An international journey that began in Helsinki, Finland, in January 2011 and ended 10 months later in Las Vegas will kick off the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA)’s 2011-12 television season Sunday when the men’s and women’s finals of the inaugural GEICO World Bowling Tour (WBT) Finals presented by the Professional Bowlers Association airs at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN.
The men’s field will feature reigning PBA Player of the Year Mika Koivuniemi, a resident of Hartland, MI, who returned to his native Finland to win the Brunswick Ballmaster Open and take a lead in the WBT points race that he never gave up. The World Tenpin Bowling Association’s inaugural World Bowling Tour series included stops in France, Kuwait, Thailand, Korea and Australia, plus the U.S. Open and United States Bowling Congress Masters.
In Sunday’s WBT men’s final, Koivuniemi will meet the winner of a one-game match between No. 2 qualifier Sean Rash of Suburban Chicago (Montgomery, IL), and No. 3 Jason Belmonte of Australia. Rash and Belmonte made news over the summer after a confrontation over distractions Belmonte allegedly made with his plastic water bottle during the PBA’s GEICO Team Shootout series in Chicago.
In the one-hour women’s finals which immediately follows the men’s finals on ESPN, Carolyn Dorin-Ballard of Keller, Texas, a PBA Women’s Series champion and 20-time Professional Women’s Bowling Association title winner, will meet the winner of a match between veteran Swedish star Nina Flack and her Team Sweden teammate, 20-year-old Sandra Andersson.
The winner in each division will receive $10,000. Second place will pay $6,000 and third will receive $4,000.
The GEICO World Bowling Tour Finals are the first shows in an 18-event PBA Tour series that will air on Sundays on ESPN, concluding with the live PBA Tournament of Champions telecast from Red Rock Lanes in Las Vegas on April 15. In addition to the ESPN telecasts, the PBA will produce four Xtra Frame Tour events which will be webcast exclusively on the PBA’s online bowling channel.
Xtra Frame also will air a World Bowling Tour Finals pre-game show starting Wednesday and will immediately follow the ESPN telecast with a post-game show. To subscribe to Xtra Frame, visit pba.com and click on the Xtra Frame logo.