March 25, 2008 19:00
The Player of the Year race on the Denny's PBA Tour is coming down to the wire. With one event left on the schedule -- the 65th Denny’s U.S. Open in North Brunswick, N.J. -- Chris Barnes holds a slim 2-point advantage over all-time titles leader Walter Ray Williams Jr.
Should Barnes and Williams both make the Open finals, the Player of the Year Award will be determined during Sunday's championship round, which can be seen live on ESPN at 2 p.m. ET.
Barnes, the 1998 PBA Rookie of the Year and two-time Major winner (2005 U.S. Open and 2006 Tournament of Champions), has two victories this season and is seeking his first career Player of the Year award.
He stopped by USAToday.com to answer all your questions:
Comment from Chris Barnes: Hello everyone. Thanks for your questions. I'll try to answer as many as I can before I hit the lanes.
Wichita, Kan.: You seem to be a different person now than when you first went out on tour in 1998. Has getting married and being a father changed your perspective towards your job and life on the PBA Tour?
Chris Barnes: Good observation. Certainly bowling has gone from being my main focus and how I judge my self worth to just a part of who I am. My family have made me more well rounded and, as a result, a better bowler.
Wichita, Kan.: In your bowling career, you've had the opportunity to work with some of the best and brightest bowling coaches in the world - Fred Borden and other Team USA staff, Gordon Vadakin at WSU, and John Jowdy to mention just a few. You're also married to a better-than-average bowler and coach in your wife, Lynda. When your game isn't 100%, do you turn to her for help? Where does she rank in your coaching arsenal?
Chris Barnes: Coaching has been a huge part of my success. Lynda is a much better coach than I am and there are many times when I'm home that she helps me.
Trussville, Ala.: What is your proudest achievement, that bowling fans don't know about?
Chris Barnes: I won a state high school basketball championship.
Birmingham, Ala.: What source would you suggest for someone wanting to improve their game?
Chris Barnes: A USBC certified coach and searching out a PBA Experience Pattern.
Columbus, Ind.: How did bowling in college help your professional career? Good luck with the Player of the Year.... Former collegiate bowler (remember St. Louis, 1991?)
Chris Barnes: Yes, I do remember Strike and Strike. In college, my game wasn't nearly ready for the Tour and I wasn't either maturity wise. I think historically players who have their ducks in a row, so to speak, have much more successful careers.
Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Hey Chris. I always loved to see you go onto the Sunday telecasts. Just a couple of questions...Have you ever imagined what it would be like at the tournament and for TV viewers to see that the finals match for the U.S. Open to be a match with you facing Walter Ray Williams? How are you and WRW like when you two see each other in event qualifying these few weeks knowing that you both are pushing each other to step up to the plate every week that’s left?
Chris Barnes: I have imagined a final between me and Walter Ray bowling although it doesn't look like that's going to happen this week. We're still friendly acquaintances now like we were before the Player of the Year race. He and I have been competing against each other the last seven or eight years on a pretty regular basis so the competition doesn't change the dynamic much.
Canada: Hi Chris. I wanted to congratulate you on your successful career. I’m curious to know, who is your roommate? What do you do in your spare time?
Chris Barnes: Marcel, you should watch us on ESPN on Sundays. :)
My roommate is Mika Koivuniemi. We go back home in our spare time between tournaments. With both of us having families, we don't get to spend a lot at home.
Kansas City, Mo.: How did you and your family deal with the cost of bowling enough to get the point of being on tour ? Did you bowl in a lot of leagues? Did your family own a bowling alley or did you work at a bowling alley? Did you always have your natural ability or did you develop it from hard work?
Chris Barnes: My mom worked at a bowling center when I was a teenager so I got to bowl for a reduced rate. As I played basically every other high school sport, I was really only a 3-6 game a week bowler in high school. Lynda's mom was also a junior director since Lynda was 3 years old. I had natural talent but it was very raw. I was fortunate to work with many top coaches along the way without whom I would've been a very average player.
Chicago, Ill.: As a male, how do you get colleges to recognize you, so you can bowl for them?
Chris Barnes: Building a resume through the various junior bowling tours and Junior Gold is the best way. An additional way is to go to one of the camps at the school or schools you would like to attend. This gives you an opportunity to for both sides to get to know each other.
Glendale, Ariz.: Hi Chris. My name is Michael and I wanted to let you know that I am a big fan of yours. I wanted to ask you, when you have a bad bowling week or a bad week on television what are some strategies you use to convince yourself that you are a really great bowler. Thanks for your time. Best of luck.
Chris Barnes: One game or one week doesn't change the progress that you have made up until that point. Each failure is an opportunity to learn something new and improve. If you only won you wouldn't have to work on much to get better.
Goldsboro, N.C.: Chris, after bowling yesterday on the U.S. Open pattern, do you find the shot to be consistent from last year? And what adjustments are you going to make to try to get back into it? What balls did you use yesterday and will you change to different balls today?
Chris Barnes: It is pretty similar to last year. It's obviously difficult. There seems to be less oil on the front of the lane. I played too far right on A squad so I will probably start using some Columbia Momentums with weaker pins from further left.
Chesterfield Township, Mich.: With all the "amateurs" on top of the leader board this week, do you think the rules should be changed in regards to them? Should it be like other sports as in once you win or earn money you are no longer an amateur? If they did change it, do you think it would help boost the PBA? Thanks.
Chris Barnes: I don't think those guys are amateurs any more than I was when I was an amateur bowling for money. I have no problem with them bowling in the tournament. That's what the U.S. Open is about: A great field with all the best bowlers. Remember though, it's not where you start it's where you finish.
Chesterfield, Mich.: With our sport in such decline, what can be done to improve it?
Chris Barnes: Actually, high school bowling is the fastest growing sport. I think many steps are being made to improve it and the fact that recreational bowling is on a huge upswing will translate to bigger numbers in the sports side of it.
Moore, Okla.: Thanks for your time Chris. It appears that you are using less and less axis tilt and becoming incredibly accurate. Would you suggest that bowlers try to do this regardless of a house shot or sport/PBA Experience pattern to limit spraying the ball and greater pin impact?
Chris Barnes: I would suggest you add this to your arsenal. The ability to change your axis rotation as well as speed and hand pressures are keys to being successful at a high level. I feel that less axis rotation is helpful on tougher patterns.
Little Egg Harbor, N.J.: Has rooming with Mika this year had any positive or negative affect on your bowling this year? On a personal note, my whole family is hoping you make Player of the Year. Good Luck!
Chris Barnes: On the positive side, I am bowling for Player of the Year. On the negative side, my olfactory system has been offended numerous times this season.
Pittsburgh, Pa.: How does it feel to be selected to Team USA this year?
Chris Barnes: It's good to be back on the National Team. Some of my fondest bowling memories are during the time I was a part of Team USA.
Laurel, Md.: Could you describe the atmosphere and intensity level of participating in the U.S. Open versus any of the other non-major tour stops?
Chris Barnes: This tournament is always different. For one, there are 480 entries versus 64. I think the U.S. Open is probably the most coveted Major by all the players in addition to it being the last event of the year and exemptions, awards, etc., up for grabs. All this leads up to a more tense and electric atmosphere.
Harrisonburg, Va.: Have you ever considered starting a bowling center yourself?
Chris Barnes: I have and even got close to doing one four years ago. The deal didn't happen and as a result I'm still married. :)
Pittsburgh, Pa.: You are certainly one of the most versatile bowls on Tour, with many adjustments at your disposal, as we saw in your recent title match against Ken Simard. Once a player has mastered their "A" game, what would you say is the first adjustment a bowler should learn to make, other than moving their feet, that will help them the most across different situations. Speed? Axis Rotation? Something else? Thanks.
Chris Barnes: You have hit on the main two that will increase your ability to hit most of the shots you see. The only thing to add to that would be adjusting your hand pressures.
Harrisonburg, Va.: Do you see the PBA and United States Bowling Congress working together more in the future?
Chris Barnes: I think they will work together more in the future but the bar has not been set very high thus far.
Charlotte, N.C.: I've noticed that early in your career when you wanted to throw the ball differently you changed your hand position in the stance prior to the swing, but now you seem to pull off different releases from the same stance is this an accurate observation? When you perform different releases to you concentrate on anything in particular such as a feeling in the hand or something?
Chris Barnes: I still pre-set a lot of things. There are multiple axis rotations inside of each starting position. Often I am very conscious of hand pressure and that's what I focus on for each shot.
Greenville, N.C.: I'm very happy to see that you have broken your "TV curse". What did you do to overcome that problem?
Chris Barnes: I gave my "curse" to Mika and I beat Tommy Jones.
Auburn, N.Y.: Before Tommy Jones won the U.S. Open and the Tournament of Champions, when you won the U.S. Open in 2005 and the Tournament of Champions in 2006, how did you celebrate?
Chris Barnes: After both tournaments I flew or drove home and celebrated with my family.
Romulus, Mich.: Which bowlers would you say have the best mental and physical games on Tour?
Chris Barnes: Walter Ray (Gator as we like to call him) probably has the best mental game for his ability to simplify everything.
I don't know if it's the best yet, but probably the most impressive physically, at least on the international level, is Jason Belmonte. Of the guys on Tour right now, Ken Simard has that same possibility.
Hastings, Neb.: I know there are many variables, but when playing on a flat pattern like this week's U.S. Open, do you find the carry better playing down and in or can you actually swing the ball with a more aggressive surface? Good luck this week and I hope to see you on TV Sunday!
Chris Barnes: Either way you are not giving away the head pin much from wherever you are playing on the lane. They're not easy from anywhere so pick your poison and make good shots.
Cool, Texas: I'd like to hear your thoughts on the phenomenon of Rob Stone's "hambone" name for a 5-bagger. Many love it, many hate it, and I was wondering what your take on it is.
Chris Barnes: Well, it's for a four-bagger, and it is what it is.
Rob's a humorous and high-energy guy and has already changed our sport a little bit.
Newport News, Va.: What equipment and lane decisions do you make for this kind of tournament because you are crossing with 125+ bowlers vs. 64 at a regular tournament?
Chris Barnes: You're still following the same number of bowlers from pair to pair. The difference is that the masses will break down the lanes differently than the guys on Tour. Typically, further to the right and with a little less accuracy.
Atlanta, Ga.: Hey Chris, we are rooting for you in the Player of the Year race. Good luck! One question: We really miss you being on the telecast as an announcer when you don't make the show (as Norm did some last year). Will you be back in the booth again?
Chris Barnes: There are no plans. I think Randy and Rob do a great job. No, really. :)
Palm Bay, Fla.: What are your plans for the off-season coming up?
Chris Barnes: A few tournaments, exhibitions, trade shows, watching five-year-old baseball games, and a little bit of golf if I can fit it in.
Chesterfield Township, Mich.: Three questions. 1. Do you prefer the exempt format the PBA is using or do you prefer the old way? 2. Do you like the round robin match play or the single elimination match play? 3. Do you prefer the 5 man or 4 man finals set up? Thanks!
Chris Barnes: The exempt format is much more beneficial for the middle of the field. Now all the guys who are on Tour are making money. When I started, 30th place on down was break-even at best. Both formats have their strengths and weaknesses. Single elimination match play requires different strategy and the round robin tends to favor left-handers. Haha. Five-man shows give more guys the opportunity to make more money.
Pittsburgh, Pa.: Sorry for all the technical questions - you've mentioned hand pressure twice. Can you clarify? Do you mean the finger pressure - how much you try to get on the ball? I have been working on decreasing this myself - trying to let the ball do the work, and eliminate the over/under I see sometimes. Are there situations where you find yourself trying to put a little extra on it?
Chris Barnes: Yes, that's why you vary it; more to make the ball hook sooner and less to push it down the lane.
Houston, Texas: I want to know what is the best bowling ball you use on the Tour.
Chris Barnes: The best ball right now is the Columbia 300 Momentum.
Richland Center, Wis.: Do you ever think about the Player of the Year award when your actually on the lanes, or is it something that you just think about from time to time when you’re not actually on the lanes?
Chris Barnes: I have thought about it a little bit on the lanes lately and that might explain my performance, or lack thereof.
Toledo, Ohio: Chris, since your sponsorship change only a few years back (from Brunswick to Columbia) your bowling success seems to have taken off. Do you see that due to equipment, something you have done differently or have you personally made changes to your game?
Chris Barnes: I think it's a combination of things. I think the equipment has suited me better and the smaller, more family-oriented environment has enabled some of the success to happen.
Tuckerton, N.J.: Hey Chris, just wanted to say congrats on an awesome season and you’re my pick for POY. I have a question regarding collegiate bowling. I’m a sophomore in school and currently average 200 and bowl sport leagues every season. I am hopefully going to Junior Gold this year. I have one more chance. But I was wondering what i should do to maximize my chance of getting recognized by a collegiate scout. I do JBTs, and any other tournaments around here. And I am doing two HUGE youth tourneys in the summer that bowl at least 16 games on sport shots. And I don't want to wait too long to try and get spotted. What should I do to get myself out there to some collegiate recruits? How did you get into Wichita?
Thanks and I hope you win in my home state this week.
Chris Barnes: The best way to get yourself noticed at Wichita State is to go to their bowling camp.
Las Vegas, Nev.: How do you feel about the PBA's decision to switch to a point system for Player of the Year rather than a membership vote?
Chris Barnes: I think having a system that determines the best bowler is better than having a vote where popularity can be a factor.
Pittsburgh, Pa.: Do you have any nicknames or any names they call you out on Tour? Like you aid Walter is "Gator"
Chris Barnes: Son of Jor-el (Superman) is probably the most common nickname for me. It used to be Baby Gator when I was a rookie.
Utica. Mich.: You have met the performance qualifications for the PBA Hall of Fame. Congrats! Who among the younger bowlers would you say has a Hall of Fame game?
Chris Barnes: Probably Sean Rash, Bill O'Neill and Ken Simard. They have the most physical talent. Even though he's not exempt yet, Edward VanDaniker Jr. has a man-sized game in a small body.
Wichita, Kan.: Chris, let me start by saying congratulations on an already great season! Every time you make the show I am even more excited to watch it. My question is: What kinds of changes would you like to be seen to the format of the regular season tournaments? You have been outspoken in the past about your dislike of the one-match TV finals, so I would like to know what exactly you'd want to see. Thanks and good luck at the Open!
Chris Barnes: Our TV show now is the equivalent of Tiger playing a four-day tournament and then going to play a three-hole playoff with the next three guys after him. Obviously I would like to see a format which would allow more games and either a total pin or best-of-seven type format. The idea of formats is to determine who the best bowler this week is and the world-wide philosophy of going to best-of-three or not carrying over total pins is cheapening tournaments the world over.
Dixon, Calif.: When your opponent bowls, you, like many players, don't like to watch. What are you thinking about and are you listening for the reaction of the crowd?
Chris Barnes: You can't help but hear the crowd. That's one of the fun things about bowling on TV. But I am focusing on what I'm trying to do on the lane and limiting my thoughts to my processes.
Fort Myers, Fla.: Chris, what kind of conditioning do you do to get in "shape" for the grind that is the PBA Tour? Besides bowling a lot, do you have a workout routine that might work for the average bowler? Good luck in the year's final major! Mike
Chris Barnes: Some cardio and a lot of core work.
Peoria, Ariz..: My name is Manny Amaral. I'm a longtime bowler and PBA fan. I'd like to first congratulate you, Chris, on your recent successes on TV. As I've told everyone I know who are fans like I am, when Chris Barnes realizes how good Chris Barnes is, no one is going to be able to beat him...PERIOD!! My question for you is: "How do you target the lanes?" At the arrows or at your break point? I like to spot at my breakpoint, but find it a bit tricky sometimes because there’s nothing really concrete to lock onto with your eyes (unless you have range finders down lane). Thoughts, please?
Chris Barnes: I look at the arrows. I look at my break point first but then I look at the arrows while delivering the shot.
Surprise, Ariz.: Hi Chris. I've always adhered to the set and go to avoid tightening up before a shot. You seem to spend quite a long time after you set up before you start your approach. What's going on upstairs during that time? Good luck in the Open. Jack
Chris Barnes: Just getting my feel right and making sure my intentions are clear.
Baghdad, Iraq: My name is Jason Beecroft and I have been in Iraq for about four months and another long eight months to go! I am from Oceanside, Calif. My question is, being away the game for so long, how can I mentally and physically prepare myself while I am over here? Thank you for your time and good luck.
Chris Barnes: Visualization has proven to be nearly as good as physical practice. After your experience, I don’t think the pressure will get to you.
New Holstein Wis.: Who is the toughest person to bowl against on TV?
Chris Barnes: For me, it is myself. Learning to compete at my best on television is probably my toughest opponent.
New Holstein Wis.: Who was your favorite bowler to watch when you were a kid?
Chris Barnes: Marshall Holman and Mark Roth
Chamberlain, S.D.: Chris, with the U.S. Open being the last event of the season, and with the Player of the Year race being so tight, what do you need to do in order to capture the POY, and possibly even win this Sunday?
Chris Barnes: I need to bowl better. Finishing ahead of Walter Ray will probably be enough.
Altoona, Pa: Are either of your sons into bowling already with both you and Lynda being bowlers and if so do they enjoy it?
Chris Barnes: Both boys have been bowling. As a matter of fact, one of my boys shot 153 with a six-pounder last week. They love to watch bowling and bowl all they can, both in the house and at the bowling center.
Comment from Chris Barnes: Thanks for all the questions. I had a great time. If any of you are interested, come see Tommy Jones, Wes Malott, Doug Kent, Jason Couch, Dino Castillo, Mark Baker, Tony Reyes and myself in Indianapolis, June 20-22. Check us out at bowlersdreamcamp.com. Best of luck to you all and play with heart!!
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