Liz Johnson has Beat the Champions down, right to the heart of it.
“One of the first things I thought about when I won the U. S. Open was, `Cool, I get to bowl Beat the Champs,’ ’’ Johnson said.
For the fourth time, Johnson will set the target scores for BTC, the charity bowling event the Chicagoland Bowling Proprietors Association has run for 56 years, raising more than $2.8 million. The Sun-Times is the media sponsor.
Johnson first set the targets in 1996 (702), then 2007 (714) and 2013 (678). The last time in 2013 sticks with her. She had driven here from her home in Cheektowaga, N.Y., normally an eight-hour drive, but snow made the return trip a 13-hour journey.
“That was not fun,’’ said Johnson, who now primarily lives in Deerfield, though she still has the New York home.
The targets will be set at River Rand Bowl in Des Plaines.
“River Rand is one of the first bowling centers I practiced at when I came here,’’ Johnson said.
She also has familiarity with Ryan Ciminelli, who is setting the men’s target scores. The target show will air as traditional on Christmas Day, this year earlier at
9 a.m. [changed] 7 a.m. on Comcast SportsNet.
“He lived literally five houses from me,’’ Johnson said. “He mowed the lawn a couple times.’’
Johnson, a right-hander, has notable bowling credentials, including being the first woman to reach a PBA Tour TV final, finishing second to Tommy Jones in the 2005 Banquet Open. She was the first woman to win a PBA Regional title, also in 2005.
“The fun part is bowling for charity,’’ Johnson said. “I look forward to coming out and having a good time.’’
She hasn’t decided yet what charity will receive the money from the strike frames in the target show, but it will be “something with animal shelters,’’ which is close to her heart.
This year marks something new for BTC with both the women’s and men’s champions receiving a cash prize of $7,500 instead of the usual car.
Contest week for league bowlers in BTC begins Sunday, Dec.4, and runs through Dec. 10.