February 28, 2008 19:00
Even in her trailblazing season as the first woman to earn a Denny’s PBA Tour exemption, Kelly Kulick never got this far.
But using the experience she gained as an exempt bowler and saddled with a new positive attitude, Kulick is one step away from making history again.
Kulick defeated Chad Kloss, four-games-to-two, Friday night in the Round of 16 at Sequoia Pro Bowl to advance to Saturday’s Round of 8 in the Don Johnson Buckeye State Classic, where a berth in Sunday’s championship round will be on the line.
In the summer of 2006, Kulick made history by finishing sixth out of 140 bowlers at the Denny’s PBA Tour Trials to earn one of the 10 exemptions up for grabs that day. But the learning curve was a slow one for Kulick on the 2006-07 Tour, as it is for most rookies. The Union, N.J., native made match play just five times in 20 events and never advanced past the Round of 32.
Following a solid but disappointing performance on the four-event PBA Women’s Series this fall – where she just missed making the finals in all four events – Kulick took some time away from the game and came back with a renewed attitude.
The time away paid off as Kulick advanced out of Tuesday’s Tour Qualifying Round, the second time she’s advanced through the qualifier this season. She then advanced to match play by finishing 29th in Thursday’s Round of 64, where she defeated No. 4 Eugene McCune, 4-1, in the Round of 32 before taking down Kloss in six games.
On Saturday, Kulick will look to become the second woman ever to make the finals of a Denny’s PBA Tour event, following Liz Johnson, who finished second in the 2005 Banquet Classic during the 2004-05 season. That season marked the first time women were allowed to bowl against the men after the Professional Women’s Bowling Association (PWBA) folded in 2003.
Kulick will face No. 12 Wes Malott (Argyle, Texas), who overcame a 3-1 deficit to defeat Brad Angelo, 4-3. Oddly enough, it was Malott who fell to Johnson in the semifinals of the 2005 Banquet Open, giving Johnson a spot in the title match where she fell to Tommy Jones.
Also advancing to the Round of 8 were Steve Harman (Indianapolis) and Ken Simard (Greenville, S.C.), who will face off Saturday morning with each bowler looking to make their first career championship round appearance.
The other side of the bracket features Ronnie Russell (Indianapolis) taking on eight-time titlist Mika Koivuniemi (Hartland, Mich.) and Chris Barnes (Double Oak, Texas) facing Todd Book (Cantonment, Fla.), with Barnes looking to make his Tour-high ninth championship round of the season.
Saturday’s Round of 8 gets underway at 10 a.m. EST with the final four advancing to the live ESPN-televised championship on Sunday.
Those four will roll off for the $25,000 top prize and an exemption for the 2008-09 season, Sunday, March 2 at 12:30 p.m.
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