Category Archives: Bowling

KELLY KULICK BEATS THE MEN, WINS A BOWLING MAJOR TOURNAMENT AND SHOCKS THE WORLD

                                                                                        Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

It was a stunning win for 32-year-old Kelly Kulick at Red Rock Lanes in Las Vegas this past Sunday as she beat two former PBA Players of the Year to win the 2010 Tournament of Champions. As with tennis and golf, bowling has four majors a year with the Tournament of Champions being one of them. Kulick became the first woman in the history of the Professional Bowlers Association to win a PBA tournament (and, of course, the first female to win a PBA major as well).

CLIMBING OUT OF A HOLE

Things didn’t look great for Kulick in the final eight-game block on Friday as she started it in sixth place (only the top four make the TV final). After poor games of 174 and 172, she seemed out of the running. But in her final six games, she went 223, 279, 277, 222, 236 and 267 to finish second and make the show.

KULICK V. KOIVUNIEMI

The ESPN televison show (with over 1.7 million viewers) began with Mika Koivuniemi defeating Rhino Page 255-215, with the winner then facing Kelly Kulick for the right to bowl Chris Barnes in the final.

Mika, as he is known, has eight career PBA titles (including two majors) and was the PBA Player of the Year in 2003-04. More importantly for his match against Kulick, Mika had thrown the last seven strikes in match one to shoot 255 and seemed lined up to beat Kelly Kulick. But a funny thing happened on the way to an all-male final.

Koivuniemi went high in the first frame and left a four pin which he made but then went high in the second frame and missed the 3-10 “baby” split. That was really the only opening that Kelly Kulick needed, as she was clean through the first five frames (leading by four pins) and then got locked in and would finish with six strikes in her last seven balls. Mika threw a 4-6 split in the sixth and could never get back as Kulick shut him out with a four bagger in the ninth and tenth to win 237-233. At no point in the match did Kulick surrender the lead.

THE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH FOR THE AGES

Kelly Kulick against top seed Chris Barnes figured to be a close match. Arguably the most talented bowler alive, Barnes has had his troubles as the number one seed in “stepladder” (three plays four, the winner plays two, the winner plays one for the title) finals. Despite 12 titles including two majors (he won the Tournament of Champions in 2006), Chris Barnes’ record as the number one seed in stepladder finals was 2-6 (and 1-2 in majors).

Interestingly, Barnes decided to let Kulick bowl first. She threw a solid strike and when Barnes seemed surprised when his first ball went light for only an eight count, Barnes looked amazed and uttered “Wow” because of his poor ball reaction.

Commentator Randy Pedersen thought right away that this was a problem for Barnes. He said, after that first ball, that there was a “lot of indecision going on in the head of Chris Barnes right at this moment.”

Barnes made the spare and then Pedersen said, ‘And there’s been so many times when Chris has struggled on television, he’s struggled in title matches. Who can forget the 2008 Tournament of Champions when he had a 50-pin lead against Michael Haugen, Jr. only to miss a ten pin late and lose by a pin.

Just then, Barnes buried a strike in the second and Pedersen, maybe hedging his bets, said, “But there’s also been times when he’s been very, very good.”

KULICK GOES TO WORK

None of this fazed Kelly Kulick in the least. After the match she would tell Pedersen that she “was bowling the pins, not Chris.” It certainly looked like it as she buried strikes in the second and third frames. When Barnes went spare and then through the nose for a 4-6-10, it looked like the route was on.

And it was.

Kulick got a break in the fourth as she came in a little high but tripped the four pin for her fourth consecutive strike. She threw what looked like a pretty good ball in the fifth, only to leave a pocket 7-10 split. Nevertheless, she raised her lead from 10 pins in the first, to 20 in the second to 31 in the third and to 41 after just four frames.

When Chris Barnes threw a strike in the fifth and left a ringing 10-pin in the sixth which he made, he cut the lead to 30.

But that’s the closest he would ever get.

KELLY KULICK PUTS DOWN THE HAMMER

Showing great mental toughness after leaving a pocket 7-10 in the fifth, Kulick stepped up and threw two strikes on her way to six in a row and a 265-195 defeat of the 2007-08 PBA Bowler of the Year, Chris Barnes.

It was both stunning and historic at the same time.

Kulick, an All-American bowler at Morehead State, a three-time Majors winner on the Women’s tour and a four-time Team USA member, had just become the first woman ever to win a PBA title. Barnes was gracious in defeat as he congratulated Kelly Kulick right after the match by telling her, “Great bowling, Kelly. Great job all week. You handled it fantastically.”

Needless to say, Kelly Kulick was overjoyed with her victory. Before her final shot in her winning match, she said, “History has been made in the world of sports.”

And she’s 100% right.

While Kulick was the first woman to win an exemption to bowl on the men’s tour in 2006-07, she never got the acclaim that a Michelle Wie got in golf or that a Danica Patrick got in racing. Non-bowlers might understand what she did if they could envision Wie winning the Masters or Patrick winning the Daytona 500. It’s a staggering accomplishment.

AFTER THE WIN

Kelly Kulick, a classy woman, took the beautiful Tournament of Champions trophy and handed it to her mother, telling her that “this is for you” and “I love you.” She then told Randy Pedersen that she thought she had the match won “after the 7-10 split, when I came back and doubled right away. That put me right back in my confident level.” Kulick also said that “this day will never be forgotten. It is by far the greatest accomplishment ever in my career.”

Kulick, who is also a fantastic teacher of the sport as a lead instructor at (and a graduate of) the famous Dick Ritger Bowling Camps, thanked a lot of people right after the match, including Chad Murphy of Columbia, Ed Gallagher of Ebonite, as well as the PBA, the USBC and the wonderful fans.

At the very end, Kulick looked at the camera and said “Ebonite, Mission accomplished,”

apparently a reference to the new Ebonite ball she threw to win the Tournament of Champions, “The Mission.” This ball will be available to the masses on February 4.

RANDY PEDERSEN SUMS IT UP BEST

Pedersen, the ESPN commentator who has been around for decades and is in the Top 50 Bowlers of All-Time, probably summed it up best by telling Kelly Kulick, in front of a national TV audience, that “that may have been the best performance I’ve ever seen given the circumstances.”

Amen to that.

Kelly Kulick has boldly gone where no woman has gone before. With a two-year PBA exemption and a $40,000 winner’s check (which apparently she’ll use for a down payment on a house), the sky’s the limit. With appearances already on The CBS Early Show and ESPN, she now becomes, more than ever, a spokesperson for her sport and a great role model to all women and girls in all sports.

© Copyright 2009 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

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MIKE SCROGGINS WINS THIS SEASON’S LAST MAJOR (THE U.S. OPEN) AND SOME RANDOM BOWLING THOUGHTS

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

        

In the final bowling major of the 2008-09 season, the 66th U.S. Open at Brunswick Zone Carolier Lanes in central New Jersey, Mike Scroggins upset the favorite, #1 seed (and defending U.S. Open champion) Norm Duke.  In the stepladder finals (#5 plays #4, winner plays #3, winner plays #2, winner plays #1), there really isn’t much of an advantage to being the #1 seed (as opposed to the #2 seed).  Indeed, Scroggins ability to eke out a 200-199 win over Chris Barnes in the 2-3 match at least gave him some familiarity with the very tough lane conditions

       

Everyone seemed to think that this would be another notch in the Majors belt for Norm Duke, a bowling superstar if there is one in today’s sports landscape.  Duke gives all little guys (he’s about 140 lbs.) hope as he’s able to be more mentally tough and versatile than virtually every other bowler on tour.  It’s kind of like watching Greg Maddux pitch:  he’s just smarter than you are and he uses that intelligence and talent to beat you.

        

In the championship match, after Scroggins threw a strike and then missed the headpin while shooting a 1-3-6 spare, Duke, with a spare/strike in the first two frames, seemed destined for victory.  Commentator Randy Pedersen, usually insightful, lost his mind when he said “I promise you that 200 [Scroggins winning score the match before] will not win this game.  Won’t happen.”  I say lost his mind, but it wasn’t because I thought neither of these guys would shoot 200.  It was because the previous match was a struggle, with a final score of 200-199 and, frankly, you just didn’t know what was going to happen.

       

The U.S. Open pattern (how they oil the lanes), only used for this tournament, seems much tougher than the five patterns generally used on the PBA tour.  It’s hard to explain how difficult the normal five PBA patterns are – suffice it to say that you can subtract 30 pins or more from your “house” (the way lanes are generally oiled for regular league bowlers) average and the U.S. Open pattern is even tougher.  It’s one of the big problems that bowling faces:  Many people think that they can beat a pro bowler when they see these relatively low scores (on lane conditions they don’t understand) – except in very rare circumstances, they can’t.

        

In any event, right after Pedersen made his suspect prediction, Duke threw the “Big Four” split (4-6-7-10) and the crowd was set for a difficult, possibly low-scoring game.  Scroggins, maybe because of his familiarity with the lane conditions since he had bowled the previous game (Duke hadn’t), was able to throw a triple to take command through six frames.  But then Scroggins left his own unmakeable split in frame seven, the 4-6-10.

         

With Randy Pedersen swinging back and forth over who would win (from “Scroggins has a huge advantage since he bowled the prior match” to “it’s a coin flip” to “if it comes down to the 10th frame, Duke will handle the pressure better.”), Duke went through the nose again in the ninth frame, leaving the impossible 4-6-7 split, all but handing a major championship to Mike Scroggins. 

        

The final score was 191-173 and both bowlers struggled as much or more in the final as both bowlers had struggled in the semi-finals.  Duke, still the best bowler on tour in this writer’s opinion (although Wes Malott is Bowler of the Year with Duke’s loss) is now 7-7 in final matches when he’s been the #1 seed. 

    

Mike Scroggins wins his second major, gets $100,000 for the win and, according to him, the most important prize of all – a three-year exemption on the PBA tour.

       

SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS ON BOWLING:

        

  1. I was able to go down to Carolier Lanes Saturday night where they have the top 24 bowlers whittled down to the final five for the U.S. Open TV show.  It’s kind of like being at all the Elite Eight games in the NCAA tournament before the Final Four.  It was very exciting and what you see is that the greatest bowlers in the world can and do struggle through an eight-game block on a very tough (and, eventually, very dry) lane condition.  I would recommend this to any bowling fan or anybody trying to learn how to deal with these patterns.  There’s guaranteed drama with good and bad results for the participants.
  2. This past Saturday, the 5-6 game was between Brad Angelo and two-time Bowler of the Year (1989-90) Amleto Monacelli.  Monacelli hasn’t bowled that much in the last few years and was trailing Angelo for the final TV spot.  But he bowled out of his mind and shot 278 (11 strikes and one eight in the eighth frame, I believe) to make the show.  He would lose in the first TV match to Richie Wolfe.
  3. The announcers on the show:  Randy Pedersen is generally pretty good but it’s a hard balance between educating the fan who knows little or nothing about bowling and educating the fan who takes bowling seriously (especially these dedicated high school bowlers, the fastest growing varsity sport in the country).  Efforts should be made for both and fans should be told (if you’re talking about cover stock or where to put a pin or even ball changes, that’s for the advanced bowler).  “Know the Wood” is great, but I’d like to know, on the various patterns, how much oil is where and what does that mean for an average good bowler v. a pro bowler.  I’m not a Rob Stone “Hambone” guy, but he does bring enthusiasm.  It would be nice if he took up bowling, was taught by Randy and then the new bowlers watching (or the people who haven’t tried it yet) could get a 90-second or so “lesson” each week.  That might actually bring some new bowlers to the local lanes.  

  4.  No more commercials during actual play.  What a disaster that was this season.  Inexplicably, the telecast would leave live play to show a commercial (once a bowler had five or so in a row to start the game and we missed his next shot – ridiculous).  Never do this.  In the “old days,” sometimes they would leave a telecast when a bowler was shut out before the tenth frame (or in the tenth) but, other than that, live play should never be left during a telecast.  Just bizarre.       

MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL – CAN POOR PEOPLE BOWL ANYMORE?

      

The answer, in the New York City-area that I live in, seems to be a resounding NO.  Once upon a time, when we were all broke and living in a so-so neighborhood in upper Manhattan, even poor people could bowl.  You didn’t need much money and, especially when it was raining, the lanes were packed.  Everybody where I grew up could bowl a little.  And, of course, some of us took it more seriously.

    

Today, it’s a different story.  I certainly understand the “glitter” bowling or “disco” bowling or the many ways to appeal to kids who really don’t take bowling seriously.  I get the glow-in-the-dark stuff and the music videos above lanes seven and eight and the inability to see your spot and bumpers, etc., etc., etc.

    

But the cost of these things is prohibitive.  A family of four now in an area where one game can cost seven, eight or even nine dollars (seriously) per person is just absurd.  Rental shoes can cost five bucks (plus, believe it or not, tax).  If you bowl just two games plus shoes with a family of four, that can cost you north of $80.  And please pay up front (you can’t pay after you bowl).

    

Realistically, how many new people are you going to get to take up the game seriously?  How many poor people are going to bowl in this economy at these prices?  Answer:  very few.      

     

Now, in some instances, like if you bowl in a league, you can bowl “practice” games for half-price or so.  Or, you can get coupons from your local alley for one free game.  Or, last year you could buy frozen Banquet dinners and get free games of bowling.    

    

But understand that, if you price poor to lower middle-class people out of the bowling market, you’ve lost a huge segment of the population that made up the core of bowling participants in the post-World War II era.  An effort has to be made to get them back with more (and better) giveaways, with cheaper prices on off-hours and maybe, once a year, with an incredible “buy one get two free” games of bowling.  You need to bring people back into the lanes.  And if you can tie it into the increase in high school bowling participation, you might be able to increase both types of bowler – the serious ones and the I-just-want-to-have-fun ones.  And there’s nothing wrong with the latter.    

     

In today’s economy and today’s world (1,000 options for kids), bowling has to go out of its way to develop a new and younger fan base.  With the junior program at your local lanes and the high school program at your local high school (start one if there isn’t one), kids can and will become involved.  Here’s hoping an improved sport continues because it’s one of the greatest things to do when you’re a kid.  Even when it’s sunny outside.

    

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

PROFESSIONAL BOWLERS ASSOCIATION IS RIGHT: EARL ANTHONY #1

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

    

The PBA recently announced the top 50 bowlers of the 50 years of the PBA.  There was much dispute, discussion and anticipation about who would be #1 and who would be #2.  The contestants, of course, were Earl Anthony and Walter Ray Williams, Jr.

    

Thankfully, the experts got it right and named Earl Anthony the greatest bowler of the last 50 years.

     

Anthony, the smooth left-hander, had plenty of firsts and finished first plenty of times.  He was the first bowler to reach $1 million in earnings.  He was the PBA Player of the Year six times, a stunning accomplishment.  He won the George Young High Average Award five times.  And, as stated, he finished first 43 times, including a record 10 “majors” (that dispute over whether or not the two USBC Masters he won were “majors” or “titles” disappeared in the last year or so).  Cool as they come and as smooth as a bowler can be, Anthony dominated the tour and amassed his stunning accomplishments in only 14 years.  He is a member of both the PBA Hall of Fame and the USBC Hall of Fame. 

    

Hall of Famer Williams, of course, has surpassed many of Anthony’s records.  He is the first player to reach $4 million in earnings and he has now won a record 45 titles, seven of which are majors.  He has now won a title in 16 consecutive years, breaking the long-standing record of (you guessed it) Earl Anthony (15 consecutive years).  He is right-handed, which makes it more difficult in the eyes of most to win titles.  He also has been named PBA Player of the Year six times.  And his career is still stunningly successful.

      

CONTROVERSY?

      

Interestingly, on the ESPN telecast when the decision was announced, two experts took a middle ground despite believing Walter Ray is the better bowler.  Randy Pedersen (#35 on the list), for example, has stated numerous times on national TV over the last few years that we were “looking at the greatest bowler ever” when watching Walter Ray.  On the day of the announcement, however, he took a more politically correct stance, not saying that he thought the experts were wrong.

    

Even fan favorite Bo Burton (#15 on the list), who seemed to tell Pete Dougherty of TimesUnion.com just a few months ago that he thought Walter Ray was the best, simply said, on national TV, that maybe they will take another vote in five or ten years and the result might be different.

    

It might be too much to ask for a little controversy.

    

Writer Pete Dougherty, who did have a vote, voted for Earl Anthony and presented an interesting stat:  Earl Anthony won a staggering 11.1% of the tournaments he entered while Walter Ray was a distant second, having won 6.4% of his tournaments.

        

HERE’S WHY IT’S AN ESPECIALLY GOOD DECISION

       

In the world of sports that we live in today (you know, nothing happened in the history of sports before 1979), it’s usually the latest who is viewed to be the greatest.  For example, when ESPN came out with its Top 50 athletes of the 20th Century, they somehow voted Michael Jordan #1.  While there’s no chance that Jordan is the greatest athlete ever (Jim Thorpe, Jim Brown and Jackie Robinson were certainly better “athletes” than Jordan), there’s a real question as to whether Jordan is even the greatest basketball player ever (Wilt, Russell, Oscar – pick any one and you might be right).  And if you had to pick the greatest player in a team sport (as opposed to the greatest athlete), well, the first three guys on that list would be named Babe Ruth.

    

But I digress.  In the world of today, it was excellent to see someone recognized from yesterday.

       

WHAT DOES WALTER RAY THINK?

        

Thankfully, Walter Ray totally gets it.  He was widely-quoted as saying: “I feel Earl’s record is better than mine because it was more condensed.  Earl bowled 14 years and 400 or so events.  I’ve bowled well over 600 by now, maybe 700.  Some people will argue Earl’s era was tougher, but others will argue my era was tougher.  The reality is, people threw the ball differently in each era.  That’s the way the game is played.”

    

Walter Ray continued: “I’m very pleased to be No. 2.  If Dick Weber would have had 45 titles at the time Earl was still bowling, he probably would have kept on bowling because he would have wanted someone to chase.  As it was, he retired because no one had close to the number of titles he had.  He didn’t have anything to shoot for.”

    

Amen to that.

    

So there you have it.  The #2 bowler agreeing with the selection of the #1 bowler.  That kind of class rarely exists today.

         

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.