Chris Barnes felt all day there was a bigger plan for him on Sunday. There might just be a bigger plan for him at the end of the road as well.
Barnes watched as Ken Simard needed three strikes in the 10th to win his first career title, but instead left the 3-10 split with his second shot, giving Barnes a 209-197 win in the 2008 Don Johnson Buckeye State Classic for his 10th career Denny’s PBA Tour title.
The victory could turn out to be one of the biggest in Barnes’ career as it gave him the lead in the 2007-08 PBA Player of the Year race with just three events remaining.
Just a month ago, Barnes lost in the title match of the H&R Block Tournament of Champions which furthered his reputation as a bowler who, for the most part, had underachieved in his career. Instead, he’s responded with two victories in the last four events, putting him on the verge of his first career PBA Player of the Year award.
Barnes took a big risk in the title match, playing each lane differently. He played the deep inside part of the left lane and on the right lane changed to playing straight after three consecutive spares.
“The lanes were just plain hard. I felt like I was tricking them all day,” Barnes (Double Oak, Texas) said. “I didn’t really have a good look the whole day, I just grinded it out and made enough good shots and made the other guy show up.”
Simard, who showed the poise of a veteran in his first career TV appearance, stepped up in the 10th needing all three to win. Standing in front of the ball return on the right lane, he struck with his first shot before splitting on his second.
“There’s definitely helplessness in watching him try to strike out to win. The other times that’s happened to me, the guys have bowled like professionals and gone bang, bang, bang and see you later,” Barnes said. “I’ve also been in that spot he’s in needing three in a row. If he gets up and throws three in a row on his first show on that lane, then I just have to tip my cap. But I didn’t like his chances based on what had happened over there before.”
The win gives Barnes two titles in a season for the second time in his career but the first time since the 1999 season. It was also meaningful to the Columbia 300 staffer, who won the event named after the late PBA Hall of Famer Don Johnson, a famed Columbia staffer himself.
“It’s a really good feeling. I just feel like someone else had a plan,” Barnes said. “As many times as I’ve left a 10-pin or 4-pin or 7-pin and guys have stepped up and won, today guys didn’t. Historically on the one-game thing it hasn’t worked my way. I do think maybe ‘Koko Butter’ was up there looking out for another Columbia staffer.”
The win gives Barnes a four-point lead over Walter Ray Williams Jr. in the PBA Player of the Year race with three events remaining, including the season-ending 65th Denny’s U.S. Open, the fourth Major of the season which awards more Player of the Year points than standard events.
“It’s by no means over,” Barnes said. “Walter Ray averages about one show every four events so odds are he’s going to make another show which means I have to make another show, too. He does have to make one now, though, and it’s not easy out here. At the U.S. Open you still have to beat 480 guys to get there. We all know he’s been the best out here year in and year out. They’ve tried to write him off four or five times, but I don’t ever write him off.”
It almost wasn’t to be for Barnes, who nearly cost himself again in the 10th frame of a title match. Needing a mark and nine pins to shut Simard out, Barnes left the 2-8-10 with his fill ball to give Simard the opportunity to win.
But the 28-year-old couldn’t come through in the clutch, giving Barnes the victory.
Barnes advanced to the title match with a 222-213 win over his Tour roommate Mika Koivuniemi, the second times Barnes has knocked off the “Big Finn” in the semifinals this season en route to a title. After Barnes left a 4-6-7 and opened in the ninth frame after five consecutive strikes, Koivuniemi had a chance to win with a mark and eight pins. He left the 3-10, however, and needing a mark to still have a chance to win, Koivuniemi chopped the spare to give Barnes the win.
Simard advanced to the title match with a 237-226 win over
Barnes earned $25,000 with his win while Simard (Simpsonville, S.C.) earned $13,000 for second. Malott (Argyle, Texas) and Koivuniemi (Hartland, Mich.) took home $6,000 each for third and fourth, respectively.
The Denny’s PBA Tour moves to Norwich, Conn., next week for the 2008 Go RVing Classic, March 5-9 at Norwich Bowling and Entertainment Center. The live ESPN-televised finals take place Sunday, March 9 at 12:30 p.m. ET.
Denny’s PBA Tour2008 Don Johnson Buckeye State Classic
Sequoia Pro Bowl
Sunday, March 2
|1.||Chris Barnes, Double Oak, Texas||431 (2 games)||$25,000|
|2.||Ken Simard, Simpsonville, S.C. ||434 (2 games)||$13,000|
|3.||Wes Malott, Argyle, Texas||226 (1 game)||$6,000|
|4.||Mika Koivuniemi, Hartland, Mich.||213 (1 game)||$6,000|
SCORES – In the first match, Barnes def. Koivuniemi, 222-213; in the second match, Simard def. Malott, 237-226; and in the final, Barnes def. Simard, 209-197.
This is Barnes’ 10th career Denny’s PBA Tour title.