Mika Koivuniemi became the first European player to win the Japan Cup and solidified his standing as one of the world’s top bowlers, defeating fellow Denny’s PBA Tour star Mike Wolfe, 200-178, to win the Dydo Japan Cup 2007 Sunday at the Tokyo Metro Gymnasium.
The win was the eighth Denny’s PBA Tour title of Koivuniemi’s career, and gave him a title in 11 different countries. The Finland native has been bowling on the Denny’s PBA Tour for nine years after spending 10 years with Team Finland.
“It’s great to win anywhere, but to win in Japan and to win in an arena atmosphere makes it even more special,” Koivuniemi (Hartland, Mich.) said. “I have bowled in a few arena finals but never won until now so it’s just a great feeling to do it in front of a big crowd like this.”
Koivuniemi and Wolfe were the only two PBA stars to advance to the eight-bowler finals after a format change which featured single elimination, best-of-three games match play through the Round of 16 as opposed to the round robin format used in years past. Last season, all nine finalists were from the PBA.
This year’s finals had an international flavor as five Japanese bowlers, one Korean, one American and one Finish bowler made up the final eight. The home crowd in Japan was hoping to see a Japanese bowler win the Japan Cup for the first time since 1988.
Wolfe (New Albany, Ind.) started the finals with a 220-212 win over the 64th-seed Shigeo Saito of Japan, advancing to face another Japanese bowler, Yoshiki Ohsawa in the semifinals. Ohsawa had defeated three American players – including Norm Duke and Walter Ray Williams Jr. – in the Rounds of 64, 32 and 16, but Wolfe stopped the string with a 237-212 win to advance to the finals.
Koivuniemi, meanwhile, took his dominance of left-handed bowlers overseas as he defeated the Japan Professional Bowlers Association’s top young star, Isao Yamamoto, 217-205, in the Round of 8. Koivuniemi, the self-proclaimed “lefties’ worst nightmare,” improved to 13-2 on television in his PBA career against lefties.
It was a heartbreaking loss for Yamamoto, who left seven 7-pins in the match, five of which came on the right lane. The 25-year-old had a chance to win the match with a double in the 10th, but he left a 7-pin to allow Koivuniemi to advance.
Koivuniemi then defeated Japan’s Masao Uehara, 235-201, to set up the all-PBA final.
Wolfe struggled in the final, unable to strike until the ninth frame as he left four 10-pins in one five-frame stretch, which included a crucial failed 10-pin conversion in the seventh frame.
Koivuniemi couldn’t pull away, opening in the fourth frame and alternating spare-strike in frames five through eight. Wolfe could have put the pressure on Koivuniemi by striking out in the 10th, but after two strikes he left yet another 10-pin, meaning the “Big Finn” only needed a mark to win.
“Of course, I was happy that he was unable to strike,” said Koivuniemi, who has now appeared in a televised championship round in 17 different countries. “Unfortunately for him, he got some really bad breaks and left a lot of 10-pins.”
One of Wolfe’s bad breaks came in the fourth frame when he knocked the 7-pin out but the 8-pin slid all the way over into the 7-pin’s place and stood up. The 30 year old was unable to win his third career title in his first championship round appearance since December 2005.
Koivuniemi took home $50,000 for the win, while Wolfe earned $26,000. Uehara and Ohsawa took home $10,000 for third and fourth, respectively, while Yamamoto, Takashi Masuda, Korea’s Byun Yong Hwan and Saito each earned $5,000 for fifth through eighth.
The complete championship round of the Dydo Japan Cup 2007 will air tape-delayed on ESPN Sunday, Oct. 21 at 1 p.m. ET.Denny’s PBA Tour
Dydo Japan Cup 2007
Tokyo Metro Gymnasium
Sunday, September 23
|1.||Mika Koivuniemi, Hartland, Mich.||652 (3 games)||$50,000|
|2.||Mike Wolfe, New Albany, Ind.||635 (3 games)||$26,000|
|3.||Masao Uehara, Japan||447 (2 games)||$10,000|
|4.||Yoshiki Ohsawa, Japan||450 (2 games)||$10,000|
|5.||Isao Yamamoto, Japan||205 (1 game)||$5,000|
|6.||Takashi Masuda, Japan||192 (1 game)||$5,000|
|7.||Byun Yong Hwan, Korea||205 (1 game)||$5,000|
|8.||Shigeo Saito, Japan||212 (1 game)||$5,000|
SCORES – In the first match, Wolfe def. Saito, 220-212; in the second match, Ohsawa def. Masuda, 238-192; in the third match, Koivuniemi def. Yamamoto, 217-205; in the fourth match, Uehara def. Hwan, 246-205; in the first semifinal Wolfe def. Ohsawa, 237-212; in the second semifinal, Koivuniemi def. Uehara, 235-201; and in the title match, Koivuniemi def. Wolfe, 200-178.
This is Koivuniemi’s eighth Denny’s PBA Tour title.