Tom Smallwood of Saginaw, MI, who won his only Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) title in the 2009 PBA World Championship, heads the field of four players who will do battle in the Billy Hardwick Division finals of the PBA World Championship Sunday at 1 p.m. ET in high-definition on ESPN.
The Hardwick Division is the second of four eliminator rounds that will trim the PBA World Championship field of 16 finalists down to four for a Sunday, Jan. 15, battle for the $50,000 first prize, the Earl Anthony Trophy and the PBA Tour’s first major title of the 2011-12 season.
All World Championship competition will be conducted on a pair of lanes specially installed in an exhibit hall at South Point Hotel and Casino.
Smallwood, 34, became an instant hero among America’s blue-collar work force when he defeated former PBA Player of the Year Wes Malott for the 2009 PBA World Championship. Smallwood, who had lost his job with General Motors, had decided to pursue his dream to become a professional bowler and stunned the bowling world with his upset victory in Wichita, KS. Last season, he won $100,000 as runner-up to Mika Kovuniemi in the PBA Tournament of Champions.
Now Smallwood is back in position to try for another major title as the top qualifier in the Hardwick Division. He earned his place in the Hardwick group as the No. 2 qualifier over 40 games of World Championship qualifying on five different lane conditions, averaging 226.63 to finish 296 pins behind leader Sean Rash. As top qualifier in his group, Smallwood has selected the PBA’s Scorpion lane conditioning pattern for Sunday’s event when he will face Venezuela’s Ildemaro Ruiz, Colombia’s Andres Gomez and 25-year PBA Tour veteran Ryan Shafer of Horseheads, NY, in a battle for a berth in the World Championship finals.
Both South American players are trying for their first PBA Tour titles. Ruiz, who is making his PBA television debut, qualified for the elimination rounds in seventh place. Gomez was 10th and Shafer tied for 14th. No international player has ever won the PBA World Championship.
In Sunday’s eliminator round, all four players will bowl a one-game match. The player with the lowest score will be eliminated. The three survivors will bowl another game, with the low man knocked out. The two finalists will bowl a final game, with the survivor advancing to the World Championship finals.
The four World Championship divisional finals have been named for PBA superstars who excelled in the event during their careers. Finland’s Osku Palermaa has already won the Don Carter Division berth. The Johnny Petraglia and Mike Aulby Division finals, which will air on ESPN on Jan. 1 and Jan. 8, respectively, will complete the divisional elimination rounds. The championship trophy is named in honor of Anthony, the only player ever to win the event six times.