March 30, 2007 19:00
By Chris Barnes
What a roller coaster week! I guess we could start with the show in Grand Rapids, my chance to really pull into the POY race with a win in the World Championship. Some good breaks, some bad ones, a bad choice and a 4-pin later, the best bowler that week won when Doug Kent doubled in the 9th and 10th to shut me out. I catch a quick flight home to spend a couple of nights in my own bed and the first ones in our house since we moved.
Monday is a little disappointing as it rains so I am not able to spend much time outside with my kids. The upside is that we get to go bowling and a little practice is in order for me as well with our final major - the Tournament of Champions - waiting. We get our share in and then go to the airport and pick up my cousin, Austin, who is flying in for a day. He and a business partner, Dave, come in and we keep the boys up way too late and have a ball.
Tuesday the rain stops and the swinging, swearing, and chasing starts with a round of golf. I am forced to keep the swearing to myself though as Austin and Dave are both ministers. Fortunately 3-putts were kept to a minimum....
Wednesday - up WAY too early to catch a 6:55 a.m. flight to Hartford to get there in time for the Pro-Am. I pick up Mika Koivuniemi and we relax for a while before our 7:00 p.m. Pro-Am. The Pro-Am is great. A lot of entries and I get a chance to bowl with a lot of kids. They are the best in the Pro-Ams. Their energy is refreshing and helps us get recharged for the upcoming week.
Thursday - Practice session and WOW... you forget how slick 50 feet of oil can be! It’s time to gear the speed down a bunch and pull out the scotch brite and abralon pads. Two hours later and a couple of worn out 360 & 500 pads, the arsenal is pretty well set for the week. We get to bowl in a competition with the 14 Pro-Am winners from the season and have a lot of fun on the tournament pattern. That night we have a draw party to see our brackets for the tournament. A little trash talking and a couple of improbable superpower match-ups cause the most reaction with Parker bowling Couch and Walter Ray Williams and Petey going at it in the first round.
Friday - I pulled Rick Lawrence in the first round and he, as well as the other lefties, come out firing. Before I know what hit me Rick has me down 3-0 and is averaging almost 250. Fortunately for me, his ball starts to hook too early and he loses some reaction and my barrage of 220 games is enough to win one. The hook starts to make my shot a little better and I improve a little each game to 230, 240, and finally 250 to close out the match and a desperate comeback that leaves my Player of the Year chances intact. It is ugly for a couple of other hopefuls, as Walter Ray continued his dominance of PDW and hurt his chances while Big Wes is swept by Patrick Allen. I think Wes has had the best and most consistent season, but this is not the statement he wanted to go out on.
Norm Duke and Doug Kent both win and the chase continues... I bowl Patrick Healey Jr. in the next round. We are former college teammates, Team USA teammates, as well as World Team Challenge and ABC teammates. That being said, I guess it is safe to say we are not the best of friends these days. He is Mika's ex roommate and I guess that doesn't help much either. Patrick and I both start out well but I miss a spare to give him a chance to shut me out. He ring 10's a couple of times and I strike out to win game one. In game two he starts well but after a 10-pin, he moves left of 20 and leaves me alone around 16 and I am able to keep my reaction longer than I thought. He rebounds to win game three but moves even further left and I am able to get back on track in game four. Game five is ugly and he splits twice to start and I catch a couple of breaks to go up 30 pins and he is steaming. He goes through the motions but shoots 149 and gives me the last game. Not sure if he will come back out on tour next year or not. He bowled his way on Tour last week in Grand Rapids, but also skipped the week before knowing he was on the bubble. I have no idea......
Dougie Fresh goes down in this round in a seven-gamer to Tommy Jones. He has put on a nice run to finish off the year and has to be one of candidates for POY. Norm looked to be in trouble down 2-0 to Amleto but Norm is Norm in grinding out the next four games in a low-scoring match.
Saturday we move to the Mohegan Sun to a magnificent arena south of Hartford. We are changing from an AMF surface to Brunswick and from 20 foot ceilings to 60 foot. We have an early practice and there is much more hook at one, two and three than in Hartford but it doesn't really make it any easier as there still is 40 feet of oil after that. I bowl my friend and one time roommate Mike Wolfe. Mike has had one of the best looks in the tournament in Hartford, but the extra hook seems to have affected his ball reaction more than anyone else's. I would have considered myself the underdog in this match based on ball reaction up to this point, but I move right to the same area as him and his ball struggled to catch the extra hit and I was able to trip the 4-pins and stay out of trouble.
I felt bad for Mike as he has bowled really well this year and should have probably made three or four shows, but has caught the hottest guy in the tournament (Rash in Baltimore, Couch in Reno, Walter Ray in Parkersburg) during the matches. I have no doubt he will rebound and have his best year in the upcoming season. My POY hopes are still alive and Duke rebounds again from an early deficit to beat Kong Cable (Robert Smith) 4-2. With Tommy stepping it up and Reyes making his third straight show and living up to all the promise he has shown out here, tomorrow will be a heck of a show.
Sunday - up early to iron the show shirt, check out, get the car and drive it around to the loading docks so after the show I can load up and get on the road back to the airport. My flight is at 5:30 and the show will end at 2:30. It’s about 45 minutes to the airport so if I win, this will give me enough time to do media, autographs and still catch my flight. No surprises on the show. They are similar to the night before and there is less tension than usual. Odd considering all that is on the line: POY, Roll to Riches, and a Major title. But then Norm hasn't lost on TV in a year, Reyes and I are back on from the week before which always raises your comfort level, and Tommy Horseshoe knows nothing bad will ever happen to him on TV, why should he be uptight??! There is the usual banter in the locker room and we all have to listen to Tommy whine about how lucky he will have to get to break
175 today. Poor guy.....
The lanes start out the same, but with four guys practicing they break down very quick and the line right of second arrow is useless by the time the show starts. This forces Duke to move in and he struggles early, rallies late, but is derailed by a 10-pin in the 10th and Reyes wins. We come on and I am surprised by how much more they are hooking since practice. I am forced deeper and I start to lose carry. With two minutes before we are out of commercial I grab a Big Shot out of my bag that is stronger than what I have been using and it knocks the 10-pin out the last two shots before we start. The key now is to commit to it and I do a good job starting with a four-bagger.
"Poor" Tommy also starts with four strikes but keeps going after I 4-pin. I strike again and move a half off the four and get it a little further right and flat 10. Tommy gets seven before a ring-10 and I double making him double to shut me out. He finally gets his ball out of the "splash zone" that the rest of us mortals flat-10 from and throws a couple flush to seal the deal. The championship match is Groundhog Day as Tommy starts out stringing them again and with an early Reyes open, Tommy Gun has title number 10 in the shortest span in history. (Pssst - Tommy, Walter wants his horseshoe back. What??? It won't come out???....... )
It’s time to head back to Hartford and get on a plane. No POY for me this year, but I can look forward to spending time watching my boys’ baseball games and some time at home. I love the competition but it will great to have a break. My wife will be happy too as she has moved, basically been the general contractor on our remodel, and has done the taxes in the last few weeks. I am not sure how I fooled her, but I got a great one with her. I have about the best supportive situation a guy could have being on tour.
She understands the whole thing and takes care of a lot to enable me to do my best out here. Now it will be my turn to pitch in as the Team USA schedule kicks in a bit.
Unfortunately I was not voted back into the Roll to Riches. I am very disappointed to say the least. After winning my way in the last two years and then having so much (luck) success in it, I was hoping to get a chance to 3-peat ala "tater" (Couch.... potato....get it??). But it will be a great event as there are six great players there and nobody is bigger than the game (psssst....Tommy..... I didn't mean you!!!)
Have a great summer and don't forget to look for us in a special summer
See you on the lanes!
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