Tish Johnson looking for repeat performance at 2019 USBC Senior Queens

ARLINGTON, Texas - United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer Tish Johnson of Colorado Springs, Colorado, broke through for her first USBC Senior Queens title in 2018, and she's aiming to collect a second tiara starting this week in Las Vegas.

The 2019 Senior Queens will kick off Saturday at the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino and welcome more than 85 of the top female bowlers age 50 and older. Competitors will be looking to claim the coveted tiara and $8,000 top prize awarded to the champion.

Johnson, a 56-year-old left-hander, dominated the 2018 event on her way to the title, also held at Gold Coast. After leading qualifying with a 234.47 average, Johnson averaged more than 240 in match play to earn the top seed for the stepladder finals.

In the title match, Johnson rolled strikes on nine of her first 10 deliveries to defeat fellow USBC Hall of Famer Jeanne Naccarato of Tacoma, Washington, 267-191.

A tiara was one of the few items missing from Johnson's collection, as she recorded 25 titles on the Professional Women's Bowling Association Tour. After becoming age-eligible for the Senior Queens, close calls plagued Johnson, who was runner-up at the event for four consecutive years (2013-2016).

"It felt really good to win," said Johnson, who also is a member of the PWBA Hall of Fame. "After finishing second so many times, I wondered if I was ever going to win this thing. To finally do it, and to bowl as well as I did to do it, felt great. Now that I've won, I want to see if I can win back-to-back titles. I always try to set goals for myself, and if I don't achieve them, I'll work harder the next year trying to achieve them."

In preparation for her title defense, Johnson has been staying sharp and preparing some new equipment for her run in 2019. She drilled six new bowling balls prior to making her way out to Las Vegas, which also will include a stop at The Orleans Hotel and Casino for the National Golden Ladies Classic. The 2019 edition of the National Golden Ladies Classic already is underway and will conclude Thursday.

Johnson admits that she tends to bowl better as she gets more games under her belt, and she hopes the time at The Orleans will have her primed for another long run in the double-elimination bracket of the Senior Queens. Despite the big scores from last year at Gold Coast, though, she doesn't plan to take anything for granted.

"The thing of it is, you may have notes of where you stood, what ball you used or where you played, but a lot can change in a year," Johnson said. "During practice, I'm just going to try and get loose, shoot some spares and try to put together some kind of plan. When I walk in the next day, I'm going to play what's in front of me."

As the defending champion, Johnson is guaranteed the No. 32 spot in the bracket, but she can improve her seeding through qualifying.

All competitors at the 2019 Senior Queens will bowl 15 games of qualifying over two days, starting Saturday at 11 a.m. Eastern, to determine the 31 bowlers joining Johnson in match play. Seeding will be determined by total pinfall.

The bracket will feature three-game matches, with total pinfall determining who advances. The five players who make their way through the bracket will advance to the stepladder finals. The tournament features a true double-elimination format, so the No. 1 seed for the stepladder finals would have to lose twice in the championship match.

Wire-to-wire livestream coverage of the 2019 Senior Queens can be found at BowlTV.com, starting with Saturday's opening round of qualifying. The stepladder finals will be broadcast Monday at 8:30 p.m. Eastern.