February 8, 2007 19:00
A little relaxation and a change in strategy goes a long way on the Denny's PBA Tour, at least that’s the case for Bill O’Neill in the 2007 GEICO Classic at AMF Irving Lanes.
O’Neill, the 2005-06 PBA Rookie of the Year, credited relaxing and playing his opponent as opposed to playing the lanes for sending him to his first ESPN finals this season and second in his career.
“You have to play your opponent more than you play the lane pattern. I’m starting to learn that a little more,” said O’Neill (Levittown, Pa.). “I used to play the lanes (in match play) exactly like I did in qualifying.
“I’m also relaxing a little more when I bowl in match play. I used to put pressure on myself and kept thinking about the next shot instead of the one I’m on.”
O’Neill’s calm demeanor propelled the 26-year old past Steve Jaros (Yorkville, Ill.), four-games-to-one, in Friday night’s Round of 8. It also helped O’Neill, who finished Thursday’s Round of 64 ranked No. 2, knock off PBA Hall of Famers Tom Baker (4-3) and Brian Voss (4-2) in the Round of 16 and 32, respectively.
O’Neill will have to relax Sunday if he plans to win his first career title as he faces off with local favorite Chris Barnes (Double Oak, Texas).
Barnes, who finished second in last week’s Sun City Classic, knocked off Tim Criss (Bel Air, Md.), 4-2. After winning the first game, Barnes dropped the next two to Criss before rebounding with three straight wins, improving his score in each with games of 219, 224 and 257.
The second half of the bracket will feature two bowlers looking to make a name for themselves on the 2006-07 Tour. Mike DeVaney (Temecula, Calif.) will take on first-year exempt bowler John May (Iron Station, N.C.).
DeVaney, who is coming off his most successful season on the 2005-06 Tour, defeated Eugene McCune (Munster, Ind.), 4-1, after being taken to seven games by Mike Machuga (Erie, Pa.) in the Round of 16.
May enters Sunday’s telecast with two previous TV appearances under his belt, but no titles to show. May is making a case to be favored on Sunday knocking off two of the Tour’s hottest bowlers, Tommy Jones (Simpsonville, S.C.) and Wes Malott (Argyle, Texas), in the Rounds of 32 and 16, before knocking off Chris Warren (Grants Pass, Ore.), 4-1, in the Round of 8.
The four bowlers advance to Sunday’s live ESPN televised finals at 11:30 a.m. CST at AMF Irving Lanes. The winner will take home $25,000 and a one-season Denny’s PBA Tour exemption.
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