Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Will Barnes or O'Neill Make the Player of the Year Race Interesting?

Chris Barnes and Bill O’Neill will try to keep their long-shot bids for Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) Player of the Year honors alive during Sunday’s ESPN telecast of the Lucas Oil Regional Championship round of the inaugural Dick Weber PBA Playoffs at Woodland Bowl. 

The ESPN telecast, featuring nine players competing for the final three berths in the April 10 PBA Playoffs Conference Championships, will air Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern. 

Barnes, who won the PBA World Championship in January to become the sixth member of the PBA Triple Crown club, and O’Neill, the 2010 Pepsi Viper Champion, are the only players who still have a chance to win two titles during the 2010-11 Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour season, and put up a last-minute challenge to leading contender Mika Koivuniemi. 

Koivuniemi won the $250,000 top prize in the $1 million PBA Tournament of Champions and became the first player in PBA history to appear in the television finals of all four PBA Tour major championships in a single season (PBA World Championship, Bayer USBC Masters and U.S. Open)

Despite Koivuniemi’s extraordinary season, Barnes and O’Neill also have had strong seasons and a second title could influence some voters. 

O’Neill will bowl in the one-game Midwest Region championship match against Jack Jurek and Wes Malott after qualifying second in his region. Jurek, the 2011 Bayer USBC Masters runner-up, led the region’s final elimination round. Malott, the 2008-09 PBA Player of the Year, grabbed the third spot and will try to end a two-year title drought. 

Sunday’s Lucas Oil Regional Championships round also will include the Southwest and West/Northwest Region finals. The Southwest Region final will include Dino Castillo, a former Exempt Tour player who is trying for his first PBA Tour title; Australian two-handed star Jason Belmonte and Tour veteran Brad Angelo. Castillo was runner-up in the 2010 Japan Cup. Belmonte, the 2008-09 Rookie of the Year, and Angelo, the 2002-03 Rookie of the Year, both are trying for their second career titles. 

Barnes will be the West/Northwest Region favorite in a match featuring Lennie Boresch Jr. and Barnes’ former Wichita State University teammate, Lonnie Waliczek. The 48-year-old Boresch, a first-year Exempt Tour player, will make his national television debut in his bid for his first PBA Tour title. Waliczek is a two-time PBA Tour title winner who hasn’t won since 2003. 

A preview of Sunday’s Regional Championships can be seen on pba.com’s Xtra Frame. To subscribe to the PBA’s exclusive online video streaming service, visit pba.com and click on the Xtra Frame logo. 

The Lucas Oil Regional Championships winners will advance to the Conference Championships airing on Sunday, April 10, at 1 p.m. Eastern, where they will join the winners of the Go RVing Regional Championship round. East Region winner Steve Jaros will bowl one game against the South Region winner Randy Weiss, Central Region winner Dick Allen will take on the Midwest Region winner, and the Southwest winner will meet the West/Northwest winner. The three Conference Championship survivors will return to Indianapolis on Sunday, April 17, at 1 p.m. Eastern for the final live ESPN telecast of the 2010-11 Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour season. 

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