Michael Haugen Jr.’s chances to win his first career Major title looked bleak in the sixth frame of Sunday’s H&R Block Tournament of Champions. What followed next may go down as one of the greatest comebacks in Denny’s PBA Tour history, and was the most heartbreaking moment in the career of a man who has had many.
Haugen overcame a 50-pin deficit to defeat Chris Barnes, 215-214, Sunday in a title match that was as much about Haugen’s guts as it was about the crucial mistake Barnes made to miss out on his third career Major title.
The top-seeded Haugen had an adventurous week, which started in urgent care Wednesday night due to a sickness. He bounced back to make match play by qualifying eighth and went 15-3 in round robin to earn an automatic berth in the title match.
Barnes came into the finals riding a seven-game losing streak, the second-longest streak on his career, but he had a history of breaking losing streaks with a flair for the dramatic: he broke a career-worst eight-game losing streak in 2005 by winning his first career Major title in the 62nd U.S. Open
Things looked to be heading that way again when the No. 2 seed Barnes breezed past No. 3 Ryan Shafer, 257-205, in the semifinals and started the title match with strikes in the first three frames while Haugen left the 4-6-7 in the second and the 4-7-10 in the fifth giving Barnes what seemed like an insurmountable lead.
The match started to turn in the seventh when Barnes lost his carry and left three consecutive single pins, the third of which set off a stunning turn of events. Barnes whiffed the 10-pin in the ninth frame, giving Haugen the slightest of openings. Haugen, who had struck in the seventh and eighth frames, took advantage by striking in the ninth and then doubling in the 10th to force Barnes to double for the win.
The eight-time champion left a 2-pin with his first shot in the 10th and picked up the spare which still gave him a chance for the tie with a strike. Instead, he left the 4-pin this time, leaving Haugen to celebrate from the bench for the second time this season.
“You can’t give up, you just can’t. There’s a lot of pressure and prestige in this event and you just want to make good shots and not embarrass yourself,” Haugen (Cave Creek, Ariz.) said. “I looked at the scoreboard around the seventh frame and knew if he didn’t strike the rest of the way and I did, the most he could get was 220s and I could get to the 210s. I knew I could at least make him think about it. Anything can happen, a 7-10 or a 4-9, but I never thought it would be a missed single pin.”
This week marked Haugen’s first career Tournament of Champions event. He won his first career title in the 2007 Lake County Indiana Classic in November, defeating Wes Malott, 247-239. That day, Malott needed a strike in the 10th frame to win but left the 10-pin to give Haugen his first taste of victory. On Sunday, he became just the second bowler in history – and the first since Joe Joseph in 1962 – to win their first career title and the Tournament of Champions in the same season.
“A lot of people say your career doesn’t start until your first title and that the first one validates you as a bowler. What you do after that really defines your career,” Haugen said. “That first win definitely gave me confidence but mostly I’m just in a better place in my life. I made a commitment to just worry about myself and not worry about anything else. If I keep my karma good, things will be just fine.”
Haugen earned $50,000 and a two-year exemption through the 2009-10 season for his victory. Barnes (Double Oak, Texas) earned $25,000 for second and Shafer (Horseheads, N.Y.), who defeated PBA Hall of Famer Pete Weber in the first match, 215-213, took home $10,000 for third. Weber (St. Ann, Mo.), who was looking for his record-breaking ninth career Major, earned $7,000 for fourth.
The Denny’s PBA Tour will take a one-week break before heading to El Paso, Texas, for the 2008 Bayer Classic at Oasis Lanes, Feb. 6-10. The live ESPN-televised finals take place Sunday, Feb. 10 at 12:30 p.m. EST.Notes:
With the win, Haugen moved into second in the PBA Player of the Year race, just four points behind Walter Ray Williams Jr. He has 40 points to Williams' 44.
Patrick Allen is third with 38 points while Barnes moved up to fourth with 34.Denny’s PBA Tour
2008 H&R Block Tournament of Champions
Red Rock Lanes
Las Vegas, Nev.
Sunday, Jan. 27
|1.||Michael Haugen Jr., Cave Creek, Ariz.||215 (1 game)||$50,000|
|2.||Chris Barnes, Double Oak, Texas||471 (2 games)||$25,000|
|3.||Ryan Shafer, Horseheads, N.Y.||420 (2 games)||$10,000|
|4.||Pete Weber, St. Ann, Mo.||213 (1 game)||$7,000|
– In the first match, Shafer def. Weber, 215-213; in the second match, Barnes def. Shafer, 257-205; and in the final, Haugen def. Barnes, 215-214.
This is Haugen’s second career Denny’s PBA Tour title and his first career Major.