March 26, 2008 19:00
As late as Thursday evening, it was looking as if an exciting finish to the 2007-08 PBA Player of the Year race was going to end with a whimper instead of a bang.
Instead, Chris Barnes and Walter Ray Williams Jr. made late runs to stay alive in the 65th Denny’s U.S. Open at Brunswick Zone Carolier, keeping Williams’ chances of a seventh PBA Player of the Year Award alive and making Barnes wait at least another day to find out if he’ll earn his first.
Meanwhile, Brad Angelo continued to the lead the field in hopes of capturing his first career title, finishing the first three days of qualifying with a 4,015 18-game pinfall.
For much of the tournament, Barnes and Williams had been hovering near the cut line until both did just enough Thursday to sneak inside the number. Barnes was 92nd heading into the day and averaged just 192.00 to drop to 117th, while Williams, who started in 125th, averaged 206.17 to finish 90th. The top 122 out of the original field of 488 advanced to Friday.
The pressure is still on Williams (Ocala, Fla.), who will have to make up a lot of ground in the nine games Friday to advance to round robin match play, where 24 bowlers will fight it out for the four spots in the finals. Williams must finish at least fifth to have a chance at making up the two-point deficit that separates he and Barnes (Double Oak, Texas).
Should Barnes and Williams both miss the top 24, the last man who could potentially still be in the race is Mike Scroggins, who must win the title this week to win the award by one point. Scroggins, who is looking to become the first left-handed bowler to win the U.S. Open since Mike Aulby in 1989, is 33rd heading into the final round of qualifying.
Angelo (Lockport, N.Y.), meanwhile, averaged 225.33 on Thursday to maintain his lead from Wednesday. He’ll look to become the 18th bowler in PBA history to win a Major as his first title.
Defending champion Pete Weber (St. Ann, Mo.), who is looking to win his record-breaking ninth Major and fifth U.S. Open, was sitting in 122nd going into the final game but he fired a 237 the final game to move up to 97th and keep his hopes alive.
Four of the 10 women entered advanced to Friday including Union, N.J., native Kelly Kulick, who finished 49th. Kulick made history last season as the first woman to earn a full-season exemption on the Denny’s PBA Tour. Carolyn Dorin-Ballard (North Richland Hills, Texas) was the top female after the first 18 games, sitting 32nd.
Earning the final two spots in the cashers’ round were Jason Sterner (Roswell, Ga.) and Jason Lundquist (Hawley, Pa.), who tied for 121st with 3,548.
The top four after Saturday’s match play will advance to Sunday’s championship round live on ESPN at 2 p.m. ET. The winner will take home $100,000 and a three-year Denny’s PBA Tour exemption.
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