February 27, 2008 19:00
A change in grip and a new moustache are all Ritchie Allen needed to get back in the groove.
Allen, one of the more colorful personalities on the Denny’s PBA Tour, lead the Round of 64 in the 2008 Don Johnson Buckeye State Classic Thursday at Sequoia Pro Bowl with a 3,295 14-game pinfall.
The 29-year-old free spirit said he hadn’t made match play since the Motel 6 Dick Weber Open, which was the last time he had a moustache. Sporting a barely-visible line of hair on his upper-lip, Allen earned the top seed for Friday’s Round of 32, where he will face No. 32 Jason Wojnar, who earned the final spot in match play by two pins.
The two-time titlist Allen also made a major grip change recently, due to the returning strength in his right hand following a stress fracture which kept him out of the 2006-07 season.
“I basically made an entire grip overhaul,” Allen (Columbia, S.C.) said. “I was having a lot of pain in my hand and the only reason I made the change was to relieve the pressure and by far this is the best my hand has felt in two years.
“I didn’t have any strength in my hand when I came back and I was getting locked in the ball,” Allen continued. “About a month ago I realized I was squeezing the (crap) out of it, so now I guess all my hand strength has come back and it feels 100 percent healthy. Now I’m locked in and still squeeze it and it doesn’t bother me. And the moustache helps me strike more.”
On Thursday, Allen averaged 221.14 in the first seven-game block and sat just 28th in the standings. He averaged 249.57 in the second seven-game block, with four games of 257 or better, including a 278 in the 11th game of the day.
Allen will look to make his second championship round appearance of the season and his first since the 2007 CLR Windy City Classic in November where he finished fifth. Since then he’s dropped down to 31st in the PBA World Point Rankings and needs a strong finish to stay in the top 39 and maintain his exemption for 2008-09. His last victory came in the 2005-06 season.
Tour young gun Sean Rash (Wichita, Kan.) finished second with 3,255 and will face No. 31 Ronnie Russell (Indianapolis). Rash will look for his first championship round appearance since winning the season-opening United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Masters.
Joe Ciccone (Buffalo, N.Y.) finished third with 3,248 and will face No. 30 Bill O’Neill (Levittown, Pa.).
Kelly Kulick (Union, N.J.), who became the first woman to earn a Denny’s PBA Tour exemption last season and earned a spot in this week’s event through the Denny’s PBA Tour Qualifying Round, finished 29th. She will face No. 4 Eugene McCune (Munster, Ind.).
Last week’s Denny’s World Championship winner Norm Duke (Clermont, Fla.) finished 16th and will face No. 17 Steve Harman (Indianapolis).
The top 32 advance to Friday’s single elimination match play which gets underway at 9 a.m. EST. Half the field will bowl at 9 a.m. followed by the second half rolling at 2 p.m. The Round of 16 takes place at 7 p.m. while the Round of 8 takes place Saturday at 10 a.m. EST.
The top four after Saturday’s match play will advance to Sunday’s championship round live on ESPN at 12:30 p.m. The winner receives $25,000 an exemption for the 2008-09 Denny’s PBA Tour.
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