(Courtesy of Professional Bowlers Association)
El Paso, TX (Sports Network) - After a one-week break, the Denny�s PBA Tour returns with the 2008 Bayer Classic, Feb. 6-10 at Oasis Lanes in El Paso, Texas. This week marks the second consecutive season and the third time in the last four seasons Oasis Lanes has hosted a Denny�s PBA Tour stop after the West Texas town had not hosted a stop since 1993.
Mika Koivuniemi will look to successfully defend his title after defeating Chris Barnes in the title match of last season�s Sun City Classic. The only other exempt bowler to win in El Paso is Parker Bohn III, who is also the only bowler to win twice in the city after capturing the 2005 El Paso Classic and the 1992 El Paso Open.
Two exempt bowlers have withdrawn from this week�s event - Wes Malott and Jack Jurek - giving 11 PBA members a spot in the Round of 64 through Wednesday�s Denny�s PBA Tour Qualifying Round.
H&R BLOCK TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS RECAP
In what was one of the oddest Sundays in recent PBA history, both the H&R Block Tournament of Champions and PBA Exempt Doubles Classic championship rounds two weeks ago saw shocking finishes which left the crowd at Red Rock Lanes in Las Vegas stunned.
The morning started with the H&R Block Tournament of Champions final round, where Chris Barnes broke a seven-match TV losing streak with a win over Ryan Shafer in the semifinals to set up a battle with top-seed Michael Haugen Jr., who was making his Tournament of Champions debut. Barnes looked like he was well on his way to his third career Major after cruising past Shafer, 257-205, and opening the title match with five strikes in the first six frames. With Haugen struggling, opening twice in the first five frames, Barnes opened up what seemed like an insurmountable 52-pin lead after six frames.
What followed will go down as one of the greatest comebacks in Denny�s PBA Tour history and sadly saw one of the most costly mistakes in recent history. While Barnes was losing his carry, Haugen came surging back to strike five consecutive times from the seventh frame on, putting some pressure on Barnes. In the ninth frame, Barnes succumbed to that pressure, missing a 10-pin conversion which ultimately doomed him. Barnes still had a chance to double in the 10th to win, but a nine-spare to open the frame meant he had to strike to tie the match. Instead, Barnes left the 2-pin and Haugen celebrated his first career Major title.
PBA EXEMPT DOUBLES CLASSIC RECAP
Just an hour after the T of C finals, the crowd at Red Rock Lanes had settled into another championship round, getting treated to finals of the first doubles event on the Denny�s PBA Tour since 2001. Just when it seemed like things had settled down, an even more stunning turn of events took place in the title match between the teams of Joe Ciccone-Ronnie Russell and top-seed Michael Fagan-Danny Wiseman.
Ciccone and Russell, who were each looking for their first career titles, looked relaxed and poised in defeating Chris Barnes and Wes Malott in the first match and Bill O�Neill and Mike Scroggins in the second match. A back- and-forth title match ensued, with Fagan and Wiseman taking the early lead, but Fagan giving it right back with opens in the sixth and eighth frames. After Fagan rebounded to spare and strike in the 10th, Ciccone stepped up needing a strike and nine-spare to win the match for his team. Ciccone struck with his first ball to get what seemed like the hard part out of the way, but he left the 2- and 5-pins with his second shot and the match looked headed to a roll-off.
What happened next left the Red Rock Lanes crowd - along with Fagan and Wiseman - with their jaws dropped even further than they had been two hours before. Ciccone missed both pins to the left, giving Fagan and Wiseman the 210-208 win. The victory marked the first of Fagan�s career and was the 12th for Wiseman, who won for the first time since the 2004 USBC Masters.
THIS WEEK'S SCHEDULE
The 2008 Bayer Classic features a single-elimination match play format with four bowlers battling it out for the title Sunday, Feb. 10 at 12:30 p.m. EST. The event began Wednesday with the Denny�s PBA Tour Qualifying Round followed by the official PBA Practice Session. The top 11 PBA members and top amateurs advance to Thursday�s Round of 64 which features two seven-game qualifying blocks. The top 32 will then advance to match play Friday which features the Rounds of 32, 16 and 8.
Saturday is a day for the fans with PBA Pro-Ams and Fan Day taking place at Oasis Lanes at 1 and 4 p.m. and at Fiesta Lanes at 2 and 5 p.m. The live ESPN- televised finals take place at 12:30 p.m. EST with the winner taking home $25,000 and an exemption for the 2008-09 season.
DID YOU KNOW?
Michael Fagan became just the ninth bowler to win a doubles event for his first career Denny�s PBA Tour title and the first since Jason Hurd teamed up with Johnny Petraglia to win the 1999 National Senior Doubles.
Fagan is just the fourth to accomplish the feat in a doubles event that did not feature senior bowlers. The last time a first-timer won a touring-pros only doubles event was Gil Sliker, who teamed up with Mike Durbin to win the 1983 Showboat Doubles Classic.
QUITE AN ACCOMPLISHMENT
Michael Haugen Jr. joined some elite company in winning the H&R Block Tournament of Champions, becoming just the second bowler in history to win his first career Denny�s PBA Tour title and the Tournament of Champions for their second title in the same season.
Haugen, who snapped a 199-event winless streak with his first career title in the 2007 Lake County Indiana Classic, joined Joe Joseph as the only bowlers to accomplish the feat. Joseph won his first career title in the 1962 St. Louis Coca-Cola PBA Open. Just four weeks later, Joseph won the first-ever PBA Tournament of Champions in Indianapolis. A total of 41 Tournament of Champions events were held between Joseph�s feat and Haugen�s repeating of that feat in 2008.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR RACE HEATS UP
Over the first half of the 2007-08 Denny�s PBA Tour it looked as if Walter Ray Williams Jr. might run away with his record-breaking seventh PBA Player of the Year award. With recent surges by Patrick Allen, Chris Barnes, Michael Haugen Jr. and Wes Malott, among others, the race has tightened.
Haugen�s win in the H&R Block Tournament of Champions gave him 24 points and pushed him into second in the race, just four points behind Williams, who hasn�t made a championship round in the second half of the season. Just six points separate the next three bowlers, as Allen sits third with 38, Malott is fourth with 34 and Barnes is fifth with 32. With two Major events remaining, the race is still wide open.
MOTEL 6 ROLL TO RICHES HALF FULL
With Michael Haugen Jr. winning the H&R Block Tournament of Champions, the six-bowler field for the 2008 Motel 6 Roll to Riches is half-full. USBC Masters champion Sean Rash and Haugen will join the two other Major winners this season plus Doug Kent, who was voted in as the defending champion. The final competitor will be chosen by fans through a series of pods based on the PBA World Point Rankings (through the Motel 6 Dick Weber Open).
Bowlers have been placed in four pods with the winners of the four pods going into a final vote to determine the sixth bowler. Fans can log on to PBA.com this week to vote for the second pod between Patrick Allen, Chris Loschetter and Mike Wolfe (Haugen is also in the pod but already eligible for the event). The winner of last week�s pod which featured Brad Angelo, Rhino Page, Pete Weber and Walter Ray Williams Jr. will be announced during the live ESPN- televised championship round of this week�s Bayer Classic.
Both of this season�s Major winners captured their first career Major title as Sean Rash took home career Major No. 1 in the 2007 USBC Masters and Michael Haugen Jr. won his first in the 2008 H&R Block Tournament of Champions. Should the trend continue in the 2008 Denny�s World Championship and the 65th Denny�s U.S. Open, it would mark just the third time in Denny�s PBA Tour history all four Major winners in a season were first-timers.
The last time that happened was the 2004-05 season when Danny Wiseman (USBC Masters), Chris Barnes (U.S. Open), Patrick Allen (World Championship) and Steve Jaros (Tournament of Champions) all brought home Major hardware. The only other time it happened was 1994 when David Traber (National Championship), Justin Hromek (U.S. Open), Norm Duke (T of C) and Walter Ray Williams Jr. (Touring Players Championship) all won Majors for the first time.
ANOTHER HEARTBREAKER FOR SHAFER
If Ryan Shafer finally gets over the hump and wins his first career Major before his career ends, he just might the happiest - and most relieved - man to ever hoist a Major trophy.
With his third-place finish in the H&R Block Tournament of Champions, Shafer tied a PBA record for most top-five finishes in a Major without winning a Major title, pulling even with Dick Weber with 10 such finishes. Weber, however, holds the distinction of winning four BPAA All-Star events, the U.S. Open�s predecessor.
While he would�ve taken the extra cash for a second-place finish, at least Shafer didn�t have the heartbreak of another runner-up week. Shafer is tied for another PBA record with three Major runner-up finishes without a victory, joining Dick Ritger in that category.
ALLEN, JOHNSON EARN BOWER OF THE YEAR HONORS
To be named Bowler of the Year is one of the highest and most sought-after annual awards offered to the sport's top athletes. To win it twice in a three- year span is an exceptionally more remarkable accomplishment.
Duplicating their efforts of 2005, Patrick Allen and Liz Johnson have been voted the nation�s top male and female bowlers of 2007 by the Bowling Writers Association of America.
Allen began 2007 by breaking out of a slump and winning the H&R Block Classic in Reno, Nev., in January. Further victories in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Baltimore gave the 37-year-old lefthander the most titles of any player on the Denny�s PBA Tour during the calendar year. In all, he qualified for the championship round in seven events, helping provide the statistical firepower Allen needed to outpoll some of the most prominent names on the tour.
Johnson prevailed in the 2007 USBC Women�s U.S. Open as well as the PBA�s Ladies & Legends tournament. She finished no lower than fifth during the four- event PBA Women�s Series and rolled an 843 three-game set during match play of the USBC Masters tournament. Johnson�s 14th place finish represented the highest finish by a woman in the history of the Masters.
Allen edged Walter Ray Williams Jr. for the award. Others receiving votes were Sean Rash, Chris Barnes and Pete Weber. Johnson beat out second-place Diandra Asbaty as well as Carolyn Dorin-Ballard, Kelly Kulick and Wendy Macpherson.
02/07 09:33:12 ET