After reeling off four consecutive victories to capture the U.S. Women’s Open bowling championship, Erin McCarthy ‘12, could only think of one word to describe the feeling during her championship run.
“Shocked! I couldn’t believe what had just happened,” McCarthy said. “I knew I had won, but it was still hard to think I had just won. When I got back to Omaha, I had to get back to work right away, so I still don’t know if it has sunk in.”
The week-long event saw McCarthy roll 60 games, the final one on June 21st when she defeated top-seeded Danielle McEwan 212-172 in the championship match. McCarthy entered the stepladder competition as the fifth and final seed, meaning she needed to knock off four consecutive opponents to earn the title. That was a daunting task itself, but made more daunting by the fact McCarthy had never won a match on television. The stepladder portion was televised live on CBS Sports.
“I finished third in the U.S. Open two previous times (2017, 2018) but lost my first match on TV each time,” she said. “In my past TV matches, I made awful mistakes and really rushed myself. I’m normally a pretty quick bowler, so I had to really force myself to take it slow, take extra breaths, and be patient. My nerves were super high during the first match (a 212-178 win over Shayna Ng), and it probably showed as a lot of my shots were not consistent. I’m not sure the nerves ever went away, but the transition from match to match became a little easier.”
McCarthy rallied to defeat Shannon O’Keefe 220-218 in the next match, then rolled one of her best performances of the week in a 235-206 triumph over Jordan Richard, putting her in the championship match. “By the last match, I felt pretty comfortable with my ball reaction,” McCarthy said. “I was confident, but you can’t be too confident because you’re going against the best bowlers in the world. I just took my time, threw the 10 best shots I could, and came away with the title.”
The week began rather inauspiciously for McCarthy, as her performances through the first few rounds of qualifying had her doubting whether she would be around for the duration. “I’m typically a slow starter, but I started off around a 150 average, which is quite terrible,” she laughed. “To start that way in the U.S. Open put me in full-blown panic mode. But I also knew it took 56 games to make the TV round, so I stayed patient and started making better choices as the week went on. By the third day, I was bowling a lot better and started to gain some momentum as I reached the match play round.”
It took some late dramatics for McCarthy to reach the stepladder round as consecutive strikes in the 10th frame of her final match play contest secured the fifth seed. As a 10-year veteran on the professional tour, McCarthy said her experience paid off in a big way during that final match. “When I bowled in college, I had a bit of a temper, and I didn’t use it in a good way,” she said. “I’ve had time to grow as both a person and a bowler, and that’s helped me develop a better mental game. Being able to double in the final match is something I probably would not have been able to do a couple years ago.”
After graduating from Millard North High School, McCarthy’s path to Midland took a couple of detours. She attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for two years, competing on the bowling team for one of those seasons. “I knew Coach JJ Mastny was taking over the Dana College bowling program, and there were several of us who were going to transfer there to bowl for him,” McCarthy said.
Before McCarthy could attend Dana, the school closed, and Midland absorbed both the men’s and women’s bowling programs. “When Dana closed, we were very fortunate that Midland took us on,” she said. “Ultimately, being able to go to Midland turned out to be the best experience for me.”
During her senior season at Midland, McCarthy helped the Warrior team to a runner-up finish in the USBC Intercollegiate Team Championships and was named the tourney’s most valuable performer.
McCarthy graduated from Midland as a biology major and earned her nursing degree two years later from Creighton University. She has spent the past eight years at Nebraska Methodist Hospital in Omaha and currently serves as an acute care nurse.
For someone who has been bowling since she was two years old, McCarthy’s dreams always featured herself putting on the coveted green jacket and winning a U.S. Open. “Anytime you’re a kid in an individual sport, you always dream of winning the biggest tournament,” she said. “When all of the sudden, it’s in front of you and becomes attainable, you go through a slew of emotions. Being on Cloud Nine is literally the best way to explain it. I will never forget that moment.”