Seven-time Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour champion Steve Jaros of Yorkville, IL; 10-time PBA Regional winner Randy Weiss of Columbia, SC, and two-time PBA Tour titlist Dick Allen, also of Columbia, SC, advanced to the Conference Championships in the Dick Weber PBA Playoffs after victories in the Go RVing Regional Championships Round at Woodland Bowl.
The Go RVing Regional Championships Round, which aired Sunday on ESPN, featured three three-player regional championship matches with the winners advancing to the Conference Championship Round, and the two lowest scores being eliminated.
The Conference Championships will air Sunday, April 10, at 1 p.m. Eastern on ESPN. Jaros, who has now made a television appearance in 20 consecutive seasons, nipped Tom Smallwood of Saginaw, MI, 258-257, to win the East Region championship. Scott Norton of Costa Mesa, CA, finished third in the three-player East Regional final with a 224.
Weiss, in his national television debut, threw five strikes in a row to end his game and stun 12-time PBA Tour champ Tommy Jones of Greenville, SC, 239-238, in the South Region championship. Ryan Shafer of Horseheads, NY, also was eliminated after rolling a 207 game.
Allen was nearly perfect in throwing a 289 game that eliminated Walter Ray Williams Jr. (221) of Ocala, FL, and Mika Koivuniemi (201) of Hartland, MI, in the Central Region finale.
In the East Region championship, Jaros started with seven strikes before leaving back-to-back 10 pins, but Smallwood battled Jaros into the 10th frame. Jaros finished first, throwing a strike on his first ball in the 10th and filling the frame with a 10 pin/spare. Smallwood needed the first strike to win, but left a 7 pin. After converting the spare, he then needed a strike to tie Jaros, but he left a 4 pin on his fill ball. Jaros said he thought the match would be close, but “I figured it would be Tom or me versus Scott after the way he bowled in practice. But Scott just didn’t look comfortable once the show started.”
Weiss was the surprise of the day with his clutch finish to nip Jones after a horrible break ended Shafer’s hopes. Shafer was very much in the hunt, but trying to extended a double in the eighth and ninth frames, the four-time PBA Tour winner left a 7-10 split on a pocket hit in the 10th frame to end his chances. At the same time, Jones overcame the carry issues he had during the first half of his game, stringing five strikes before leaving a 4 pin on his fill ball in the 10th frame. That pin gave Weiss an opportunity to strike out in the 10th to win by one pin.
“I knew I was going to have to strike because these guys are really good,” Weiss said, “but they are human, so I knew I had to stay in my world and see what happens. “My thought in the last frame was that there is no way you could ask for anything better than an opportunity to win in the 10th, so I told myself to get a good shot off my hand and let the chips fall where they may.
“Mike Machuga may have given me the best advice when he said it’ll be the fastest 10 minutes of your life, so slow it down in your mind as much as you can, and that’s exactly what I did,” Weiss added. “I just kept slowing my thoughts and not watching what they were doing, and I focused on what my job was.”
In the Central Region match, Allen and Williams both started with five strikes while Koivuniemi struggled to strike after starting with a double. Williams’ string ended when he also left a pocket 7-10 in the sixth frame, but Allen kept on striking until leaving a 10 pin on his 11th attempt. By that time, thanks to a 4-6-7-10 split by Williams in the ninth frame, the match was over.
“I followed all of the old clichés – keep your head down, don’t watch what they’re doing, make one shot at a time – and that’s exactly what I did,” Allen said. “I wasn’t worried about anybody else. I know when I throw it good, I can strike with the best of them.”
Allen has a history of being one of the PBA Tour’s more volatile players, but after the birth of his first child in early March, “I came here with less negative thoughts,” he said. “I’ve got some cool pictures on my phone, I’m smiling more because of daughter Piper. My mind’s in a different place and I’m not so upset if I make a bad shot. And I’m not making as many bad shots because of a grip change and a swing change I made, and those are probably the keys to success more than anything.
“I got away with about three bad shots,” Allen added. “That was probably the highest 220 game I’ve ever shot; let’s put it that way. Without a doubt I knew I was going for 300. When Walter got that second split in the ninth frame and I knew the match was over, I told myself to finish it off. Unfortunately I threw a really good shot in the 10th and they didn’t fall.”
The Lucas Oil Regional Championships Round will complete the field for the Conference Championships. The Lucas Oil Regional round, which airs Sunday on ESPN at 1 p.m., will feature three finalists each in the Midwest (Jack Jurek, Wes Malott, Bill O’Neill), Southwest (Brad Angelo, Dino Castillo, Jason Belmonte) and West/Southwest (Chris Barnes, Lennie Boresch Jr., Lonnie Waliczek) Regions.
On Sunday, April 10, the Conference Championships telecast at 1 p.m. Eastern will include the East Region winner (Jaros) against the South (Weiss), the Central (Allen) vs. the Midwest winner, and the Southwest vs. the West/Northwest winner.
Those three winners will return to Woodland Bowl on Sunday, April 17, for the live ESPN finals at 1 p.m. Eastern. First prize in the inaugural Dick Weber PBA Playoffs is $50,000.