McKendree hires pro Shannon O'Keefe for women

News-DemocratJune 9, 2014 

— McKendree University director of athletics Chuck Brueggemann has announced the addition of two new staff members who are recognizable faces in the world of bowling.

Professional bowler Shannon O'Keefe has been named as the head coach of the women's bowling program, while her husband Bryan O'Keefe - an assistant coach for Team USA - will take the reins as the director of bowling for both the men's and women's squads for the Bearcats.

"We are absolutely thrilled to be able to bring Shannon and Bryan into the McKendree family," said Brueggemann. "While their lofty credentials certainly speak for themselves, their personalities and desire to compete at the highest level really make them stand above the rest. They both have a passion that goes beyond what happens on the lanes. Shannon and Bryan are great teachers and ambassadors of the sport of bowling, and their impact on McKendree University will be tremendous. We look forward to watching these dynamic individuals continue to elevate our programs among the elite in collegiate bowling."

Shannon O'Keefe has made quite a mark for herself since reaching the professional ranks in 2003. She is a 10-time member of Team USA since, competing in tournaments around the world. O'Keefe is also a five-time world champion and has collected more than 30 international medals in competition. In addition, O'Keefe has won three Texas State Queens championships along with a pair of New York State Queens titles.

The Oregon native was also the runner-up at the 2007 U.S. Women's Open, where she shot a 299 in the semifinal round.

O'Keefe's athletic ability has not been limited to the bowling lanes. She was a first-team All-NCAA West Region performer at the Division II level as a freshman softball player at Portland State University. An outfielder, O'Keefe batted .410 with a team-high 18 stolen bases along with 15 outfield assists. A four-time All-Conference honoree in softball at Oregon City High School, O'Keefe was among a group of players invited to attend the USA trials for the 1996 Olympic softball team.

Along with her athletic success, O'Keefe has coached a group of young female bowlers over the last several years, known by O'Keefe as her "Chicklets". She has also attained a Silver-level coaching status with the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Coaching Certification program.

"This is a job I've only dreamed of being able to do," said Shannon O'Keefe. "I feel confident that I can give back to young student-athletes what I have gotten out of the sport of bowling. This is a great opportunity to dive in to the sport I love and help create lifelong bowlers and give them the insight and skills that will make them successful not only on the lanes, but in life as well. I cannot wait to be a part of this at McKendree. It's a true blessing."

A well-respected coach at every level of the game, Bryan O'Keefe comes to McKendree after serving as the assistant coach and facility manager for the International Training and Research Center for Team USA Bowling. He has coached men's, women's and youth teams in world competition during that time. Under O'Keefe's tutelage, Team USA members have brought home more than 100 medals since 2010, including more than 20 gold medals.

Most recently, O'Keefe was awarded Gold-level coaching status through the USBC Coaching Certification program. He is one of just 28 active coaches throughout the world - and the second-youngest - to reach this certification level.

Prior to his experience with Team USA, O'Keefe spent nearly three years as a coaching specialist for the USBC based in Milwaukee, Wis. His coaching career began at the collegiate level, guiding the program at the Rochester Institute of Technology from 1997-99.

Collegiately, O'Keefe attended the University of Nebraska, where he helped lead the Huskers to the 1996 USBC Intercollegiate Team Championship. That capped a stellar season for O'Keefe, where he earned first-team All-America honors and was runner-up for national Bowling of the Year accolades.

Along with his vast coaching experience, O'Keefe has remained a competitive bowler, and teamed with his wife to win the PBA Luci Bonneau Doubles championship in 2012.

"I have been fortunate to coach and work with people at all levels of Team USA, but there's something about the younger bowlers that is special," said Bryan O'Keefe. "They are raw, fresh and like a sponge waiting to absorb knowledge and learn everything they can about the game, not just the tactical side but the mental side as well. I cannot wait to get started at McKendree. The bowling program has the full backing of its administration, and I really feel that this will be an unbelievable experience. I loved being a coach and a mentor, and I'm ready to share what I have learned with the McKendree bowlers."

McKendree senior-to-be A.J. Johnson has had the experience of working with both Bryan and Shannon O'Keefe through his association with Team USA. Johnson was a Junior Team USA member in 2012, and is a current member of Team USA. Johnson is thrilled to have the O'Keefe's joining the McKendree program.

"McKendree could not ask for two better people to help take our bowling program to the next level," said Johnson, who earned Bowler of the Year honors this spring at the collegiate level. "I'm so excited that I get to spend my senior year learning from Bryan and Shannon. Our program has been one of the best in the nation over the last several years and they will only help make it stronger. Bryan has been the coach I have gone to with Team USA to help improve my game. His base of bowling knowledge is incredible. In bowling with Shannon on Team USA, she shows a phenomenal insight to the game and can make adjustments on the fly. They will bring so many positive aspects to our program and I can't wait to start working with them."

Shannon and Bryan O'Keefe replace Danielle Beloybraydich, who resigned following the 2013-14 season as women's bowling coach and director of bowling to pursue other professional interests. Dennis Knepper, who has led the McKendree men's bowling team to consecutive appearances at the USBC Intercollegiate Team Championships, will continue to serve as head coach for the men's squad.

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