize. Johnson became one of only two women to have won the U.S. Women's Open at least four times (with Marion Ladewig being the other). She is also the first player to successfully defend a U.S. Women's Open title since Dottie Fothergill in 1968–69.[11] Liz was named PWBA Player of the Year for 2015.

At the December 2015 World Women's Championship (WWC) in Abu Dhabi, Johnson bowled 300 as the anchor bowler in the team event finals, as Team USA won the Gold Medal in the WWC team(-of-five) competition.[12] Liz also received the individual Silver Medal in the All-Events total score (5586), one pin behind the gold medal recipient (5587).[13]

On the 2016 PWBA Tour, Johnson won the PWBA Las Vegas Open on May 26 to reach 20 professional titles in her bowling career.[14] On August 7, 2016, Johnson won her fifth career U.S. Women's Open and her third consecutive title in this event. Only Marion Ladewig, who captured the first five U.S. Women's Open tournaments ever held (1949–54), has won more consecutive Opens.[15] Johnson won her second consecutive PWBA Player of the Year award in 2016, leading the Tour in points and earnings, while tying for the lead in championship round appearances and winning two titles (one major).[16]

In the media[edit]

Johnson was named "Female Bowler of the Decade" (2000–09) in the Winter, 2010 issue of U.S. Bowler.[17]


Johnson's bowling style is considered to be mechanically sound and consistent, not flashy. "If you were to compare Major League Baseball superstar Roger Clemens and his 95 mile-per-hour fastball to Tommy Jones' mega-hook power game in bowling, you could compare Johnson's game to another 300-game winner: Chicago Cubs pitcher Greg Maddux, who throws an 85 mph fastball but almost never walks enemy batters because of his pin-point accuracy."[18]

Professional Championships[edit]

Johnson has won a total of 21 professional titles, including eight major championships, broken down as follows:

  • 11 PWBA Tour standard titles
  • 5 PWBA Tour major titles
  • 3 major titles during the PWBA Tour hiatus (2004–14)
  • 2 PBA Women's Series titles

Awards and recognition[edit]

  • 1992 Girls Scratch Champion, Coca-Cola Youth Bowling Championships
  • 1993 Collegiate Rookie of the Year and Collegiate Bowler of the Year
  • U.S. Amateur Champion in back-to-back years (1993–94)
  • 11-time member of Team USA (1994–96, 2008–15); part of the 1994 Team USA which won the gold medal at the World Tenpin Team Cup in Malaysia
  • 1996 PWBA Rookie of the Year
  • Two-time USBC National Women's All-Events champion (1998, 2008)
  • USBC National Women's Doubles champion, with partner Susan Jeziorski-Smith (2007)
  • Five-time U.S. Women's Open champion (1996, 2007, 2013, 2015, 2016)
  • Two-time USBC Queens Champion (2009, 2015)
  • Named "Female Bowler of the Year" in 2005, 2007 and 2009 by the Bowling Writers Association of America.
  • Named "Female Bowler of the Decade" (2000–09) in the Winter, 2010 issue of U.S. Bowler.
  • Honored June 19, 2014 as "Excellence in Sports" Award recipient by the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame in Troy, Michigan.
  • Inducted into the USBC Hall of Fame on April 29, 2015.
  • 2x PWBA Player of the Year (2015, 2016)


  1. ^ Vint, Bill (December 23, 2015). "Christmas Arrives Early for New USBC Hall of Famers Larry Laub, Liz Johnson". Retrieved January 5, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Liz Johnson PWBA Player Profile". Retrieved June 16, 2016. 
  3. ^ "10 things you didn't know about 2013 U.S. Open champion Liz Johnson". October 2, 2013. Retrieved June 9, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Historical Dictionary of Bowling, p. 166". Retrieved August 10, 2016. 
  5. ^ "Johnson, Duke Nearly Perfect in Winning PBA Mixed Doubles Title." Article at, February 1, 2009.
  6. ^ "Johnson claims USBC Queens title." Article at, April 29, 2009.
  7. ^ Wiseman, Lucas. "Kulick takes another major title, wins U.S. Women's Open." Article at on May 12, 2010. [1]
  8. ^ Malott, Johnson Capture Lipton Bowling's U.S. Open Titles Jerry Schneider at on July 27, 2013.
  9. ^ U.S. Bowler, October 2011 issue
  10. ^ Cannizzaro, Matt (May 19, 2015). "Hall of famer Liz Johnson wins 2015 USBC Queens". Retrieved May 20, 2015. 
  11. ^ Cannizzaro, Matt (September 6, 2015). "Liz Johnson wins 2015 U.S. Women's Open". Retrieved September 7, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Results / 2015 WWC Team Final". World Bowling. December 12, 2015. Archived from the original on December 15, 2015. 
  13. ^ "Results / All Event". World Bowling. December 2015. Archived from the original on December 15, 2015. 
  14. ^ "Liz Johnson wins 2016 PWBA Las Vegas Open". June 7, 2016. Retrieved August 4, 2016. 
  15. ^ "LIZ JOHNSON CLAIMS FIFTH U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN TITLE". August 7, 2016. Retrieved August 8, 2016. 
  16. ^ "New Hui Fen wins 2016 Smithfield PWBA Tour Championship". September 4, 2016. Retrieved September 6, 2016. 
  17. ^ Cover story in U.S. Bowler, Winter, 2010.
  18. ^ Article: "Liz Johnson becomes first woman to win a PBA title". First appeared August 22, 2005 at