February 29, 2008 19:00
Wes Malott has been as big a supporter of Kelly Kulick as anyone in her two years as a pioneer on the Denny’s PBA Tour, but on Saturday, Malott had to put his support for Kulick aside.
Malott defeated Kulick, four-games-to-three, to advance to the finals of the 2008 Don Johnson Buckeye State Classic at Sequoia Pro Bowl, denying Kulick her place in history as the second woman to make the finals of a Denny’s PBA Tour event.
Kulick looking to equal the feat accomplished by Liz Johnson, who finished second in the 2005 Banquet Open. That day, Johnson defeated Malott in the semifinals after Malott fouled twice late in the match. Johnson went on to fall to Tommy Jones in the title match.
Malott was in no mood to be on the wrong side of history again. Although he was stretched to the limit by Kulick, he came away with a 238-185 win over the Union, N.J., native in the deciding seventh game.
“Trust me, it’s not my first time bowling against a woman. I bowled Liz a couple years ago and had a couple issues with my shoes which I have since overcome, but in practice today I fouled a couple times,” Malott (Argyle, Texas) said. “During practice my timing was off and my arm swing was fast, but I’ve been sick this week and I actually bowl better when I’m sick because I slow everything down. Today I was able to finally slow down and get my timing back early in the match and everything fell into place.”
Kulick, who was the first woman to earn a full season Denny’s PBA Tour exemption last season but was unable to regain her spot on Tour this year, had the best week of her career, finishing sixth despite having to advance through Tuesday’s Denny’s PBA Tour Qualifying Round.
“Kelly has always impressed me,” Malott said. “When she was exempt last year I congratulated and supported her 100% and told her if she needed anything I was there fore her. I’m that way with anyone, though. In our sport, it’s hard to see the lanes the right way and make the right decisions. Some people come out here and don't have success right away and decide to pack up and go home instead of trying to get better. You want people to get better because that’s the only way the sport will get better.”
Malott, who won a title earlier this season, will face Ken Simard (Greenville, S.C.), who defeated Steve Harman (Indianapolis), 4-3. Simard will be making his first career championship round appearances.
The first semifinal will feature Chris Barnes taking on Tour roommate Mika Koivuniemi for the second time this season. Barnes (Double Oak, Texas) defeated Koivunieni in the semifinals of the Bayer Classic three weeks ago en route to his only title this season. Barnes, who defeated Todd Book (Cantonment, Fla.), 4-1, is making his Tour-high ninth TV appearance of the season and would take over the lead in the PBA Player of the Year race with a victory.
Koivuniemi (Hartland, Mich.), who knocked off Ronnie Russell (Indianapolis, Ind.) will also be looking for his second title of the season.
The final 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. EST.
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