First Time's the Charm?

by PBA Editor January 24, 2008 19:00
After spending Wednesday night at urgent care, doctors told Michael Haugen Jr. he probably shouldn’t bowl until Thursday night.

But seeing as how it was his first career PBA Tournament of Champions, Haugen ignored the doctor’s orders. Now, he’s one win away from his first career Major title.

Haugen went 15-3 in round robin match play Friday to earn the top seed for the stepladder finals of the 2008 H&R Block Tournament of Champions, the second of four Majors on the Denny’s PBA Tour.

Back in November, Haugen won his first title in 200 career events, breaking one of the longest winless droughts on Tour. Just two months after the event, Haugen hardly looked like a guy mixing it up with the legends of the game for the first time in his career.

He got through Thursday’s qualifying in eighth then blitzed through the field in match play to lead by over 150 pins.

Haugen will now look to win his first career Major title and earn a two-season Denny’s PBA Tour exemption.
“On Thursday I felt bad, tired, weak but it’s the Tournament of Champions and it’s my first one and I wasn’t going to miss it,” Haugen (Cave Creek, Ariz.) said. “I bowled well Thursday and kept myself close. Who knew today was going to turn out like today.”

Sunday will mark the first time Haugen will be the top seed for a stepladder final. He was the No. 2 seed for the finals of the 2003 U.S. Open where he defeated Pete Weber in the semifinals but fell to Walter Ray Williams Jr. in the title match.

“I look at it like this: I led the tournament and it’s one game Sunday,” Haugen said. “I decide my own fate. It has to go through me one way or another. There’s no way you can feel bad about that.”

Earning the No. 2 seed was Chris Barnes, who qualified for his third consecutive championship round appearance and his Tour-leading seventh of the season. The 2006 Tournament of Champions winner will bowl in two championship rounds on Sunday as he also teamed up with Wes Malott earlier in the week to earn the No. 2 seed for Sunday’s PBA Exempt Doubles Classic final, which takes place following the Tournament of Champions final.

In an exciting position round match, Ryan Shafer held on to the No. 3 seed while Pete Weber shot 247 in the final game to jump from No. 6 to No. 4 and earn the final spot in the championship round. Weber will be looking to make history as the first bowler ever to win each of the PBA’s Triple Crown events – U.S. Open, World Championship and Tournaments – twice.

Weber struck with his first seven shots in the position round against Mike Machuga before leaving a 10-pin in the seventh frame. He then had to worry about Parker Bohn III on the next pair who went into the position round in seventh but he started with the first eight strikes and looked like he might go around Wes Malott, Weber and Mike Machuga. After Weber struck in the eighth in his match, Bohn left the 4-6-7-8-10 and opened in his ninth frame.

Weber then struck in the ninth but he opened in the 10th allowing Bohn another chance. Bohn needed to double in the 10th to make the finals, but he left the 10-pin to give Weber the final spot.

“I was just thinking if I stay clean, I can’t miss the show but then I opened in the 10th at the worst time,” Weber (St. Ann, Mo.) said. “I thought I threw it good but it grabbed the lane. Maybe I was soft with it because I was thinking ‘don’t 2-10.’ But I stuck in there tonight and threw strikes when I needed them.”

Weber will look to break a tie with Earl Anthony for most career Majors as he’ll try to win his ninth on Sunday.

“That would be nice to add another Major to my resume,” Weber said. “And it definitely would help me get into the Player of the Year race if I can get a couple more titles this year. Walter Ray is bowling well but so are Patrick Allen, Parker Bohn, Wes Malott and a bunch of other guys. The Player of the Year definitely hasn’t been sealed yet.”

Weber will face Ryan Shafer in the first match on Sunday with the winner taking on Barnes. The winner of that match will face Haugen with $50,000 and a two-season exemption on the line. The live-ESPN televised finals take place Sunday, Jan. 27 at 12:30 p.m. EST.
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