Sunday, December 4, 2011

First Ever World Bowling Tour Champions Crowned

Mika Koivuniemi reinforced his position as an international bowling 
star, defeating Sean Rash of suburban Chicago (Montgomery,) IL, 237-224, to win the inaugural 
GEICO World Bowling Tour (WBT) Finals title at South Point Casino and Hotel. American 
women’s star Carolyn Dorin-Ballard of Keller, Texas, won the WBT women’s title, 
207-162, over Sweden’s Sandra Andersson.

Koivuniemi, a native of Finland who now resides in Hartland, MI, completed a 
10-month international quest to win the World Tenpin Bowling Association’s 
inaugural WBT title, presented by the Professional Bowlers Association, by 
reeling off a string of six strikes to erase Rash’s early 11-pin lead and taking 
advantage of Rash's missed 10 pin in the ninth frame.

Both finals, conducted as part of the third annual PBA World Series of Bowling, 
aired Sunday on ESPN.

Koivuniemi, a 44-year-old two-time PBA Player of the Year, has won titles in 15 
different countries during his career and easily won the WBT qualifying points 
title over Rash. World Bowling Tour points were awarded in eight tournaments 
held in Finland, the United States, France, Kuwait, Thailand, Korea and 

“It has been a good year for me,” Koivuniemi, the reigning PBA Player of the 
Year, said. “I really feel like I bowled well and I deserved to win. It all 
started in Helsinki last January when I won the Brunswick Ballmaster Open. I’ve 
been battling for 10 months to get here, and it came full circle back in Las 

The opening men’s match between Rash and Australian two-handed player Jason 
Belmonte had been highly anticipated after the two rivals had exchanged heated 
words during a summer GEICO PBA Team Shootout confrontation when Rash accused 
Belmonte of deliberately making distracting noises with his plastic water 
bottle. Their rivalry had intensified during WBT meetings since the June 
episode. But in their first televised showdown since that episode, Rash took 
advantage of a pair of open frames by Belmonte for a 214-204 victory. Belmonte 
had a chance to win, but needing two strikes in the 10th frame, he left a solid 
10 pin on his first try.

“Belmo and I are fierce competitors. We don’t think we can lose at any time when 
we’re on the lanes,” Rash said of the rivalry. “I hope the fans enjoyed the 
match. Jason threw a great shot in the 10th frame, but he left a ringing 10 pin 
which was good for me, bad for him.

“That bottlegate thing happened months ago. People need to move on," Rash 
continued. "Things happen. Jason and I are going to bowl against each other for 
many years to come. But when I’m on the lanes, no one is my friend. The only 
people cheering for me are my wife and my parents and Team Brunswick, and that’s 
all that matters to me.”

In the women’s finals, Dorin-Ballard, a PBA Women's Series champion and 20-time 
Professional Women's Bowling Association titlist, cruised to a 207-162 victory 
over Andersson after the 20-year-old Swedish player missed single-pin spares in 
her first two frames and failed to strike until the seventh frame. Andersson 
advanced to the title match by defeating her Swedish national teammate, Nina 
Flack, 190-160, in the opening match after Flack started her game with 
back-to-back splits.

Koivuniemi and Dorin-Ballard each won $10,000. Rash and Andersson won $6,000 as 
runners-up, and Belmonte and Flack earned $4,000 each.

The WTBA has announced the World Bowling Tour will return in 2012 with an 
expanded 14-event schedule.

Next Sunday the 2011-12 PBA Tour season officially gets underway with the first 
of four elimination rounds leading up to the Jan. 15 PBA World Championship 
finals. The Don Carter Division finals will air Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN. 
Carter Division finalists are England’s Stuart Williams and Dom Barrett, 
Finland’s Osku Palermaa and Jack Jurek of Lackawanna, NY.

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