Off the Couch, Into the Lead

by PBA Editor January 23, 2008 19:00
Bowling in his first event of the 2007-08 Denny’s PBA Tour season, Jason Couch holds the lead after the first round of qualifying in the 2008 H&R Block Tournament of Champions at Red Rock Lanes, one of four Majors on the Denny’s PBA Tour.

Couch (Clermont, Fla.) never fully recovered from off-season knee surgery and has deferred his exemption until the 2008-09 season. He came into this week not sure if he would be able to bowl the entire tournament, but so far his knee has held up just fine.

The 15-time titlist jumped out of the gates fast with a 278 and rebounded from a block-low of 194 in game four to finish with games of 255, 236 and 239 to finish with a 1,685 seven-game pinfall. Couch has always risen to another level in the Tournament of Champions, winning the event an unprecedented three consecutive times from 1999-2002.

Just behind Couch is PBA Hall of Famer Tom Baker (King, N.C.), the three-time reigning PBA Senior Player of the Year who is the only PBA Senior Tour player exempt on the Denny’s PBA Tour. Baker used a 279 in game six and a 248 in game seven to finish second with 1,680.

Like his fellow Clermont Fla., resident Couch, 13-time titlist Randy Pedersen has excelled in his first event of the season. Pedersen, eligible for the event due to his 2002 Pepsi Open title, fired the only 300 game of the morning in game three and held the overall lead through much of the morning. He finished third with 1,678.

Eugene McCune (Munster, Ind.) and Ryan Shafer (Horseheads, N.Y.) round out the top five in fourth and fifth, respectively.

Defending champion Tommy Jones (Simpsonville, S.C.) is 11th with 1,618.

All 54 bowlers return for another seven-game block this afternoon at 3 p.m. PST. The top 32 will advance to Friday’s round robin match play.

The event features the 39 most recent champions on the Denny’s PBA Tour, two winners from major events on both the PBA Senior Tour and PBA Regional Tour and is filled up to 54 by past Tournament of Champions winners and PBA Hall of Famers, based on most recent Denny’s PBA Tour win.

The final four will compete for the $50,000 top prize and a two-year Denny’s PBA Tour exemption on Sunday, Jan. 27 at 12:30 p.m. EST live on ESPN.

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