by DLayman April 10, 2013 03:11

This debate is one that the fans of any sport continue to have ad nauseam. Ironically, the argument comes up as one of the greats adds another trophy or accomplishment to their storied careers. As you know, Pete Weber won his 2nd ever TOC when he defeated Jason Belmonte to win this year's Barbasol PBA Tournament of Champions. As I watched the telecast and how the TV pair was breaking down, I honestly couldn't see anyone having a better chance to win than Belmo. Call me crazy, but any telecast with both Belmo and Osku on it is going to end up being a contest of who can strike from the furthest point left on the lane. When reigning PBA Player of the Year Sean Rash seemed to be running out of room to the left in the semifinal match against Belmo, it seemed as if PDW would've been doomed to suffer the same outcome.

But come on, we are talking about PDW bowling for a major title. And after watching him dismantle Belmo, it only further cemented in my mind that he is beyond a shadow of a doubt the Greatest Of All Time.

One could make the same arguments for the late Earl Anthony, Walter Ray Williams Jr. and a handful of other great bowlers through the years. And while the two men I just mentioned may possess more accomplishments on their resumes, none of them have overcome what PDW has. He has had to battle things in his personal life that have destroyed the lives of many athletes. Yet he has persevered. He also had a father who not only could hold his own in this debate, but was also the greatest ambassador our sport has ever had in Dick Weber. No player in the history of our sport, or many others, has had a greater shadow to overcome to establish their own legacy to rival or exceed what the other has accomplished. Pete Weber has done this. He sits tied for 3rd most victories in tour history, tied for most major victories, and has the most regional titles in PBA history. No name is more synonymous with greatness in bowling than the Weber name.

Forget the fact that he has never won a Player of the Year award. In all reality there are many years the voters kept him from having that honor. When its all said and done he will have the best title of all...and that's the greatest bowler ever.

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DONNIE LAYMAN: Top 10 Player Rankings Through WSOB

by DLayman January 11, 2013 04:07

So, after this Sunday's PBA World Championship finals we'll have made it through the first leg of this newer, longer, PBA Tour season - and I have to say the shows have been pretty impressive from both a production and competition point of view. We've seen some new faces making their first appearances on a PBA telecast, some familiar faces, and at least one player who redeemed himself after his first telecast was arguably one of the most bizarre TV matches I've ever seen.

That player is Tom Daugherty, whom you might remember being on the losing end of the most lopsided match ever televised when he lost the semifinal in the 2011 PBA Tournament of Champions to Mika Koivuniemi 299-100. Tom shook that off and won the Bowlers Journal PBA Scorpion Championship by doubling his 100 game to win over Osku Palermaa 200-182.

We had our first bowler from the Middle East qualify for a PBA telecast, when Fawaz Abdulla of Bahrain made the stepladder finals for the PBA WSOB Chameleon Championship. He also may have put on one of the gutsiest performances I've seen in recent years, having to battle gout in his right foot - and the pain that accompanies it. While he fell short of his ultimate goal, he showed his toughness as a competitor and that his game is good enough that he could one day return to fight another day for his first PBA title. Scott Norton came out on top when a stubborn 10-pin left by Jason Belmonte handed him his second PBA tour title, coincidentally on the same Chameleon pattern he won his first title on.

We also had two players return to the winners circle. Bill O'Neill ran the stepladder to bring home the Alka Seltzer Plus Cold Cheetah Championship by defeating top seeded Mike Wolfe in the title match by a score of 243-192. Brad Angelo returned to the winners circle by defeating arguably the hottest bowler on the planet, Mika Koivuniemi, 233-232 in a tightly contested match that saw Mika make an uncharateristic mistake to cost him the win.

All in all, with the exception of O'Neill's dominance over Wolfe in their match, we have seen some rather exciting and tightly contested title matches in this rendition of the Geico PBA World Series of Bowling. Be sure to tune in to catch the World Championship telecast as I can only imagine there will be more excitement coming from that show.

Top 10 Rankings

Ya know, it has been a while since this writer has taken the time to throw this list together. I'm sure that many of the names will be the same (as the cream will always rise to the top). Having said that, here we go...

10. Dan McClelland

Dan qualified 4th overall for the World Championship and always seems to be lurking around the top portion of the field. Dan is one of the young guns who you will be seeing a lot of in the coming years and will find his way to many titles in the future. His first title is just a matter of time.

9. Chris Barnes

I'm shocked to be putting one of the best in the world this far down the list, but after failing to make any of the five telecasts during the WSOB and qualifying 48th, Chris would probably tell you himself his performance was far from what he has grown accustomed to. Chris did, however, win the finals of the 2012 World Bowling Tour beating his roomie Mika. With the Winter Swing approaching, I'm sure he has taken the time to evaluate things and will figure out what he needs to do to return to the top of this list.

8. Tommy Jones

TJ was the 2nd highest qualifier after the four animal pattern qualifying rounds were contested in this year's WSOB and just missed the PBA World Championship finals by an agonizing 9 pins. It's been too long since this superstar has hoisted a trophy, but if history shows us anything its that when he gets hot he wins in bunches and bunches.

7.  Chris Loschetter

Still waiting to take home that elusive first tour title, Chris came out with guns blazing at the WSOB this year. He only made one show in the Alka Seltzer Plus Cold Cheetah Championship and, if it wasn't for those pesky 9 counts he very well could've been the player running through the stepladder to get the win in place of eventual champion Bill O'Neill. He also was the 4th highest qualifier after the animal pattern events, eventually placing 8th in the World Championship. Chris continues to get better and better, and while his string of consectutive tournaments entered without a victory is still going, don't expect that to last for too much longer. One might say you could compare his career to that of Jack Jurek, who has long been a solid player on tour but took quite a while to get that first title.

6. Scott Norton

Let's be realistic, being a left hander on tour these days hasn't been as "beneficial" as it may have been in years past - for many reasons. Norton was the top left handed qualifier during the World Championship qualifying rounds and is on a short list of left handers to have won more than one title over the last few years. He did his part in forcing Belmonte to strike in the tenth to beat him, and the emotion that poured out of him after Belmo's 10-pin stood was a memorable sight to see. By winning again, Norton has cemented himself as a force to be reckoned with out on tour, and I'm sure that we'll be seeing a lot more of him in the future.

5. Mike Fagan

The Argyle Assassin had a solid WSOB, and made the TV finals for the WSOB Viper Championship, losing his match to Mika Koivuniemi. I'm sure when the season comes closer to the end, Mike's name will be back in the discussion for this year's Player of the Year race, because he just always seems to be consistently near the top when the tournament is on the line.

4. Bill O'Neill

One might say last season was a disappointment for The Real Deal, even though he did finish in the top 8 on the PBA points list. He quickly put his name back up towards the top of this list with his win in the Alka Seltzer Plus Cold Cheetah Championship. It sure does seem that if he has the chance to get locked in during a stepladder TV final, he usually finds a way to win.

3. Mika Koivuniemi

Mika has been nothing but dominant in recent months, winning across the globe in the World Bowling Tour and WTBA events. He recently won in Qatar which was his 10th PBA title, but also the 19th different country he has won in. The Big Finn is going to continue to make noise throughout the year as the PBA continues to travel the globe.

2. Jason Belmonte

Scary as it is to realize this, Belmo keeps getting better and better. He was a 10-pin away from winning the Chameleon Championship title, and also finished 3rd in the Scorpion. He's also locked in to the title match for the first major of the season when the World Championship telecast takes place Sunday. He seems determined to keep his name in the hat for this year's POY race, but like Ric Flair once said, "To be the man you have to beat the man." And the man right now is...

1. Sean Rash

The Man. Sean may not have left the WSOB with a title again this year, but continues to show that he is simply the best player in the world at this time. His rivalry with Belmo brings back memories of years past when you would see Roth and Holman on ABC what seemed like every week. Sean doesn't seem to be slowing down any this season, and looks ready to defend his Player of the Year status til the bitter end.

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DONNIE LAYMAN: PBA Members Get it Right Awarding PoY to Rash

by DLayman May 30, 2012 04:33
Well, as this writer expected, the winner of the 2011-12 Chris Schenkel PBA Player of the Year award is Sean Rash. I have to imagine this was an especially rough year to be returning to determining the winner via votes submitted by PBA membership. All three of the finalists (Rash, Mike Fagan and Jason Belmonte) had fantastic seasons in their own right, and frankly it would be difficult to argue AGAINST any of these players being awarded their first PoY. But, I do have an opinion on why my vote would have gone to Sean Rash.

Why you may ask? He didn't have the most titles, but he did have the biggest in winning the Tournament of Champions. He also led every major statistical category, including average, points, and earnings. He also has the most top five finishes this year amongst the candidates, and also led the tour in match play appearances. He led the qualifying for the World Championship during the World Series of Bowling by 297 pins.

As I stated though, the other two gentleman in contention for the award also had great seasons. Jason Belmonte had just one less match play appearance than Rash, and finished 2nd in two out of the three major stat groups. Belmo was 2nd in both earnings and points, and 3rd in average...only behind Mike Fagan and Sean Rash. He also took full advantage of the eliminator formats, surviving his way to three tour titles. Another impressive feat for the two-hander is that he finished in the top 10 in all four majors, something that Rash couldn't claim. As great as Jason bowled this past season, I didn't feel as though he had the "best" year of the three finalists.

Mike Fagan officially had his breakout season this year, stepping his game up to the level many of his peers have long thought he was capable of playing at. He won two titles, and one of those just happened to be his first major title at the USBC Masters. He also bowled a phenomenal game against Pete Weber in the title match of the US Open. He was 2nd in average, and 3rd in earnings and points. He also finished in the top five in three of the four majors this season. Honestly if he'd won the US Open, instead of falling just one agonizing pin short, there's a good chance that we wouldn't even be having a debate - Fagan would have been the winner by a landslide.

To put it simply, the Player of the Year award should be awarded to the player who bowled the best over the entire tour season. I believe that Sean Rash was that person this past season. You didn't see any other player on television more this past year, and titles aren't the only thing that should be counted towards determining who was the best bowler. Obviously the PBA members' votes showed that as well, because Norm Duke had more titles than two of the PoY finalists and didn't make the final three. All in all, it certainly appears as if the majority of the PBA members who voted, voted on the stats, and the player with the best ones for the 2011-12 PBA Tour season was Sean Rash.

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MARK BAKER: T of C Week and My New Instructional Book

by Mark Baker April 10, 2012 03:25

It is Tournament of Champions week! My favorite week as a bowler and now my favorite week as a coach/fan! Why not the U.S. Open you ask? Because that week is such a grind, it never really becomes fun - the lanes are just too tough - and as a fan I do want to see some strikes!

But being here at the T of C as the tournament got underway on Monday, I could actually feel the excitement starting to build as the Champions field narrowed down to 21. Tuesday is the start of the Elite field qualifying and, after 20 games, the top 25 will join this year’s 11 winners for Thursday’s Round of 36.

As I watched the many stars who will be bowling later this week practice for the tournament, I couldn’t help but notice the differences in how they get ready for this event compared to how we did in my generation. First and easiest are the shoes - I had a pair of Linds, period! If the approaches were a little tacky, cigarette ashes always did the trick. If they were a little slick, either a wet towel or a lick of the hand to add some moisture to the sole. Today, Chris Barnes has a bag of heels and slide soles - with some even cut in half for about 30 different combinations! The advantage goes to today’s player.

Second is the arsenal, and for us this was easy. For me it was one dull Columbia Black U Dot, three shiny ones, a Wine U dot, and a Slate U dot: that’s six balls total with room to drill two more to fill out my four Don Johnson double totes (yes, totes, we actually carried them over our shoulders!) Today’s player HAS to have three to five times as many balls. Nobody is good enough to get by with just six because the lanes just change too fast and too much! The advantage on this one goes to my era because I could carry my entire arsenal on my shoulders into any airport, tip the sky cap $20 and never pay for extra bags!

Now the biggest difference - the lane conditions. Not how hard or easy they were, but actually what they were going to be. I bowled 280 events in my career and never had a clue what the “shot“ was going to be until I bowled the practice session - and even that was no guarantee on what they would be the next day. Did we ask about the lane conditions? You bet, but the only answer I ever received was, “Let your ball be your guide.” Here in 2012, Sunday was the official practice session, and most players had a game plan. And then after watching the Champions qualifying round on Monday, the same group was rethinking their game plans. In our day we usually changed our game plan around frame 15 of the first round. It was actually an advantage to have absolutely nothing in practice rather than have a good shot, (we didn’t know about having a “good look” like the bowlers of today are always talking about, but we did have Brian Voss!) Bottom line, the game has changed - like everything else in life – and, in fact, our game has changed so much that I’ve written a book to help bowlers of all skill levels make sense out of the best ways to sift through all the information and help to improve their own bowling games with that very title: The Game Changer!

All I can say about writing a book is, “WOW, what an undertaking!”  I’d been talking about doing an instructional book for years but that’s about it - lots of talking, no writing - and now I know why, it’s not EASY! Lucky for me I found the right partner in Jason Thomas to help me write it. He started by attending one of my camps to see my coaching style in person, and then videoed over 20 hours of answering questions on my coaching system. This was 16 months ago. After all this I thought he’d write for a few months and then hand me a completed book, right? Wrong!!!! That was version 1 - the final version is #6 - that’s right, I made him rewrite it six times - and we’re still friends!
Why so many rewrites you ask? Because you only get one chance to write your first book and it was very important to me to get it just right. What is the goal of the book? Well, the question I thought the book had to answer in order to be a success was, “How can I help a bowler in Minnesota (or anywhere in the world, for that matter) to improve without ever seeing his game?” I also wanted to write something that wouldn’t bore the reader or get bogged down in technicalities. I wanted to the reader to feel like he was getting a lesson from me through the book, and then be able to refer back to the book to continue his/her improvement until that person reached whatever goal they set out for themselves in the sport of bowling.
We also had the help of one Mr. Chris Barnes, who provided great advice throughout the process and even wrote an excellent foreword that explains why he never really understood the reasons for his own bowling success until we started working together and I shared my coaching system with him.
But ultimately, I wrote this book for all the bowlers I’ve worked with and the ones who would love to work with me but – due to geography, time or expense - just can’t get out to see me for help. In the end, I think the finished product will make the bowlers I’ve given lessons to feel like I am preaching the exact same things we’ve always worked on during our lessons and, given the results I’ve been able to achieve with thousands of clients (not to mention several of the best bowlers in the world),  will give a much larger audience of bowlers seeking to improve their games a chance to get something out of my coaching philosophies as well.
Mark Baker is one of the most sought-after bowling coaches in the world and works with several of the PBA’s top players, including Chris Barnes, Mika Koivuniemi, Tommy Jones, Jason Couch, Bill O’Neill and Mike Fagan. Copies of his new book, The Game Changer are currently available to order here.


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DONNIE LAYMAN: A U.S. Open to Remember

by DLayman February 29, 2012 10:32

As a fan, I look forward to the week of the U.S. Open every year. It is almost a lock that bowling history is being made in some shape or form every time. A lot of times that history isn't focused on who actually won the event, although you do automatically sign your name to bowling history by winning this prestigious event. This year's event was packed full of firsts, and they covered quite a range.

There was 14 year-old Kamron Doyle becoming the youngest player to ever make the cashers round. If you remember a few years back, Kamron first made bowling news by becoming the youngest player to ever cash in a PBA regional tournament. This young man has a maturity many his age don't possess, and talent beyond his age. While he deserves all the credit in the world for what he did this past week, one could argue that Andrew Koff's finishing within a missed spare of making the match play rounds of the Open at the age of 16 just a few years ago might be just as impressive. Both young men should inspire other young bowlers to pursue their dreams and put the effort behind developing their games for the highest levels of our sport.

The second big story during the qualifying rounds was Missy Parkin becoming the first woman to make the top 24 of this prestigious event. This wasn't much of a surprise to me, however. Missy is no stranger to holding her own against the men on the PBA Tour. You may remember she was part of the 900 Global team during the Summer Series this past year. You may (or may not) know that she was actually this first woman to win a PBA regional event, doing this prior to Kelly Kulick's Tournament of Champions victory. Missy deserves all the credit in the world though, as she was competing in arguably the most greuling event on tour.

The greatest part of this year's Open? Easily Sunday's TV finals. The finals of any U.S. Open are bound to be exciting, but when you add a little PDW to the mix, excitement goes to a whole other level! Pete Weber not only fought his way through to make it to the TV finals, he had to win from the 4th seed. His title match against Mike Fagan was an instant classic. Fagan is arguably the hottest bowler on the planet, but PDW put on a display that only further cemented his place on bowling's version of Mount Rushmore. Whether or not you are a fan of PDW's antics (I AM!), you simply can't deny he is on the short list of the greatest bowlers of all time. While Walter Ray and Earl may both be slightly more "accomplished" players, PDW is the greatest in my eyes.

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