Liz Kuhlkin reached another major bowling milestone last weekend, but she had to endure a grueling format to get it done.
The Schalmont High School graduate and soon to be senior at Nebraska finished fourth out of 604 competitors in the 20U division at the prestigious Junior Gold Championships in Buffalo.
Kuhlkin finished 12th in qualifying to make the 16-person match-play field. She then defeated Emily Strombeck (404-380) and Julia Bond (481-453) in the first two rounds of match play before being eliminated by Rachael Albright, 441-377.
“We had 15 games of qualifying before Thursday, and then we bowled 15 more games on Thursday. I had to bowl at 8 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Needless to say, it was exhausting,” said Kuhlkin. “They changed the format this year, and they added more games. It was so hard on me physically. I went there with one of my friends, and she’s younger than I am. Her thumb was getting torn up.
“I don’t bowl this much at school,” Kuhlkin continued. “Fifteen games in one day is ludicrous, but fortunately, I bowl six days a week at college, so that kind of helped prepare me. I was definitely tired, though. My feet really hurt me on Thursday. They were really killing me, because of all that standing around and bowling.”
Kuhlkin said the Junior Gold Championships tested her all-around game by using some very demanding oil patterns. “I’ve bowled on some of them quite a bit during college,” she said.
Bowling accomplishments on a national scale are nothing new to Kuhlkin, who led the Cornhuskers to the NCAA championship two years ago as the tournament MVP, and a second-place finish this year. She is a multiple All-American.
Before Nebraska, Kuhlkin was one of the most decorated youth bowlers in the nation. She rolled an 835 triple and in the 2009-2010 season was honored as the USBC youth female high average winner. Kuhlkin also led her Sabres to the Section II Class B state championship.
“I’m very excited about getting into the final four at the Junior Golds this year, because last year, I was eighth or ninth, and the previous two years, I made it to the top 16, but I lost my first match,” she said.
“Getting into the top four in this tournament got me over the hurdle. But it’s also kind of sad, because this was really the last chapter of my junior bowling career. Next year at this time, I’ll be bowling in the adult division.”
The Junior Golds also were an excellent preparation for Kuhlkin’s next challenge. She is leaving for Hong Kong in 10 days to compete in the Junior World Championships, where she will compete for Junior Team USA.
“Hong Kong will be my last go-around in tournaments like this,” she said. “My plan right now is to rest a few days after the Junior Golds and then go over to Sportsman’s Bowl, Towne or Boulevard and start getting ready for the World Championships. I’m going to get some new bowling balls, get them drilled, and then get some practice in. The World Championships are just around the corner now.”
Kuhlkin was one of 25 bowlers representing the Capital District Youth Scholarship Tour in Buffalo. Zach Doty, Jonathan Bowman, Natasha Bidwell and Casey Schoonmaker made the third round of qualifying, with Bidwell, from Schenectady, finishing 48th overall in the 20U girls’ division. Bowman, from Peru, finished 47th, and Doty, from Nassau, was 63rd, in the 20U boys’ division.