Merrillville Thrills

by PBA Editor November 17, 2007 19:00
Exactly 365 days after falling just short of winning his first career title in honor of his dying grandmother, Michael Haugen Jr. returned to Lake County Indiana and finally captured that elusive Denny’s PBA Tour victory.

Haugen, who fell in the semifinals of last season’s 2006 Lake County Indiana Classic and lost his grandmother minutes later, defeated Wes Malott, 247-239, to win the 2007 Lake County Indiana Classic pres. by United Way at Stardust Bowl II for his first title in 200 career events.

The 40-year-old Haugen nearly lost his exemption two seasons ago when he failed to finish in the top 40 of the 2005-06 PBA World Point Rankings. He regained his spot on Tour by finishing second in the 2006 Denny’s PBA Tour Trials at Stardust Bowl I in nearby Hammond, Ind. A few months later, Haugen made the finals of the Lake County Indiana Classic in Hammond, but fell to Norm Duke 279-233.

Exactly a year later, Haugen advanced to his first title match since 2003 with a narrow 194-192 win over Todd Book. He then watched as Malott could have struck with his first ball in the 10th of the title match to win. Instead, Malott left a 10-pin to give Haugen the victory.

“At first, I just wanted to make sure nothing came out of the back,” Haugen (Cave Creek, Ariz.) said of his reaction to Malott’s ringing 10-pin. “Then it donned on me that he needed the first one, and after that it was just relief. You hate to see anyone lose on a shot like that, but I’ll take it. It’s not like I bowled a bad game.”

Haugen made a key ball change after the semifinal match, when he struggled on the right lane.

“The only thing I was thinking going into the title match was that the right lane was going to be key because I didn’t throw very good shots on that lane in the semifinal,” Haugen said. “I changed balls and thought, ‘If this ball can hold the pocket for me and I can strike on the right lane, I think I can get it done.’ I struck four out of five times on that lane (in the title match) so it turned out to be a huge change.”

Haugen wasn’t the only bowler on Sunday whose fate was determined by their opponent’s final shot. In the third of four PBA Women’s Series events, Joy Esterson defeated Liz Johnson, 10-7, in a one-ball sudden death roll-off after they tied at 226.

The match was dead even heading into the 10th frame when Esterson struck all three times, forcing Johnson to do the same to tie. Johnson then struck three times to send the match to a roll off. In the roll off, Esterson chose to start and she put the pressure on Johnson with a strike. Johnson was unable to match, knocking down just seven pins to give Esterson her first PBA Women’s Series victory.

“I’m just numb about the whole thing,” Esterson (Annapolis, Md.) said. “It’s been three weeks of what I felt was great bowing and what I thought was the best I could have done.”

Esterson has bowled as well as any of the 16 women on the mini tour, which has been running concurrently with Denny’s PBA Tour events. In last week’s Etonic Championship, she led all 64 men and 16 women in the 14 games of qualifying, before falling in match play in the Round of 8.

In the title match against Johnson on Sunday, she made a big move just before the 10th frame, moving a few boards right to get lined up after going light with her two previous shots.

Whereas Esterson and Johnson were even throughout their title match, Haugen and Malott traded leads in the men’s match. Haugen took the early lead with five strikes in the first six frames before back-to-back nine spares gave Malott an opening. Malott took advantage by striking five consecutive times to take the lead. Haugen kept the pressure on by striking with his last four shots, which put Malott in the position of needing a strike to win.

Haugen earned $25,000 and an exemption for the 2008-09 season for his win, along with a berth in the 2008 H&R Block Tournament of Champions in January. Malott earned $13,000 for second while Barnes (Double Oak, Texas), who fell to Malott, 268-228, in the semifinals, and Book (Cantonment, Fla.) took home $6,000 each for third and fourth, respectively.

Esterson pocketed $10,000 for her win while Johnson (Cheektowaga, N.Y.) took home $6,000.

The Denny’s PBA Tour moves to Vernon Hills, Ill., next week for the 2007 CLR Windy City Classic, Nov. 21-25, while the PBA Women’s Series takes a one-week hiatus before returning with the Great Lakes Classic, the final event of the series.

The live-ESPN televised finals for the CLR Windy City Classic at Hawthorn Lanes takes place Sunday, Nov. 25 at 1 p.m. EST.

Denny’s PBA Tour
2007 Lake County Indiana Classic pres. by United Way
Stardust Bowl II
Merrillville, Ind.
Sunday, Nov. 18


Pos.Name, hometownTotal/GamesMoney
1.Michael Haugen Jr., Cave Creek, Ariz.441 (2 games)$25,000
2.Wes Malott, Argyle, Texas507 (2 games)$13,000
3.Chris Barnes, Double Oak, Texas228 (1 game)$6,000
4.Todd Book, Cantonment, Fla.192 (1 game)$6,000

SCORES – In the first match, Haugen def. Book, 194-192; in the second match, Malott def. Barnes, 268-228; and in the final, Haugen def. Malott, 247-239.

This is Haugen’s first career Denny’s PBA Tour title

PBA Women’s Series
2007 Lake County Indiana Classic pres. by United Way
Stardust Bowl II
Merrillville, Ind.
Sunday, Nov. 18


Pos.Name, hometownTotal/GamesMoney
1.Joy Esterson, Annapolis, Md.226 (1 game)$10,000
2.Liz Johnson, Cheektowaga, N.Y.226 (1 game)$6,000

SCORES – Esterson def. Johnson, 226-226*.

*Esterson def. Johnson, 10-7, in a one-ball roll-off.

This is Esterson’s first PBA Women’s Series title.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it.