Chris Barnes Eyes Run at Player of the Year After Taking 66th U.S. Open First Round
Because of his recent success on the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour, reigning Professional Bowlers Association Player of the Year Chris Barnes can still defend his title but he'll need a little help for it to happen.
Barnes had a 1,394 six-game pinfall (232.33 average) to lead a 415-player field of the sport's top professional and amateur bowlers after first-round qualifying Tuesday in the 66th Lumber Liquidators U.S. Open at Brunswick Zone Carolier.
With the U.S. Open being the final event of the 2008-09 Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour season, Wes Malott of Pflugerville, Texas, who has won three titles this season, is the front runner to win PBA Player of the Year honors. Malott is currently in 42nd place after first-round qualifying with a 1,253 six-game pinfall.
Barnes had made five television finals appearances this season without a title but then broke through by winning back-to-back events in March.
Barnes and defending U.S. Open champion and Hall of Famer Norm Duke of Clermont, Fla., who is currently fourth after the first round with a 1,365 pinfall, are the only players who can challenge Malott for the title. Both Barnes and Duke must win to have any chance of earning Player of the Year honors.
"I'm bowling as well now as I have all season," Barnes said. "My sole intention is to win this tournament and force Wes to do whatever he needs to do."
As one of the most demanding events---mentally and physically---in professional bowling, the entire field will bowl additional six-game qualifying rounds Wednesday and Thursday after which the field will be cut to the top 25 percent for another nine-game round on Friday. The top 24 after 27 games will advance to round-robin match play which concludes on Saturday. The top five players will advance to the live, two-hour ESPN-televised stepladder finals on Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern.
"In a tournament like this you have to take advantage of a big block (qualifying round)," said the 39- year-old Barnes of Double Oak, Texas. "With a long format it's better to hang on to pins rather than chase them. It's so hard to get through the three days of qualifying that you can't get too far behind and then feel you have to press."
Hall of Famer Pete Weber of St. Ann, Mo., hoping to become the U.S. Open's first five-time winner, was in eighth place after Tuesday's first-round qualifying with a 1,348 pinfall. Weber currently holds the record of four U.S. Open wins with his dad, Dick Weber, and Don Carter.
As a major with a challenging format, the U.S. Open is contested on a U.S. Open lane conditioning pattern, which is considered to be the toughest in professional bowling. Adding to the pressure will be a $100,000 first prize, a three-year PBA Tour exemption and Grand Slam points which will impact players trying to qualify for the GEICO PBA Team Shootout hosted by Six Flags in June.
Australia's Belmonte First Two-Handed Player to Win a PBA Title
Australia's Jason Belmonte became the first two-handed player in Professional Bowlers Association history to win a PBA Tour title when he upset top qualifier Michael Fagan of Patchoque, N.Y., 215-201, to win The Bowling Foundation Long Island Classic at AMF Babylon Lanes Sunday.
Belmonte, making his PBA Tour singles television debut, won $25,000 and an exemption to bowl on the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour during the 2009-10 season. He also joined Sweden's Mats Karlsson, Venezuela's Amleto Monacelli and Finland's Mika Koivuniemi as the fourth international player to win a PBA Tour title.
"The PBA Tour is the ultimate bowling competition in the world," said Belmonte. "With all the media attention I have received, it's now time for us to put the foot down on the gas and go mainstream; this is not just about me. There are many great stories and great athletes out here. It's time all of us knock on all the doors of we can, the next one could be the 'golden key' door we are all looking for."
The 25-year-old Australian has been a terror in international competition over the past few years, but had not experienced PBA competition until this season. In limited PBA Tour participation, he had finished in the top 15 four times with a best finish of 10th place in the season-opening PBA World Championship in Wichita, Kan.
"I was very nervous on those first two shots, I threw it where I looked at but then I realized I was looking at the wrong spot," said Belmonte about his first shots on television. "I settled down after that."
Belmonte developed his unusual style as a toddler growing up in his parents' bowling center in New South Wales, Australia, bowling with bowling balls that were too heavy to throw with one hand. By inserting the middle two fingers of his right hand into the ball, and using his left hand to guide and spin the ball, he is able to generate hooking power very few one-handed players can match.
In the title match against one of the Tour's premier power players, Belmonte bowled an error-free game, needing only a pair of doubles to build an advantage after Fagan opened in the first and fifth frames. Belmonte used an aggressive reactive bowling ball to play a deep inside angle on the left lane, and a hard plastic ball to play a straight, outside line on the right lane to combat the PBA's Shark and Viper lane conditioning patterns used on the championship left and right lanes, respectively.
"I knew the lanes would break down faster," said Belmonte. "If Mike had another game, he would have shot 240."
In the opening match, Ritchie Allen of Columbia, S.C., finished with eight strikes in a row to eliminate Robert Smith of Columbus, Ohio, 258-244. Bill O'Neill of Southampton, Pa., overcame an open in the first frame with six strikes on his next seven shots to defeat Allen, 237-218.
Belmonte then slipped past O'Neill in the semifinal match, overcoming a spare/open start with eight strikes on his next nine attempts for a 245-236 victory. O'Neill's hopes for his first PBA title ended when he left a solid 10 pin after striking on his first ball in the 10th frame.
"I threw mine great and couldn't believe I left the ten," said Belmonte after leaving a ringing tenpin on a solid pocket hit in the 7th frame. "When I saw Billy's last shot go down, I thought 'well that was fun, see you later', but then his ten stood."
Fagan earned $13,000 for second place, O'Neill $6,500 for third, Allen $5,500 for fourth and Smith $5,000 for fifth place.
The PBA Tour concludes its 50th anniversary season next week with the 66th Lumber Liquidators U.S. Open which gets underway Tuesday at Brunswick Zone Carolier in North Brunswick, N.J. Norm Duke of Clermont, Fla., is defending champion. ESPN will televise the 2-hour live finals on Sunday, April 5, at 1 p.m. Eastern.
Michael Fagan is Top Qualifier for PBA Bowling Foundation Long Island Classic ESPN Finals
Looking for his first Lumber Liquidators Professional Bowlers Association Tour singles title, Michael Fagan of Patchogue, N.Y., earned the No. 1 qualifying position for Sunday's live ESPN-televised stepladder finals of the Bowling Foundation Long Island Classic at AMF Babylon Lanes.
As a result of earning the No. 2 qualifying position, Australian two-handed bowling sensation Jason Belmonte will make his Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour television debut in Sunday's finals scheduled for 2 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
After Friday's Round of 16, the 28-year-old Fagan had a 7,624 overall pinfall and a 12-6 match play record, 53 pins ahead of Belmonte who finished with a 7,571 pinfall and 14-4 record. Belmonte had the tournament lead going into the final position round match against Fagan but lost the match to Fagan 212-185.
"I knew I was going have to do something special to compete with Jason but I was able to pull it out in the position round," Fagan said. "I had the support of a lot of friends and family here tonight and was happy to give them a good show."
Belmonte, who has won several major international titles and is in his first year on the PBA Tour, has garnered much media attention this season and will make an appearance with PBA Player of the Year contender Wes Malott Saturday morning from 7-10 a.m. Eastern on Fox & Friends, the top-rated cable morning show on the Fox News Network.
"It's nice to have the media attention and pressure finally turn into a reward," said the 25 year-old Belmonte, whose hometown is Orange, Australia. "For America to see me bowl live has been my goal. I will let them their own assessment of what I can do."
"The hardest thing about the stepladder will be sitting there watching the other guys get a feel for the lanes," Belmonte added.
Fagan's top finishes this year have been second and fourth place which both came in February.
Belmonte had 11th, 12th and 15th place finishes in February and posted a 10th place finish in the PBA World Championship which opened the season last October.
Rounding out the stepladder field will be No. 3 qualifier, Bill O'Neill, Southampton, Pa.; No. 4 qualifier, Ritchie Allen, Columbia, S.C., and No. 5 qualifier, Robert Smith of Columbus, Ohio.
Michael Fagan Leads PBA Bowling Foundation Long Island Classic
With a 3,296 14-game pinfall (235.43 average), Michael Fagan of Patchogue, N.Y., led Thursday's Round of 64 in the Professional Bowlers Association Bowling Foundation Long Island Classic at AMF Babylon Lanes.
With recent second and fourth place finishes, Fagan is looking for his first Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour title and credited his performance to being able to adjust to the different lane condition patterns between the first and second qualifying blocks.
"In the first block on the shorter oil pattern I was able to throw a little harder with a cleaner release," said the 28-year-old Fagan. "The last seven games I was able to roll it a little heavier on the longer pattern and bowled a couple of good games late."
Looking for his first television finals appearance, Australian two-handed player Jason Belmonte is in seventh place with a 3,127 pinfall (223.36 average). The international bowling star had finishes of 11th, 12th and 15th on the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour in the month of February and averaged 243 in Thursday's second block.
"The longer lane condition seemed more suited to my game," Belmonte said. "I found a good reaction and started stringing strikes."
"From here on out you're going to need to come out warm in the first few games and whip the horse over the last nine games and get to the finish."
Another area favorite, Rudy Kasimakis, originally from Long Island who now makes his home in Baldwyn, Miss., is in 13th with a 3,106 pinfall (221.86 average).
The top 32 players advance to a nine-game modified round robin match play round Friday morning after which the field will be cut to the top 16 who will advance to another round of match play to determine the top five for the stepladder finals to be televised by ESPN live at 2 p.m. Eastern.
The tournament features two of the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour's lane conditioning patterns: Viper and Shark for the first two qualifying rounds, respectively, and for match play the left lane will use the Shark condition and the right lane Viper.
Barnes Overpowers Williams to Win Go RVing Match Play Championship
Reigning Lumber Liquidators PBA Player of the Year Chris Barnes fought his way back into contention to repeat with an impressive three-game 722-693 victory over Walter Ray Williams Jr. in the title match of the Go RVing Match Play Championship at Norwich Bowling and Entertainment Center Sunday.
Barnes, the No. 3 seed in the PBA's "March Madness" match play elimination tournament, used the three-game, total pinfall format to his advantage in winning his 12th career title and back-to-back titles for the first time in his career. Two weeks earlier, Barnes won the Don Johnson Buckeye State Eliminator in Columbus, Ohio.
Barnes, who has been notorious for making critical mistakes in a number of past TV losses, had the luxury of three games to make up for an error this time, and that's exactly what he did.
Williams and Barnes both flirted with perfection in the first two games, but unforced errors by both players kept the contest up in the air going into the decisive third game.
The No. 5 seeded Williams, the PBA's all-time titles leader with 45, looked like he was going to run away with the match early. Williams, who has been the victim of three perfect games on TV without ever bowling one himself, started the match with nine strikes. But when he left a 7 pin on his first shot in the 10th frame and missed the spare, he gave Barnes hope, finishing with 267 to Barnes' 241. Instead of a possible 59-pin lead, Williams led by only 26 pins.
"Brain (expletive)," the 49-year-old Williams said of his uncharacteristic missed spare. "That's what happens when you get old."
Barnes quickly erased his deficit in game two, starting with nine strikes himself. With back-to-back splits and open frames, Williams struggled to a 192. But Barnes returned Williams favor, leaving a 4-10 split to end his perfect-game bid. Despite that error, Barnes finished with 266 and took a 48-pin lead into the third game.
"It was the same bad shot I made when I left the Big Four in the first game," Barnes said. "But in general, the move I made worked, so I was pleased."
Williams threw a couple more strikes than Barnes in game three, but it was basically a contest of staying out of trouble. Working on three strikes, Williams left a 4 pin in the seventh frame that took away the momentum he needed to overcome Barnes' lead. Williams won the third game, 234-215, but he was still 29 pins short.
"Chris bowled a lot better than I did," Williams said. "If it had been a best of three match, I win, but that's not the way it went today."
"Three games was a big deal for me. It gave me a chance to win," Barnes said. "Normally, I leave the Big Four in game one and I'm out."
"The right lane was troublesome for both of us," he continued. "I was just able to put together a bigger string on that lane than Walter Ray was, but it was getting to be a problem. Fortunately, we ran out of frames before I ran out of pins."
Barnes, who won $25,000, surged into third place in the Player of the Year points race behind Wes Malott and Norm Duke, and he still has a mathematical chance to pass both and retain his Player of the Year title.
"Things seem to be going my way right now," the Double Oak, Texas, resident said. "The U.S. Open is the toughest tournament of all to win. I will need that to happen to have a chance."
The Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour's next stop is the Bowling Foundation Long Island Classic at AMF West Babylon Lanes in West Babylon, N.Y., Wednesday through Sunday.
Williams and Barnes Among Semifinalists For PBA Go RVing Match Play Championship
The Professional Bowlers Association's all-time win leader Walter Ray Williams Jr. and reigning PBA Player of the Year Chris Barnes are among four surviving players after Friday's elimination rounds in the PBA Go RVing Match Play Championship at Norwich Bowling and Entertainment Center.
In a showdown between two of the PBA's all-time greats, Williams, of Ocala, Fla., defeated Norm Duke of Clermont, Fla., 4-0, in the best-of-seven games Round of 8 match. Williams, who entered the eliminations as the No. 5 seed is PBA's all-time win leader with 45 Tour victories and No. 4 seed Duke ranks tied for fifth all-time with 32 victories.
In three other Round of 8 matches Friday, Barnes of Double Oak, Texas, defeated Andrew Cain of Scottsdale, Ariz., 4-0, Mike Wolfe of New Albany, Ind., defeated Billy Oatman of Chicago, 4-0, and Chris Loschetter of Avon, Ohio, defeated Brad Angelo of Lockport, N.Y., 4-2.
Williams, Barnes, Loschetter and Wolfe will now enter the semifinals which will take place on Saturday beginning at 6 p.m. Eastern with coverage on Xtra Frame, the PBA's online video service. The live ESPN-final match for the Go RVing Match Play Championship will be conducted Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern. Both the semifinals and the live ESPN finals will feature three-game total pinfall matches.
The final leg of the PBA Tour's five-event "Extreme Swing" also involves the pressure of earning points to qualify for the GEICO PBA Team Shootout hosted by Six Flags, scheduled for June in Jackson, N.J. The top eight in Extreme Swing points will earn spots in that special event.
The Go RVing Match Play Championship is part of the PBA's 50th Anniversary season "Extreme Swing," which also includes the Ultimate Scoring Championship, GEICO Plastic Ball Championship, Etonic Marathon Open, and the Don Johnson Buckeye State Eliminator. The creative format events are meant to test the greatest bowlers in the world in different areas of the game, provide television audiences with a fresh look while providing education on pertinent aspects of the game.
The winner earns a first prize of $25,000 and a one-year exemption on the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour.
Top Four Seeds Advance in PBA Go RVing Match Play Championship
The top four seeds survived the Round of 64 eliminations Thursday in the Professional Bowlers Association Go RVing Match Play Championship at Norwich Bowling and Entertainment Center.
No. 1 seed and 2008-09 Player of the Year front-runner Wes Malott of Pflugerville, Texas defeated Alex Aquiar of Dartmouth, Mass., 4-1 in the best-of-seven game Round of 64 match. Malott is looking for his fourth win of the 2008-09 Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour season.
Looking for his first career title, No. 2 seed Bill O'Neill of Southampton, Pa., No. 3 seed and reigning PBA Player of the Year Chris Barnes of Double Oak, Texas, and No. 4 seed, PBA Hall of Famer Norm Duke of Clermont, Fla., all advanced to the Round of 32 by winning their matches 4-1.
Among the noted players who failed to advance were Hall of Famer Pete Weber of St. Ann, Mo., and eight-time Tour titlist Mika Koivuniemi of Hartland, Mich.
Like the NCAA Basketball Tournament, the Go RVing Match Play Championship incorporates a win-or-go-home bracket elimination format that started with 64 competitors. Rounds of 32, 16 and 8 will be conducted on Friday.
The semifinals will take place on Saturday beginning at 6 p.m. Eastern with coverage on Xtra Frame, the PBA's online video service. The live ESPN-final match for the Go RVing Match Play Championship will be conducted Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern. Both the semifinals and the live ESPN finals will feature three-game total pinfall matches.
Barnes Ends TV Slump with Victory in PBA's Buckeye State Eliminator
Chris Barnes of Double Oak, Texas, ended his five-game television losing streak in style Sunday, racing away to a 258-172 victory over Mika Koivuniemi of Hartland, Mich., in the title match of the Don Johnson Buckeye State Eliminator at Sequoia Pro Bowl.
Barnes, who successfully defended his 2008 Buckeye State title, earned $25,000 and his first title of the 2008-09 Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour season. Four straight strikes in the middle of the game in response to four consecutive nine-pin spares by Koivuniemi put Barnes into a commanding lead and he never looked back.
"The hardest thing to do is to repeat with all the expectations that come from winning," Barnes said, "but the short format today worked in my favor and I survived. I have been there enough to put up with the heat. I like the competition and love bowling on Sunday."
Barnes also noted he has been working with retired PBA Tour star Mark Baker on improving his game. "The stuff I worked on with Mark kept me in check", said Barnes.
In the opening match of the unique eliminator tournament final, Rhino Page of Topeka, Kan., was low-man-out, failing to convert a pair of splits in posting a 202 game. Barnes led the four-player group with a 238, Mike Scroggins of Amarillo, Texas, was second with a 216 and Koivuniemi had a 212 game.
In the semifinal contest, Scroggins left single pins in five frames en route to elimination with a 218. Koivuniemi rolled a 266 and Barnes a 235 game to set up the title match between long-time friends and tour roommates.
The tournament also raised more than $37,000 in the name of the tournament's namesake, the late PBA Hall of Famer Don Johnson, for Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus to help buy insulin pumps and medicine for families in need.
Chris Barnes Makes Sixth TV Appearance of Season at PBA Don Johnson Buckeye State Eliminator
Reigning Professional Bowlers Association Player of the Year and 10-time Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour titlist Chris Barnes of Double Oak, Texas, is among four finalists who survived a unique elimination format Saturday to advance to Sunday's ESPN-televised finals of the PBA Don Johnson Buckeye State Eliminator at Sequoia Pro Bowl.
Barnes, along with eight-time PBA Tour titlist Mika Koivuniemi, five-time titlist Mike Scroggins, and Rhino Page, who won his second career title earlier this season, survived three two-game elimination rounds where the lowest two-game total in each group of four players was eliminated from the tournament.
In Saturday's Round of 8, which determined the finalists, the 39-year-old Barnes defeated 12-time Tour titlist Tommy Jones 440-366. Looking for his first title of the season, it will be Barnes' sixth television appearance. His best finish was second in the PBA World Championship which opened the season last October and most recently finished fifth in last week's Etonic Marathon Open in Indianapolis.
"It's going to take better bowling and a little luck," said Barnes, who won last year's Columbus event. "Like the match I had with Tommy, I bowled well and he had a string or four five bad frames."
"Over the past week we've identified and worked through some things that I need to correct. I got into a situation last week where I was throwing the ball hard and not hitting it at release so it's just up to me to put it all together."
For the ESPN finals Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern, the four finalists will bowl one game on the same pair with the low scorer eliminated. The top three will bowl another game, with the low score eliminated and the final two survivors advancing to the title match. All of the finalists will have to negotiate a demanding scoring environment with different Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour lane conditions on each lane. The left lane will feature the Scorpion pattern and the right the Viper pattern.
The Buckeye State Eliminator is part of the PBA's 50th Anniversary season "Extreme Swing," which also includes the GEICO Plastic Ball Championship, Ultimate Scoring Championship, Etonic Marathon Open, and the GoRVing Match Play Championship. The creative format events are meant to test the greatest bowlers in the world in different areas of the game, provide television audiences with a fresh look while providing education on pertinent aspects of the game.
The official charity of the Don Johnson Buckeye State Eliminator is the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. Last year $31,526 was raised for the charity and all money raised this year will go to Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus to help buy insulin pumps and medicine for families in need.
Scroggins Leads Qualifying at PBA Don Johnson Buckeye State Eliminator
Five-time Lumber Liquidators Professional Bowlers Association Tour titlist Mike Scroggins of Amarillo, Texas, averaged 229.14 after the Round of 33 Friday to lead 16 players who will advance to elimination rounds in the Professional Bowlers Association Don Johnson Buckeye State Eliminator at Sequoia Pro Bowl.
With a 28-game 6,416 pinfall, Scroggins led qualifying by 10-pins over second place Bill O'Neill of Southampton, Pa., who led after Thursday’s competition.
"I was having some arm swing problems which I worked out after all the games we bowled last week (in the Etonic Marathon Open)," said the 44-year-old Scroggins, who is looking for his first Tour win this season. "I can't believe I took the lead."
The 16 remaining players will now compete in eliminator rounds beginning on Saturday where they will be grouped in foursomes based on their 28-game pinfall. Each elimination round will consist of two games with the lowest two-game pinfall in each group eliminated from the tournament. For the ESPN finals, which will take place Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern, four players will bowl one game on the same pair with the low scorer eliminated and so on until the final two survivors bowl for the title.
In addition to the unique format, players have to navigate through the Tour's demanding Scorpion (left lane) and Viper (right lane) conditions in the eliminator rounds, putting a premium on making accurate lane and ball adjustments.
Scroggins has come close to victory this season with two second place finishes and four television appearances.
"I'm feeling pretty confident. I was pretty consistent on both patterns, maybe 2-3 pins higher on the Scorpion pattern," the left-handed Scroggins added. "I think there's a huge advantage on my side, but I have twisters in my foursome. They are going to be able to open up the lanes."
"My greatest asset and my biggest liability is to find the right combination of moves to win, said last year's Columbus winner Chris Barnes of Double Oak, Texas who was 10th after Friday's competition. "However, if I don't pick the right combination early I lose. One good or bad break can mean more than the entire body of work in the games we bowled."
Bill O'Neill Leads PBA Don Johnson Buckeye State Eliminator
With a 3,204 14-game pinfall (228.8 average), Bill O'Neill of Southamption, Pa., led 33 players who advanced from Thursday's Round of 64 in the Professional Bowlers Association Don Johnson Buckeye State Eliminator at Sequoia Pro Bowl.
With six television appearances this season and a best finish of second (twice), O'Neill is coming off a fourth place finish in last week's Etonic Marathon Open in Indianapolis. He is still looking for his first career Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour title.
"I have just been bowling better than I ever have over the last three years," said the 27 year-old O'Neill who rolled a 299 in the final game of Thursday's second seven-game block. "I am being smarter with ball changes and moves--my equipment and the lane conditions just seem to be matching up for me right now."
O'Neill leads Hall of Famer and 32-time PBA Tour titlist Parker Bohn III of Jackson, N.J., in second by 42 pins.
Wes Malott of Pflugerville, Texas, who is the front-runner for 2008-09 PBA Player of the Year honors, went from 64th in the Thursday's first seven-game block on the PBA's Viper lane condition to 10th after rolling 1,744 (249.14 average) in Thursday's second seven-game block on the Scorpion condition. Malott won his third title of the season in last week's Etonic Marathon Open in Indianapolis.
"When you were in the position I was in after three games, all you can do is laugh and have some fun with it," Malott said. "I was 45 under (under 200 average) at one point, maybe coming off a big win and the media hype had something to do with that. The first few games, I just wasn't into it."
The 33 remaining players will bowl two additional rounds Friday to determine the top 16 who will compete in the eliminator rounds on Saturday.
For the eliminator rounds, bowlers will be grouped in foursomes based on 28-game pinfall. Each elimination round will consist of two games with the lowest two-game pinfall in each group eliminated from the tournament. For the ESPN finals, which will take place Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern, four players will bowl one game on the same pair with the low scorer eliminated and so on until the final two survivors bowl for the title.
In addition to the unique format, players have to navigate through the Tour's demanding Scorpion (left lane) and Viper (right lane) conditions in the Eliminator Rounds, putting a premium on making accurate lane and ball adjustments.
Wes Malott Wins PBA Etonic Marathon Open
After conquering one of the most challenging tournament formats in Lumber Liquidators Professional Bowlers Association Tour history, Wes Malott of Pflugerville, Texas, earned his sixth career title by winning the PBA Etonic Marathon Open Sunday at Woodland Bowl.
Malott defeated hometown favorite Ronnie Russell of Indianapolis, 248-195, in the championship match to win his third title of the year and take a commanding lead in the race for Player of the Year honors. He won a $35,000 first prize.
"That's the goal right now," Malott said of his run for Player of the Year. "This puts me in good position but I can't slack off --- there's Norm Duke, Patrick Allen and some others behind me so I've got to stay sharp."
The unique tournament format consisted of 54 games --- total pinfall with no match play --- over four days contested on six different PBA Tour lane condition patterns leading up to the stepladder finals. The long format and the use of PBA's Cheetah, Viper, Chameleon, Scorpion, Earl Anthony and Shark oil patterns was designed to test the competitors' stamina and versatility.
As the tournament leader, Malott earned the privilege of choosing the Scorpion oil pattern for the ESPN telecast. The Scorpion pattern incorporates a larger volume of oil on the lanes applied to a distance of 42 feet which often demands a more direct line.
"I consider myself to be one of the most versatile players out here and I don't want to be a one hit wonder," said the 32-year-old Malott. "I picked the Scorpion pattern because I've bowled well on it and I felt it would hold up the best during the course of the finals."
Earlier this season Malott won the Tour's Versatility Swing, which consisted of six championships on the different PBA lane conditioning patterns.
For the 29-year-old Russell it was his first television appearance and best finish in an individual Tour event. He also finished second in last season's PBA Exempt Doubles Classic with Joe Ciccone.
Prior to losing to Malott, Russell defeated Bill O'Neill, 27, of Southampton, Pa., 245-190, and in the semi-final match beat Hall of Famer Pete Weber of St. Ann, Mo., 248-216. Weber, who finished third and has yet to win this season, was making his second consecutive television appearance and third in the last four weeks. O'Neill, finishing fourth and still looking for his first Tour victory, was bowling on his sixth telecast of the season.
"For all three matches I felt exactly the same, but I probably needed to go to another ball, I'm not sure," Russell said. "I can't complain, I had a great week bowling in front of my family and all the hometown fans."
In the opening match, O'Neill defeated reigning PBA Player of the Year and 10-time Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour titlist Chris Barnes of Double Oak, Texas, 239-220. Barnes was also making his second consecutive television appearance and fifth overall this season, but also has yet to win this season.