Monday, August 31, 2009

Shark Championships

Reigning Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) Player of the Year Wes Malott of Pflugerville,
TX, avenged his 2008 PBA Shark
Championship title match loss to Rhino Page of Wesley Chapel,
FL, and Kelly
Kulick of Union, NJ, won a stunning rematch battle against USBC Queens champion Liz
Johnson of Cheektowaga, NY, in the PBA Women’s Shark Championship
semifinals Saturday night
at Thunderbowl Lanes.

Malott, who hadn’t made a TV final in five previous PBA World Series of Bowling events, rallied to
edge Page, 4-3, in their best-of-seven-game elimination

“It was pretty crazy,” Malott said. “I saw Rhino was getting forced to move to the right, and he was
trying to open up the lane condition, which you can’t do
on this pattern. When he started to struggle,
I relaxed more.

“There’s really no history between us,” Malott said of their Shark title rematch, “other than we don’t
like to lose to each other. It’s another week,
another year, a different bowling center.”

Also advancing to the semifinal round were two “comeback” players and one of the Lumber Liquidators
PBA Tour’s talented young power players, Michael Fagan of
Patchogue, NY, who is trying for his first
singles title.

Jack Jurek of Lackawanna, NY, who won his only PBA Tour title in 1995, defeated Tim Mack of
Indianapolis, 4-2, while 15-time PBA titlist Jason Couch of
Clermont, FL, on the comeback trail after
undergoing knee surgery in 2007,
advanced to the TV finals with a 4-2 win over Australia’s two-
handed sensation,
Jason Belmonte.

“I’ve had an unbelievable four weeks in Detroit,” Jurek said, “but it’s been a long time since I’ve won.
It’s not like I have a bad record on TV; I’ve averaged
220-something, but my opponents have
averaged 250. You just have to keep
knocking on the door and one of these days, something good
will happen.”

Jurek, 46, missed the match play cut in the Motor City Open to start the five-week, seven-event
PBA World Series of Bowling
, but since then he has made
match play in five consecutive events
with three top eight finishes.

Couch, on the other hand, has made steady progress in coming back from surgery on his right knee.

“It’s been a tough year and a half,” he said. “I think I came back too early, but my issues have
probably been more mental than anything. You worry about
whether the knee will hold up or not. You
can’t bowl if you don’t have

Fagan, who has won one doubles title in his eight-year career, said he realizes superstars Walter Ray
Williams Jr. and Norm Duke weren’t overnight successes,

“It’s time to win, but I don’t feel like I’m struggling. It’s a tough sport,” Fagan said. “You never know
when it’ll turn around. Even when you’re bowling
bad, the next week it can be completely different.
This is my career. Someday I
want to be one of those people you remember.”

On the women’s side, Kulick won what she called “the best match of my career” when Johnson left
the 6-7-10 split and missed in the 10th frame of the seventh
game, handing Kulick a 246-240 victory
and a 4-3 come-from-behind win. Johnson,
who defeated Kulick in the USBC Queens title match in
April, won the first two
games, 261-238 and 279-258. Kulick won the next two games, but then lost
265-259. She then topped Johnson, 243-226, to force the seventh game.

“That’s the best seven games I’ve put together in my life,” Kulick said. “There was no missing. In the
last game, I had her score circled as winning when she
went high and left that split. She maybe went
high on the headpin one other time
in seven games. It was amazing.”

In the other women’s semifinal, 20-time women’s champion Carolyn Dorin-Ballard of Keller, TX,
earned her berth in the Women’s Shark title match with a 4-2
victory over 2009 U.S. Women’s Open
champion Tammy Boomershine of North Ogden,
Utah, after taking a few days off to return home for
her daughter Alyssa’s first
day in school.

“The Scorpion Championship was the first tournament I’ve missed in 18, 19 years as a professional,”
she said, “but some things take a precedent. There’s only
one word to explain that experience as a
parent: priceless.”

The PBA Shark Championship and Women’s Shark Championship finals will be contested on Saturday,
Sept. 6, for tape-delayed broadcast on ESPN on Sunday,
Dec. 6.

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