Defending Champ Malott Eats Up “Shark” to Take Second Round Marathon Open Lead
Defending champion Wes Malott of Pflugerville, Texas, advanced from seventh place into the lead in the Lumber Liquidators Marathon Open at AMF Country Club Lanes Wednesday in a bid for his first title of the season in the tour's final event and a chance to play spoiler in the 2009-10 PBA Player of the Year race.
Malott, who won the 2008-09 PBA Player of the Year in the final event last year, averaged 246 as he finished Wednesday's demanding Shark round with an 18-game total of 4,434 pins and a 155-pin lead over Brad Angelo of Lockport, N.Y.
Twelve-time PBA champion Chris Barnes of Double Oak, Texas, was in third place with 4,274 pins followed by Sean Rash of Wichita, Kan., at 4,266 and Dave D'Entremont of Middleburg Heights, Ohio, at 4,261. None of the top five have won a title this season.
Malott, after taking last week off to tend to illnesses in his family, ate the Shark condition alive. He didn't have a game under 211 and six of his nine games were 242 or higher, including a 280 final game.
"I was looking forward to bowling the Plastic Ball Championship last week, but the night before the tournament, my son got sick and my wife took him to the hospital. While she was there, she got sick and wound up being admitted, so I thought it was my job to go home and take care of my family."
"While I was home, I found out a dear old friend isn't doing well, so I wanted to dedicate this week to him. Whenever I have gotten down on myself a little, I think about him and I've been able to refocus on what I need to do."
"One of my goals since I started to win out here is to get at least one title a year, and I don't have one yet this year," Malott said. "It's been an up-and-down year, but so far this week things are going well. I've got a little lead, but I'm not one to look ahead of myself, so I’'ll take it one day, one pattern at a time and we'll see."
"This is my last chance to make something out of this year," said Barnes, who is still looking for his first title of the season. "I had my struggles in the (Thunderbowl Lanes) arena (during the World Series of Bowling in Detroit in August), but other than that, it probably would have been a pretty good year."
"It's still early in the tournament," Barnes added. "One of the unique challenges of the Marathon Open format is that every day you have to come up with a new game plan. It's nice to have an event like this with multiple patterns and lots of games. By no means do two rounds determine anything, but this format will prove out who is the best player this week.”"
While the leaders duked it out, the only three players with a chance to win Player of the Year honors remained in contention. Walter Ray Williams Jr. of Ocala, Fla., and Bill O'Neill of Southampton, Pa., who are tied for the Player of the Year points lead, advanced to Thursday's third round in 14th and 29th places, respectively. Mike Scroggins of Amarillo, Texas, who is third in the race, also advanced in 33rd place.
If Williams and O'Neill both advance to Sunday's TV finals, the higher finisher would win the Player of the Year race. If one of the two makes it, that player would win. If neither make the TV show, Williams will win the title based on overall points for the reason unless Scroggins wins Sunday's titles - in which case he would become Player of the Year.
The top 44 players at the conclusion of the Cheetah and Shark rounds advance to the "cashers' rounds" Thursday where they will bowl two more seven-game rounds on the Viper and Chameleon lane conditions.
Over the course of the six-day event, the tournament leaders will bowl seven rounds, all on different lane conditioning patterns, to decide the top five players for the stepladder finals that will air Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern on ESPN. The tournament leader after 53 games will select the lane condition to be used for the TV finals.
Wolfe Takes First Round Lead in Lumber Liquidators Marathon Open with Near-Record 2,338 Total
Mike Wolfe of New Albany, Ind., averaged 259.78 for nine games to take the first round lead in the Lumber Liquidators Marathon Open at AMF Country Club Lanes Tuesday by seven pins over Sean Rash of Wichita, Kan.
Wolfe, a four-time Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour titlist, missed the nine-game PBA scoring record of 2,367 pins set by Walter Ray Williams Jr. in Tucson, Ariz., in 2004, by 29 pins, posting a 2,338 total on the PBA Cheetah lane condition - the first of seven different lane conditions that will be used in the Marathon Open.
"I just tried to make the ball not hook too much," Wolfe said. "I try to keep my ball reaction down the lane as close to the same as possible, pair after pair. The guys who seem to get into trouble usually hook the ball too much.
"I tend to like the shorter oil patterns (like the Cheetah pattern)," he added. "I tend to throw the ball too hard at times, which means I need to completely change my thought pattern for tomorrow. My history on the Shark pattern (the longest oil pattern) is probably one of my worst because it takes me too long to figure out what's going on. I've been working on that."
The entire field of 133 will bowl nine additional games on the long-oil Shark condition Wednesday, after which the top 44 bowlers will advance to seven-game rounds on the Viper and Chameleon lane conditions on Thursday.
"I'll get a couple different balls out of the bag, pay attention and try to stay in the hunt," Wolfe said.
Rash, also a four-time PBA Tour winner, also averaged 259 in posting a 2,331 pinfall total despite nursing a sore wrist that has plagued him for two months.
"I won here a couple of years ago on the Cheetah pattern, so knowing you're coming into this building and bowling on the Cheetah as the first pattern, you have a lot of confidence," Rash said. "When you throw lots of strikes, it's a lot of fun. I didn't have a single open the entire block."
"But there are five days and lots of bowling left. I'm probably safe to make first cut, maybe the second," he added, "but after that? I just hope I'll still be around, bowling on Sunday."
Chris Barnes of Double Oak, Texas, was third with a 2,311 total followed by Stevie Weber of Chalmette, La., at 2,302 and Eddie VanDaniker Jr. of Essex, Md., with 2,279 pins.
The Marathon Open is the final event of the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour's regular season, and one of its most demanding events. Over the course of five days, the tournament leaders will bowl seven rounds, all on different lane conditioning patterns, to decide the top five players for the stepladder finals that will air Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern on ESPN. The tournament leader after 53 games will select the lane condition to be used for the TV finals.
Amateur Brian Ziesig Defeats Jason Belmonte to Win PBA GEICO Mark Roth Plastic Ball Championship
Brian Ziesig of Levittown, N.Y., won the Professional Bowlers Association GEICO Mark Roth Plastic Ball Championship Sunday at AMF Babylon Lanes to become the first amateur to win a Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour event since 2002.
Ziesig rolled three strikes in the 10th frame in the championship match to tie Australian two-hander Jason Belmonte 247-247 in regulation which forced a one-ball, sudden-death roll-off that was won by Ziesig with a strike to Belmonte's nine-count in which he left the 7 pin.
"Whenever I tried to over-hook the ball, it seemed I wouldn't get the carry so those last few shots I paid special attention to avoiding that," Ziesig said. "Believe it or not I really wasn't that nervous so that helped me throw those shots the way I wanted to."
Ziesig became the first amateur to win a Tour title since Brett Wolfe won the 2002 United States Bowling Congress Masters.
"This is my 15 minutes of fame" said the 35-year-old Ziesig, who works for a local bowling supply company. "It's back to work tomorrow morning. To be able to accomplish this on national TV in front of a hometown crowd is really kind of a fantasy."
Ziesig, who earned $25,000 for the win, had been a Touring professional in the 1998, '99 and 2000 seasons with a previous best finish of 10th. He earned his way into the tournament field through a tour qualifying round earlier in the week.
The 26-year-old Belmonte, who earned $13,000 for second, was hoping to win his second career title having won The Bowling Foundation Long Island Classic here last year to become the first bowler to win a PBA Tour title using a two-handed delivery.
"The best you can hope for is to throw 10 good shots but I threw nine---what can you do?" said Belmonte, who finished second for the third time this season. "I left that 10 pin in the eighth frame because I got behind the ball too much and I just didn't get the break."
In the opening stepladder match, Wayne Garber of Modesto, Calif., defeated two-time Tour titlist Michael Michael Machuga of Erie, Pa., 258-245. Machuga earned $5,000 for fifth.
In the second match, the Tour's all-time career win leader with 47 titles, Walter Ray Williams Jr., defeated Garber 280-211. In the semi-final match Ziesig defeated Williams 255-237 to advance to the championship match.
William's third place finish was enough to put him in tie for the Player of the Year race with Bill O'Neill going into the final event of the season in Baltimore next week. Williams earned $8,000 for third and Garber $6,000 for fourth.
The Plastic Ball Championship required all players to use identical plastic bowling balls and is the one event on the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour that turns back the clock on ball technology creating an equalized playing field and eliminating the reliance on today’s high-powered equipment.
Jason Belmonte is Top Qualifier for PBA GEICO Mark Roth Plastic Ball Championship Finals
Australian two-hander Jason Belmonte earned the top seed for Sunday's stepladder finals of the Professional Bowlers Association GEICO Mark Roth Plastic Ball Championship Friday at AMF Babylon Lanes.
The 2008-09 Rookie of the Year had a 10-8 match play record and 8,081 overall pinfall total to edge out amateur Brian Ziesig of Levittown, N.Y., for the top spot. Ziesig, a former Tour player, qualified second for the finals with a 12-6 match play record and 8,070 pinfall.
The unique Plastic Ball Championship requires all players to use two specially-made Mark Roth plastic bowling balls incorporating 1970s-era technology. Sunday's finals will be telecast by ESPN at 2 p.m. Eastern.
For the tournament Belmonte bowled three 300s and two 299 games. He bowled one 300 Friday in addition to the 299s in which he left a 4 pin on the final shot of the first one and an 8 pin on the final shot of the second.
The record for most 300s in a PBA Tour event by an individual is four held by three bowlers---Dave D'Entremont, John Bauerle Jr. and Hall of Famer Walter Ray Williams Jr., who qualified as the No. 3 seed for Sunday's finals.
"The 300 in the first game really surprised me but the rest of the block went as I expected," said Belmonte of Friday's second nine-game match play block. "I had to hang in there as the block went on but then I got stronger toward the end.”"
Belmonte, who has two second-place finishes this season, won The Bowling Foundation Long Island Classic at AMF Babylon Bowl last season to become the first two-hander to win a Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour title.
"I love this place and apparently it loves me," Belmonte added. "Being the top seed is where I want to be."
The 35-year-old Ziesig, who earned his way into the field through Wednesday's tour qualifying round, bowled on Tour in the 1998, '99 and 2000 seasons with a best finish of 10th.
"I really prepared for this tournament by practicing the last four weeks with plastic equipment which probably is a little bit of an advantage over the other guys because they haven't had that opportunity," Ziesig said. "I've had tremendous support from the hometown fans so even with all that preparation it's way more than I could have imagined."
Williams, PBA's all-time leader in career Tour titles will be trying for his 48th title and third of the season having won the season opening Motor City Open and the United States Bowling Congress Masters in February. With one tournament remaining after the Plastic Ball Championship Williams is making a run at a record seventh Player of the Year honor.
Competing in the opening stepladder match will be No. 4 seed Wayne Garber of Modesto, Calif., trying for his first title against No. 5 seed and two-time Tour titlist Michael Machuga of Erie, Pa. Garber finished second in the Pepsi Red, White and Blue Classic presented by USBC earlier this season.
Two 300 Games Help Vault Belmonte Into Lead After Second Round
Powered by two 300 games and averaging 240.4, Australian two-hander Jason Belmonte led after two qualifying rounds Thursday in the Professional Bowlers Association GEICO Mark Roth Plastic Ball Championship at AMF Babylon Lanes.
Belmonte, the 2008-09 PBA Rookie of the Year, had a 3,366 14-game pinfall total to hold a 27-pin lead over the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour's all-time career titlist Walter Ray Williams Jr., in second with 3,339.
The field of 64 was cut to the top 32 players who will advance to match play beginning Friday morning.
For this tournament all players are required to use two specially-made Mark Roth plastic bowling balls incorporating 1970s-era technology.
Belmonte became the first two-handed bowler to win a Tour event when he won The Bowling Foundation Long Island Classic at AMF Babylon Lanes last season.
Belmonte's 300 games were the first he's bowled with plastic equipment and each came in the sixth game of both seven-game blocks Thursday.
"This is a different tournament but matching up well with the center means a lot regardless," said the 26-year-old Belmonte. In both blocks (Thursday) I started out slow and was feeling more comfortable towards the end but I would never have expected to throw two 300 games, especially with plastic equipment."
The 50-year-old Williams, who owns 47 Tour titles, is looking for his third title of the season having won the season-opening Motor City Open and his second United States Bowling Congress Masters title in February. He is currently second in the Player of the Year Race four points behind Bill O'Neill.
"I had a nice reaction all day and really didn't change much of anything," Williams said. "For me it played like a track shot from the old lacquer days."
PBA Hall of Famer and 14-time Tour titlist Johnny Petraglia and his son Johnny Jr. qualified seventh and 26th respectively, the first time the pair have made a cut together.
"I wish they were all plastic ball tournaments," said the 63-year-old Petraglia Sr. "Bowling in a tournament with my son and named after Mark Roth - it doesn't get much better than that."
After a tie for the 32nd and final cut position, Chris Loschetter defeated Steve Harmann in a one-game roll-off 223-213 to advance.
In addition to using equipment that emphasizes a player's ability to make adjustments without being able to rely on the technology built into today's more advanced balls, requiring all players to use the same type of equipment also equalizes the playing field.
After Friday morning's match play round the field will be cut to 16 for another match play round Friday evening which will determine the top five who will advance to Sunday's finals to be telecast live on ESPN at 2 p.m. Eastern.
Brian Kretzer Ends 167-Event Winless Streak, Claims First PBA Title in Go RVing Match Play Championship
Brian Kretzer of Dayton, Ohio, ended his 167-event winless streak Sunday, defeating 13-time Professional Bowlers Association title winner Patrick Allen of Wesley Chapel, Fla., 629-566, in the three-game title match of the Go RVing Match Play Championship at Norwich Bowling and Entertainment Center Sunday.
Kretzer, at age 43, became the sixth Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour competitor to win his first singles title during the 2009-10 season.
Kretzer, the No. 27 seed entering the 64-player single-elimination match play tournament, took a 192-185 lead after the first game, but ran away from Allen, the No. 21 seed, in the second game, 241-167. With an 81-pin lead going into the final game, it was a matter of filling frames. Allen's 214-196 win in the third game wasn't enough.
"It's been a long time," Kretzer said. "I'm happy and I know my mom's happy. It's nice to win, whether it's your first time or your 10th. I had a lot of success as an amateur before I joined the PBA, but this kind of completes my career. Now I've won at every level."
Kretzer said his new-found success was a matter of turning back the clock. "I went back to what I was doing in the '90s when I was an amateur," he said. "I was carrying the ball through my approach instead of pushing. Now I can feel the ball again. I can do what I want to do with it. I could always hook the ball, but now I can play straighter, too."
Playing straighter was critical because the Go RVing Match Play Championship used a different lane condition on each lane. The left lane on each pair used a long-oil Shark pattern while the right lane used a shorter Cheetah lane condition. Playing straighter on the Cheetah lane was the key to Kretzer's victory, and the primary reason Allen struggled.
"The Cheetah lane was a little different than yesterday, but I threw a lot of bad shots," Allen said. "I never got comfortable on that lane, and when you are playing two extremely different angles, if you're not comfortable on one lane, you're not going to be comfortable on either."
"Brian took advantage. When you get a guy down in a tournament like this, you're supposed to stomp on him, and that's what he did.”"
Kretzer and Allen both grew up in the game as high-stakes amateurs. "We've know each other since we were kids," Kretzer said. "We crossed paths a lot, even though we didn't bowl each other head-to-head very often. He went on to win 13 PBA titles and I hadn't won until today, but I do have one thing over him now," Kretzer smiled. "He's never beaten me in a title match."
The Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour now heads to West Babylon, N.Y., where the GEICO Mark Roth Plastic Ball Championship gets underway Wednesday at AMF Babylon Lanes.
Former "Action Players" Allen, Kretzer Advance to PBA's Go RVing Match Play Championship Title Match
Patrick Allen, a 13-time Professional Bowlers Association title winner from Wesley Chapel, Fla., and Brian Kretzer of Dayton, Ohio, a non-title winner, advanced to Sunday's Go RVing Match Play Championship title match at Norwich Bowling and Entertainment Center Saturday.
Allen, who entered the "March Madness" style 64-player bracket elimination tournament as the No. 21 seeded player, defeated No. 57 Ryan Ciminelli of Cheektowaga, N.Y., 601-530, in their three-game, total pinfall semifinal round match Saturday night.
Kretzer, the No. 27 seed, rallied from a 22-pin deficit to eliminate No. 50 Kent, 625-581, settting up a battle of one-time nationally-recognized "action players" for the $25,000 top prize. The three-game, total pinfall match will be televised on ESPN at 1 p.m. Eastern
The Match Play Championship was the first event of the 2009-10 Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour season to use a different lane condition on each lane. The left lane on each pair used a long-oil Shark pattern while the right lane used a shorter Cheetah lane condition. Allen won the first PBA Tour event ever to use the dual-pattern system in Reno, Nev., in 2009.
But Saturday night, Allen and Ciminelli - both left-handers - struggled to solve the Cheetah lane. In the opening game, Allen converted single-pin spares on four of his first shots on the Cheetah lane, but Ciminelli failed to mark in any of his five frames on the right lane. Allen won the opening game, 188-128, and was never seriously challenged even though he didn't throw back-to-back strikes until the 10th frame of his second game.
"Patrick figured it out a game ahead of me," Ciminelli said. "That's why he is who he is. You can't give a guy like that 60 pins and expect to beat him."
"The right (Cheetah) lane played differently that it did all week," Allen said. "But I finally used my brain, moved left with a different ball, and I was able to hold him off. I'll have an open mind about what the lanes may be like tomorrow.”"
In the second semifinal match, between a pair of right-handers, both managed the Cheetah lane, but had issues with the Shark until Kretzer solved it.
"I figured something out at the end of the first game, and I was able to take a big lead in the second," Kretzer said. "He didn't have a very good look on that lane, and even though I had some problems getting out of my own way in the last game, I was able to hang on."
Kent won the opener, 211-189, but Kretzer struck on seven of his first eight shots in the second for a 230-178 win, taking a 30-pin lead into the final game. Kent threw three strikes in a row late in the game, but missed the headpin on the Shark lane in the 10th frame and opened to end his comeback hopes.
"I've been on both sides of the coin," Kent said. "He made the shots. I didn't. When he figured out the left lane, I knew I was in trouble."
"It's going to be fun on Sunday," Kretzer said. "Patrick isn't going to give it to me. We've been going at each other since we were kids. We'll see who figures it out."
Allen, Ciminelli, Kretzer, Kent Still in Hunt as Upsets Dominate Go RVing Match Play Championships
Upsets are no surprise when "March Madness" sweeps the nation, but the NCAA basketball realm has never seen anything like the parade of upsets that hit the Professional Bowlers Association's Go RVing Match Play Championship Thursday and Friday at Norwich Bowling and Entertainment Center.
Patterned after the NCAA basketball brackets, the Go RVing Match Play Championship seeded 64 of the world's top bowlers into a single-elimination match play competition, and after two days of best-of-seven-game competition, not a single player seeded among the top 20 was still alive in the competition.
After Friday night's Round of 8, No. 21 seed Patrick Allen of Wesley Chapel, Fla.; No. 27 Brian Kretzer of Dayton, Ohio; No. 50 Doug Kent of Newark, N.Y., and No. 57 Ryan Ciminelli of Cheektowaga, N.Y., were still in the chase for the $25,000 top prize, which will be decided in a three-game, total pinfall match televised on ESPN Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern.
The two finalists will be decided Saturday night in three-game matches pitting Allen against Ciminelli in a battle of left-handers, and Kent against Kretzer in a duel of right-handers. Allen, 39, is a 13-time PBA Tour titlist. Kent, 43, has won 10 titles. Kretzer, 43, and Ciminelli, 24, have yet to win a PBA title.
Ciminelli, who advanced out of the Tour Qualifying Round to make it into the tournament as the No. 57 seed, eliminated No. 17 Jason Couch of Clermont, Fla. - the highest remaining seed - in Friday's Round of 8, 4-2.
Earlier in the day, No. 2 seed Bill O'Neill of Southampton, Pa., was the last top 10 seed to survive, but his bid for a third title this season ended in a 4-1 loss to Kent in the Round of 16. O'Neill's 239-237 win in the third of their five games was the one of only two games Kent lost in the first four rounds of competition in the dual lane condition contest (the left lane on each pair of lanes was conditioned with the PBA Shark pattern and the right lane used the Cheetah pattern).
"I'm 16-2 and I can't explain it, but at this point, it doesn't mean a thing," Kent said. "Win or lose, I'm still going to retire at the end of the season. I want to win; there's nothing better than winning, but I've worked hard for 20 years to get to the point where I can retire.
"I haven't felt any pressure the past couple of years," Kent continued. "I've been bowling well, but I don't have the revolution rate these young kids have. The power players are dominating today and I can't strike with them. My 200s don't keep up with their 240s."
The Round of 32 Friday morning claimed three top 10 seeds. No. 37 Nathan Bohr of Wichita, Kan., toppled No. 5 Mike Scroggins of Amarillo, Texas, 4-2; Kretzer eliminated No. 6 Jason Belmonte of Australia, 4-2, and No. 39 Stuart Williams of England bounced No. 7 Tommy Jones of Simpsonville, S.C., 4-1.
"I've been bowling good for a month," said Kretzer, who finished second in the Etonic Don Johnson Eliminator two weeks ago in Columbus, Ohio. "I had been working on things that weren't working, so I went home and looked at tapes of what I was going when I was bowling well as an amateur, and went back to what I was doing then."
Allen, who has been bothered by a knee injury all season, said he advanced "because I had a couple of gifts given to me. There were a couple of situations where my opponents didn't perform when they needed to, and in this format, that's huge. I kept battling and found ways to win."
Ciminelli, a streaky player who is trying for his fourth TV appearance of the season, admitted he has been able to capitalize on situations that favor his game.
"When there's nothing on the left side of the lane, these guys will eat your lunch," he said. "I'm not good enough to compete with them, so I have to jump on situations when I get a favorable look. I'm working hard at trying to slow down so I can get my ball to react on the Shark pattern. So far this week I've been able to do that, so I must be progressing."
Three of Top Four Seeds Upset in PBA's Go RVing Match Play Championship Round of 64
Top-seeded Walter Ray Williams Jr., defending champion Chris Barnes and reigning Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour Player of the Year Wes Malott were upset victims as the Go RVing Match Play Championship got underway Thursday at Norwich Bowling and Entertainment Center.
Among the top four seeds in the PBA Tour's version of "March Madness," only No. 2 Bill O'Neill of Southampton, Pa., survived the opening round. And O'Neill needed a double in the 10th frame of game seven to complete a come-from-behind, 4-3 win over No. 63 seed David O'Sullivan of Orlando, Fla., in their best-of-seven-game match.
Williams, a two-time winner this season and the PBA Tour's 2009-10 points leader from Ocala, Fla., was knocked out of the 64-player single-elimination bracket competition by No. 64 seed Justin Warhol of Sound Beach, N.Y., 4-1. Malott, the No. 3 seed, was eliminated by No. 62 seed Ryan Abel of Bel Aire, Kan., while Barnes, the No. 4 seed from Double Oak, Texas, lost a 4-1 decision to No. 61 Alex Aguiar of Dartmouth, Mass.
"I had nothing at the start, but I made a couple of moves and suddenly I couldn't miss the pocket," said the 31-year-old Warhol, a bowling pro shop operator on Long Island. After advancing out of the Tour Qualifying Round Wednesday to win a spot in the Round of 64, he had laughingly said he planned to show up Thursday, bowl four games against Williams, pack up and head for home.
"I was trying to be modest and not say anything crazy," Warhol said after his win. "I knew who I was bowling. Walter Ray is the top-ranked bowler in the world. But anything can happen in a seven-game match. I got matched up with the lane conditions and he didn't. The more comfortable I got, the more I felt like I could win."
After losing the first game to Williams, 205-168, Warhol won the next four, 234-194, 198-191, 194-177 and 254-175, to eliminate the 50-year-old, 47-time PBA Tour champion.
Aguiar, a 30-year-old amateur, was equally dominant in ousting the tournament's defending champion. Aguiar won the first game, 214-191; lost the second to Barnes, 238-213; and won the final three games, 279-231, 268-214 and 254-213.
"It wasn't a surprise to me," Aguiar grinned afterward. "I'm just happy to beat one of the best players in the world. I felt good this morning. I got matched up early and everything fell into place."
"I have no fear of bowling anyone," he added. "It's just a game. You win some, you lose some. There's no sense having fear. I've had some mild success here in Norwich before. I've made it into the top 64 all three years I've bowled here. I just don't have the ability to bowl on tour full-time because I have a wife and little one at home."
Abel, a 26-year-old former collegiate bowler, jumped into a 3-0 lead over Malott, but the Pflugerville, Texas, favorite rallied to win the next two games before Abel put the match away, 245-228, in game six.
"I made it interesting," Abel said. "My focus was just making good shots and not worrying about him. I try not to watch what my opponent is doing. But it was fun."
"I wasn't worried," Abel said of Malott's rally. "I knew I had a good look. It was just getting the left lane (Shark lane condition) figured out. I had no problem on the right lane (Cheetah pattern)."
In other significant Round of 64 upsets, No. 50 Doug Kent of Newark, N.Y., eliminated No. 15 Norm Duke of Clermont, Fla., 4-0; No. 54 Cassidy Schaub of Polk, Ohio, toppled No. 11 Mike Fagan of Patchogue, N.Y.; No. 57 Ryan Ciminelli of Cheektowaga, N.Y., swept No. 8 Tom Smallwood of Saginaw, Mich., 4-0; and No. 56 Tom Baker, a four-time PBA Senior Tour Player of the Year from King, N.C., bounced No. 9 Rhino Page of Dade City, Fla., 4-2.
Among favorites advancing were No. 5 seed Mike Scroggins of Amarillo, Texas, a 4-1 winner of No. 60 Matt O'Grady of South Amboy, N.J.; No. 6 Jason Belmonte of Australia, 4-1 over No. 59 Anthony LaCaze of Melrose Park, Ill., and No. 7 Tommy Jones of Simpsonville, S.C., defeated No. 58 Jesse Buss of Wichita, Kan., 4-1.
Thursday's winners will continue competition in Friday's best-of-seven-game Rounds of 32, 16 and 8. The four survivors will be paired for three-game, total pinfall matches Saturday evening to determine the two finalists who will square off for the $25,000 top prize in Sunday's three-game finale on ESPN at 1 p.m. Eastern.
Scroggins Tops Home-State Favorite Kretzer to Win Eighth Title in Etonic Don Johnson Eliminator
Mike Scroggins of Amarillo, Texas, won his eighth career title and second of the 2009-10 season in the Professional Bowlers Association's Etonic Don Johnson Eliminator finals at Sequoia Pro Bowl Sunday, surviving a 10th-frame error to edge home-state favorite Brian Kretzer of Dayton, Ohio, 206-195, in the championship match.
Scroggins, 45, put together three strikes in the middle of the final game to pull away from Kretzer, but when he left and missed a 7 pin in the 10th frame, he gave Kretzer a chance to strike out for a tie. Kretzer got a break when he kicked out the 6 pin for his first strike in the 10th, but then he left the 2-4-5-8 on his second shot to end his hopes for his first title.
"I didn't miss a 7 pin all week," Scroggins said later. "I just got the ball a little left. I knew I missed it as soon as I let it go, and then I sat down and starting thinking about a roll-off."
"After finishing second in the U.S. Open last week, I wasn't expecting much," the 45-year-old Scroggins said. "But I got lined up after the first seven games and went from nowhere to somewhere."
With his second win of the year, Scroggins has become a candidate for PBA Player of the Year honors heading into the final three events of the season.
"I'm just trying to follow in Walter Ray Williams Jr.'s footsteps," he grinned. "He's been setting an example for us older guys."
Williams, at age 50, also is a two-time winner this season. Bill O'Neill, Williams and Scroggins are one-two-three in the PBA Player of the Year point standings.
Scroggins and Kretzer eliminated Finland's Osku Palermaa, who had the high score in the first round, to reach the title match. In the second game, Palermaa lost his pocket just long enough for Scroggins and Kretzer to sail past him. Scroggins had a string of seven strikes on his way to a 254 game, Kretzer almost matched him with a six-bagger for a 245 and Palermaa put together a late string of four strikes for a 211.
Reigning PBA Player of the Year Wes Malott of Pflugerville, Texas, was the first player eliminated after bowling a 195 in the opening Eliminator game. Palermaa led the first round with a 233, Kretzer posted a 211 and Scroggins a 203 game.
During Sunday's finals, Jimmy Johnson, son of the late PBA Hall of Famer after whom the tournament is named, and his wife Minda presented a check to Nationwide Children's Hospital of Columbus and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for $40,826. The 2010 contribution brings the total raised during the tournament for Nationwide Children's Hospital to more than $100,000 over the past three years.
The Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour will take a week off during NCAA conference basketball playoffs week before returning to action in its own version of "March Madness," the Go RVing Match Play Championship March 17-21 at Norwich Bowling and Entertainment Center in Norwich, Conn.
Malott Heads Field of Finalists in Etonic Don Johnson Eliminator
Reigning PBA Player of the Year Wes Malott will take on a diverse field in the Professional Bowlers Association's Etonic Don Johnson Eliminator finals at Sequoia Pro Bowl Sunday, including Ohio native Brian Kretzer, U.S. Open runner-up Mike Scroggins and Finland’s two-handed star, Osku Palermaa.
Kretzer, Malott, Scroggins and Palermaa emerged Saturday as survivors of three rounds of elimination games by dominating their respective four-player groups.
Kretzer, a 43-year-old veteran who has bowled 166 Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour events without winning a title, eliminated Mika Koivuniemi, Mike DeVaney and Michael Haugen Jr. to win his bracket. He topped Haugen, the top seed in his bracket, 221-210, in the final game for a 659-650 come-from-behind win in the three-game total pinfall Eliminator round.
"Winning out here isn't easy," Kretzer said. "If (a title) comes, it comes, but I'm not concerned about it. I don't make that many TV shows, so it'll be exciting, and to do it this close to home will make it a little extra special."
Palermaa, who bowled in the tournament on a PBA Commissioner's Exemption, topped Sean Rash, Brad Angelo and Ryan Shafer to win his group. The 28-year-old two-handed player won the Dubai Open a week ago in the United Arab Emirates, bowled a weekend tournament in Barcelona, Spain, and then made a quick stop in Sweden on his way to Columbus. In his only previous American television appearance, he finished fifth in the 2004 U.S. Open as an amateur.
"That was a learning experience," Palermaa said. "My goal in being here is to get a chance to bowl full-time on the PBA Tour next year. To be the best, you have to bowl against the best. When I’m bowling my best, I can beat anyone."
Malott earned his spot in the finals with a 700-697 win over non-titlist Steve Harman of Indianapolis after topping Tommy Jones and Mike Fagan in the first two Eliminator rounds. The Pflugerville, Texas, resident has had a solid year, but has yet to win a title in the 2009-10 Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour season.
"I've been fighting my timing. I've been close a couple of times, but this year things haven't been falling my way. Last year, things went right for me," Malott said. "It's frustrating. It's amazing how fast momentum changes in sports. But I have some confidence going into the show Sunday. I feel like I'm close to 100 percent compared to where I have been. I hope I can get a win. I’m missing that."
Scroggins, the only left-hander to make the 16-player Eliminator Round, overcame a 35-pin deficit after one game to cruise past non-titlist Joe Bailey of Doylestown, Ohio, 624-563, for the final berth in Sunday's finals. He also eliminated Colombia’s Andres Gomez and Bill O'Neill in his first two Eliminator rounds. Scroggins won the Red, White and Blue Open presented by USBC in December and finished second to O’Neill in the U.S. Open last Sunday. He came into the Eliminator tired, but filled with confidence.
"The U.S. Open kinda drains you," Scroggins said, "but the 28 qualifying games here actually helped me out. After the first seven games, I starting getting my legs back under me, and after bowling the U.S. Open last week, it kinda felt like bowling league back home. The scores were pretty high."
The Eliminator format took a toll quickly on two of the top four seeds. Rash got off to a slow start in Group A before rolling a 266 game to finish his round, but his 622 three-game series wasn't enough to overcome an early 57-pin deficit. In Group B, Jones' 617 series wasn't enough to survive the first round. O'Neill was knocked out of Group D after posting a 537 series in the second round. Haugen was the only top seed to make it to the final round before losing in Group C to Kretzer.
All four group winners will meet in Sunday's live ESPN finals starting at 12:30 p.m. Eastern, bowling concurrently in the first game. The player with the lowest game will be eliminated. The three survivors will bowl a second game, with another player eliminated. The two survivors will then bowl for the title and a $25,000 first prize.
Rash Earns Top Seed as PBA's Etonic Don Johnson Eliminator Heads into Eliminator Rounds
Sean Rash of Wichita, Kan., charged out of sixth place to earn the top seeding position for Eliminator Rounds in the Professional Bowlers Association's Etonic Don Johnson Eliminator at Sequoia Pro Bowl Friday, averaging 229.5 over 28 qualifying games including a 300 game.
Rash topped the field of 30 with a total of 6,426 pins, holding off Tommy Jones of Simpsonville, S.C., for the top qualifying position by 14 pins. Jones had a 6,412 total. Rash and Jones will be top seeds in two of the four Eliminator brackets; also earning top seeds were first round qualifying leader Michael Haugen Jr. of Carefree, Ariz., and U.S. Open champion Bill O'Neill of Southampton, Pa.
Two-time defending Eliminator champion Chris Barnes of Double Oak, Texas, dropped to 22nd place and missed the cut for Saturday’s Eliminator Rounds.
Rash, a four-time PBA Tour winner who hasn't won a title since 2007, said he went home last weekend after finishing 115th in the U.S. Open and worked with his former Wichita State University coach, Mark Lewis, to try to break out of a recent slump.
"We figured out some things I did when I was successful out here and worked on some bad habits I had developed," Rash said. "After my lessons, I got in some good practice and came into the tournament confident in what I wanted to do, and I threw a bunch of strikes."
"At this level, there are 64 guys who can win on any one day, so for me, the mental aspect was just to make a cut. I'm very pleased today with where I'm at, but tomorrow all of the pinfall is wiped out and we start over. In a three-game match, anything can happen. You can't take anything for granted, but I like this format. I used to bowl in survival events like this when I was an amateur. So tomorrow I'll stay aggressive and take it from there."
The surviving field to the 16 players will be seeded into groups of four for Saturday's Eliminator Rounds. In each of three Eliminator rounds, the bowler with the lowest three-game, total pinfall score will be eliminated, and the winner of each group will advance to Sunday's live ESPN finals starting at 12:30 p.m. Eastern. In Sunday's finals, the player with the lowest game bowled each round will be eliminated until the champion is decided.
Harman Jumps from 14th to First as PBA Etonic Don Johnson Eliminator Field is Cut to 30
Third-year touring player Steve Harman jumped from 14th place into the lead in the Etonic Don Johnson Eliminator Thursday at Sequoia Pro Bowl, averaging 240.86 over 14 qualifying games to take a 45-pin lead over first-round leader Michael Haugen Jr. of Carefree, Ariz.
Harman, who is trying for his first Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour title, averaged 255 during the second round in his best performance of the season, finishing with a 3,372 pinfall total. Haugen, a two-time PBA Tour title winner, had 3,327 pins.
Bill O'Neill of Southampton, Pa., who won the U.S. Open Sunday in Indianapolis for his first major title and second of the 2009-10 season, was in third place with 3,273 pins followed by Brian Kretzer of Dayton, Ohio, at 3,249 and Andres Gomez of Colombia at 3,220.
"It was one of those nights. I really can't explain it, but it was a big confidence booster for me," the 36-year-old Harman said. "I got off to a bad start this year in the World Series of Bowling. I got down in the dumps, but lately I've been bowling pretty well. Tonight I caught a couple of good breaks in the middle of big strings of strikes in the first couple of games. Then I made a ball change, moved way inside and it seemed like I had the whole lane to work with. Every time I hit the 1-3 pocket, all of the pins fell."
Two-time defending champion Chris Barnes of Double Oak, Texas, was tied for 14th place after 14 games in his bid for a third straight title in Columbus. Jason Couch of Clermont, Fla., is the most recent of five players who have won the same event three consecutive times. Couch won the PBA Tournament of Champions in 1999, 2000 and 2002 (the event was not contested in 2001).
The biggest game of the night was the tournament's only 300 by Eugene McCune of Munster, Ind., in the final game of the night. The perfect game moved him into 29th place, keeping his title hopes alive as the field of 64 was trimmed to 30.
The top 30 will bowl two more seven-game qualifying rounds Friday to narrow the field to the 16 players who will be seeded into four groups of four for Saturday's Eliminator Rounds. In each of three Eliminator rounds, the bowler with the lowest three-game, total pinfall score will be eliminated.
Saturday's four surviving players will advance to Sunday's live ESPN finals starting at 12:30 p.m. Eastern. In Sunday's finals, the player with the lowest game bowled each round will be eliminated until the champion is decided.
Haugen Takes First Round Lead in Etonic Don Johnson Eliminator
Michael Haugen Jr. of Carefree, Ariz., after battling injuries the past three seasons, charged into the first round lead in the Etonic Don Johnson Eliminator Thursday at Sequoia Pro Bowl, averaging 247.43 for seven games to take a four-pin lead over 2010 U.S. Open champion Bill O'Neill of Southampton, Pa.
Haugen, a 43-year-old two-time Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour title winner, posted a seven-game total of 1,732 pins in his bid for his first title since winning the 2008 PBA Tournament of Champions. O'Neill, who won the U.S. Open Sunday in Indianapolis for his second career and 2009-10 title, finished with 1,728 pins.
"I've been struggling a little this year," Haugen said, "but I was really looking forward to bowling here in Columbus. I bowled straight across the center today, from the low end to the high end, and the lanes hooked a little more as I moved. I was able to throw the ball hard and let it hook, and that was nice for me."
"I've been bowling pretty well. I bowled well at USBC Masters and at the U.S. Open, but this week the pins are falling," Haugen added. "I don't know why. Some weeks the pins fall, sometimes they don't. Sometimes it's just a matter of waiting to catch a lane condition that works for you."
In third place was Tommy Jones of Simpsonville, S.C., with a 1,634 total followed by Ken Simard of Greenville, S.C., at 1,629 and Rhino Page of Dade City, Fla., at 1,619. Simard made it into the field of 64 when Pete Weber of St. Ann, Mo., withdrew after hurting his back during a practice session on Tuesday.
Following an additional seven-game qualifying round Thursday night, the top 30 will advance to two more seven-game rounds on Friday. Those 30 will then be trimmed to the top 16 who will be seeded into four groups of four for Saturday's Eliminator Rounds.
In the Eliminator rounds, the bowler with the lowest three-game, total pinfall score will be eliminated. After three rounds, the surviving player in each of the four groups will advance to Sunday's live ESPN finals starting at 12:30 p.m. Eastern. In three televised rounds Sunday, the player with the lowest game bowled will be eliminated until the champion is decided.