TERRE HAUTE — The Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) rolled off its national tour this week with the USBC Masters, the finals being televised live on ESPN inside the Wisconsin Exposition Center beginning at 1 p.m. today.
But while this is predominantly a men’s tour — just opening up its membership to women a couple years ago following the demise of the Professional Women’s Bowlers Association — a trio of women familiar to Terre Haute bowlers have been making their marks, literally.
Most of the off-season national media attention has been focused on Kelly Kulick, the first woman to earn a season-long exemption when she finished sixth at the PBA Tour Trials last June.
Making her tour debut this week, Kulick slipped into the match-play round by the slimmest of margins. She won a one-game roll-off against 2003-04 PBA Rookie of the Year Chris Johnson, 210-156, after the pair tied for 63rd place with a 3,129 15-game pinfall after three days of qualifying.
While Kulick was just scraping by, Liz Johnson — the first woman to qualify for a PBA event in 2004 whom also finished second in a PBA event in 2005, finished 11th with 3,321. Carolyn Dorin-Ballard finished 25th with 3,247.
In match play, Kulick won her first match against John Nolen (588-573), but then was knocked out in the double-elimination format by Doug Kent (739-614) and Mark Clark (635-596).
Both Johnson and Dorin-Ballard fared a little better, but were eventually eliminated too.
Johnson was 3-2 in match play. After falling to Christopher Sand (656-669), she topped Steve Lemke (700-560), Mike Edwards (686-674) and Dan Bock (658-584), before being sidelined by Mike Rose (651-630).
Dorin-Ballard finished 2-2 in match play. She topped seven-time winner Steve Jaros (620-606), six-time winner Mika Koivuniemi (686-613), before being stopped by Mike Wolfe (703-687) and 32-time winner Pete Weber (669-629).
Possibly the best pairing in the tournament not on today’s TV show was the roll-off for fifth place late Friday night, as 42-time PBA winner Walter Ray Williams Jr. topped 32-time winner Weber 748-712.
Williams Jr. recently surpassed Earl Anthony’s all-time record of 41 tour victories in winning the Dydo Japan Cup in September.
Oh by the way, advancing to today’s TV finals out of an original field of 497 bowlers — the winner getting $100,000 and a two-year tour exemption — were Tommy Jones, Doug Kent, George Lambert IV and Jack Jurek.
• Fantasy bowling — If you like fantasy football, hockey, basketball, golf, baseball, NASCAR … you name it, there’s been a fantasy league available for about any sport you can think of. But NOT bowling.
Until this year.
The Professional Bowlers Association announced this week it has teamed with GoPlay Network to provide bowling fans with the 2006-07 PBA Tour Fantasy Bowling Challenge.
Competitors can go to www.pbafantasygame.com to sign up for their personalized team, and can start forming their leagues on Monday.
The FBC is a unique interactive game designed to give fans a chance to field their ultimate fantasy bowling team, selecting a team of 10 players from different pools and play six each week.
Fantasy bowling competitors have the opportunity to win a variety of PBA prizes throughout the season. Weekly winners can earn pins, pin sweeps and jerseys autographed by PBA Tour bowlers along with PBA High Performance balls, PBA merchandise and coupons for entrees at Denny’s.
The overall leader at the midpoint of the PBA Tour will win an entry into the 64th U.S. Open, while the overall champion will receive an item autographed by all 58 PBA Tour exempt players.
The deadline to enter for the USBC Masters passed earlier this week, but you can join prior to this week’s tour stop in Taylor, Mich. So get signed up right away.
• Honeychurch is still a champion — It’s kind of refreshing to see a bowler be successful on the lanes using just one bowling ball.
It seems bowling is becoming as expensive as golf when it comes to equipment. The average bowler is at a distinct disadvantage going up against an experienced bowler armed with a ball for every possible lane condition.
Well, eight-time Professional Women’s Bowling Association champion Cara Honeychurch — a regular PWBA tour competitor who made multiple stops in Terre Haute before it ceased operations in 2003 — proved it can still be done.
Honeychurch hadn’t bowled a competitive game since 2003 and traveled more than 24 hours and 8,000 miles from her Melbourne, Australia home to participate in a recent weekly made-for-TV (ESPN2) event. With just one bowling ball at the start.
Honeychurch, an eight-time PWBA titlist, struck on the first shot of her final frame to defeat Colombia’s Clara Guerrero 235-225 in the championship match of the USBC Women’s Challenge which aired on Oct. 16.
The left-hander hadn’t bowled much since the PWBA ceased operations three years ago, yet averaged over 234 in her four tournament wins.
This unique tournament was filmed over two days in August played in a single-lane arena that was specially constructed in the middle of the Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas, Nev.
“I haven’t thrown a ball competitively in three years, so no one is more surprised about this win than me,” Honeychurch said on the PBA website. “I tried not to focus on the outcome and took it one shot at a time. I am satisfied with what I’ve accomplished in my career and to be able to leave on a good note is fantastic.”
Other familiar competitors to Terre Haute fans in this event included Dorin-Ballard, Cathy Dorin-Lizzi, Kendra Gaines, Kim Terrell, Liz Johnson and Leanne Barrette.
• Local news — Vigo Bowl reported several 300 games recently. Rolling perfect games were A.J. Wilson, Danny Travelstead, Crystal Sullivan, Dave Elder, Joe Busch and Richard Rich. Near-misses included Cody Moore (299), Brad Burris (299) and Randy Christian (298).
At the Terre Haute Bowling Center, Clint Woods had a 300 game last week.
• Note of advice — If you have noticed the paucity of local news in this week’s column, please be advised that news items, scores, story ideas, etc. need to be sent to an address or addresses noted below.
They can even be included with the league results turned in each week to the Tribune-Star from the local bowling establishments.
I have stated in the past that this is a forum for you —the local bowlers — and to make that work, I need your input.
Kegler’s Korner will be back in two weeks.
Dennis Clark can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; by mail at P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN, 47808; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.
Vigo County Bowling Leagues
Affordable Awards — High games: Pat Stewart 232, Just Us 854. High series: Stewart 638, Just Us 2,453.
Wolfe’s Auto Auction — High games: Pam Wilkins 212, Affordable Awards 829. High series: Linda Campbell 549, Affordable Awards 2,423.
Bush Restaurant Senior — High games: Doc Stephens 265, Mary Fugate 214, Golden Eagles 789. High series: Kenny Wilkey 645, Anita Maxwell 577, Golden Eagles 2,185.