This week we take a look at the Tournament of Champions (TOC).  They call it the Tournament of Champions for a reason.  These bowlers are the best of the best, and proved it.  On top of trying to covet one of the biggest majors of the year, players also had to keep in mind that if they won they had a pretty good chance to be the Player of the Year as well.  Of the four finalists three were in the running for the player of the year(Fagan, Belmonte, and Rash).   Fagan won a major title at the USBC Masters earlier this year in January.  Belmonte won three WSOB tournament titles, but no majors.  Rash had no wins but has the highest average in the PBA over 230, and finished 11 out of 14 tournaments in the top ten.

The tournament of champions ensures that the best bowler wins the tournament in that you have all of the best talent at the event, and has a great format with a step ladder final.  In the first match was Mike Fagan vs. Ryan Ciminelli.  Fagan did not get off to a great start in the match.  He missed two splits, and a ten pin all within the first five frames of the match.  Ciminelli although not perfect with one open had the upper hand in the match early.  In the sixth frame Ciminelli opened the door with a pocket 7, 10 split, which he did not convert.  Ciminelli then struck all the way to the tenth frame and needed a mark to win in the tenth frame.  Ciminelli through a great shot that left a flat 7 pin.  He then stepped up and made a great spare, and won the match 190 to 182.

In the second match Ciminelli had to beat arguably the hottest player coming into the tournament in the two handed Jason Belmonte.  Ciminelli started off the match with an open, and then struck four in a row to take the lead by 11 pins in the 5th frame.  Belmonte  struggled the second half of the match specifically on the right lane where his ball seemed to pick up early and ended up going through the nose.  Ciminelli threw a great match and only needed 9 in the tenth for the win, and struck beautifully to win 257 to 223.  Once he struck he said, “Brunswick’s back, title match baby, all Brunswick”.  I thought it was interesting that in a sport where individuals can be very selfish Ryan put team Brunswick first.  I admire guys like that, and hope the future has more champions like him in store for the PBA.

As Ciminelli said it was an all Team Brunswick final with Sean Rash, and Ryan Ciminelli.  Both players started off with a double.  Ciminelli was this first to spare in the third frame with a single pin conversion on the 10 pin.  Rash took advantage and struck in the third frame.  Then in the 4th frame Rash did his usual big moment balk, but this time it was different.  Sean felt his feet getting ahead of his body, and stopped himself halfway down the approach.  Most bowlers would either go through with the shot, or stop, feel stupid and rush through their routine, to throw a shot.  Sean took his time, went through his full routine and struck in the fourth.  Sean finally fought his inner demons, and continued to take it to Ryan who lost his line that was so good for so long.  Rash was up by 32 in the 7th and balked again.  Sean through a decent shot on his first ball and converted his single pin spare.  Ciminelli struck in the 7th and 8th but did not strike in the 9 allowing Rash to fill two frames for the win.  Rash made a big 3,6,9,10 in the 9th and struck in the 10th to win the TOC 239 to 205.

Now that Sean Rash has won the TOC, who will be player of the year.  I personally think you have to give it to Rash for his repeatability to get into the top ten, and for winning a major.  Please weigh in on your thoughts whether it should go to Belmo, Fagan, or Rash!

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Until next time, Shred that Rack!


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