Team USA's Walter Ray Williams Jr. of Ocala, Fla., added to his legendary career Friday by rallying to defeat Germany's Kai Gunther, 213-198, for the singles gold medal at the 2008 World Tenpin Bowling Association Men's World Championships.
"To win any event and be a world champion in a truly international tournament like this, it's obviously very special," said Williams, the Professional Bowlers Association and United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer who is making his Team USA debut this week. "This adds to my other world championships (with the PBA)."
The 2008 Men's World Championships marks the much anticipated first appearance of professionals in major WTBA competition thanks to a change in legislation last August.
Trailing by nine pins entering the 10th frame, Williams doubled and got nine on his fill ball to force Gunther to strike on his first ball and get count to take the gold. Instead, the left-handed Gunther - who was working on three consecutive strikes - went missed left, leaving the 1-3-6 and sealing the victory for Williams.
"I figured I needed to get a double," said Williams, who has a career record 44 Denny's PBA Tour titles. "Kai was throwing the ball pretty well and working on a double. Fortunately, I threw two decent shots to get the strikes, and unfortunately for Kai, he didn't throw the best shot. He bowled great throughout the event."
With the match even, Gunther left a 2-4-6-7 split in the sixth. Williams, however, couldn't take advantage - settling for six consecutive single-pin spare conversions after doubling in the third frame.
Gunther, meanwhile, responded to his miscue with three consecutive strikes to put the pressure on the living legend.
"I think some of my experience helped me be calm and execute my shots," said Williams, a 28-year professional. "This means a lot ... something I never thought would happen."
Williams, who finished second to Gunther by a pin in preliminaries with 1,316, defeated France's Francois Sacco, 213-198, in the semifinals. Gunther beat Kuwait's Basil Alanzi, 210-166, in the other semifinal. Both Sacco and Alanzi received bronze medals.
Earlier Friday in preliminaries, Team USA's Chris Barnes of Double Oak, Texas, shot 1,238 to finish in 29th place, while Tommy Jones of Simpsonville, S.C., had 1,220 to place 38th.
Team USA's Rhino Page of Topeka, Kan., earned the silver medal in all-events, finishing with 5,218 over 24 games (217.4 avg.) for his fourth medal of the week. Korea's Choi Bok-Eum won the gold with 5,285, while Norway's Tore Torgersen took the bronze with 5,212.
Jones finished 13th with 5,086, Williams ended up in 15th with 5,072 and Patrick Allen of Wesley Chapel, Fla., in 16th with 5,067 to advance to Saturday's best-of-five, single-elimination Masters event, beginning at 8 a.m. local time (9 p.m. EDT Friday).
No. 2-seeded Page will face No. 15 Williams in the first round, while No. 13 Jones takes on the fourth seed, Finland two-hander Osku Palermaa.
Bill Hoffman of Columbus, Ohio, totaled 5,034 in all-events to finish 23rd, and Barnes placed 30th with 5,018.
With Williams' singles victory and Page's silver in all-events, Team USA has the opportunity to medal in every event - a feat that hasn't been accomplished by any country at the World Championships since its current format was instituted in 1979.
The Men's World Championships, which is being held at SF Strike Bowl Ngamwonwan, features more than 300 athletes from 57 countries competing in six disciplines - doubles, trios, team, singles, all-events and Masters.
Visit bowl.com for complete coverage of the 2008 WTBA Men's World Championships, including videos, photos, stories, results and blogs.
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2008 WTBA MEN'S WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
(at Bangkok, Thailand)
Gold medal: Walter Ray Williams Jr., United States Silver medal: Kai Gunther, Germany Bronze medal: Francois Sacco, France; Basil Alanzi, Kuwait
(1) Kai Gunther, Germany def. (4) Basil Alanzi, Kuwait, 214-199
(2) Walter Ray Williams Jr., United States def. (3) Francois Sacco, France, 210-166
(2) Walter Ray Williams Jr., United States def. (1) Kai Gunther, Germany, 213-198
1. Kai Gunther, Germany, 1,317; 2. Walter Ray Williams Jr., United States, 1,316; 3. Francois Sacco, France, 1,310; 4. Basil Alanzi, Kuwait, 1,304; 5. Peter Ljung, Sweden, 1,295; 6. Tanner Israel, Israel, 1,291; 7. Brian Farrugia, Malta, 1,289; 8. Osku Palermaa, Finland, 1,287; 9. Magnus Magnusson, Iceland, 1,284; 10. Shu Liang-Chen, Chinese Taipei, 1,283.
Other U.S. placements
29. Chris Barnes 1,238; 38. Tommy Jones 1,220; 62. Bill Hoffman 1,193; 67. Rhino Page 1,185; 188. Patrick Allen 1,095.
Gold medal: Choi Bok-Eum, Korea
Silver medal: Rhino Page, United States
Bronze medal: Tore Torgersen, Norway
(24 games; top 16 advance to Masters)
1. Choi Bok-Eum, Korea, 5,285; 2. Rhino Page, United States, 5,218; 3. Tore Torgersen, Norway, 5,212; 4. Osku Palermaa, Finland, 5,205; 5. Jesper Agerbo, Denmark, 5,146; 6. Alejandro Cruz, Mexico, 5,145; 7. Jason Belmonte, Australia, 5,136; 8. Robert Andersson, Sweden, 5,132; 9. Hussain Nasir AL Suwaidi, United Arab Emirates, 5,126; 10. Dominic Barrett, England, 5,114.
11. Peter Ljung, Sweden, 5,090; 12. Nayef Eqab Al Abadla, United Arab Emirates, 5,088; 13. Tommy Jones, United States, 5,086; 14. Pasi Uotila, Finland, 5,082; 15. Walter Ray Williams Jr., United States, 5,072; 16. Patrick Allen, United States, 5,067; 17. Glenn Morten Pedersen, Norway, 5,064; 18. Martin Larsen, Sweden, 5,062; 19. George Lambert IV, Canada, 5,053; 20. Aaron Kong, Malaysia, 5,052.
Other U.S. placements
23. Bill Hoffman 5,034; 30. Chris Barnes 5,018.
(1) Choi Bok-Eum, Korea vs. (16) Patrick Allen, United States
(2) Rhino Page, United States vs. (15) Walter Ray Williams Jr., United States
(3) Tore Torgersen, Norway vs. (14) Pasi Uotila, Finland
(4) Osku Palermaa, Finland vs. (13) Tommy Jones, United States
(5) Jesper Agerbo, Denmark vs. (12) Nayef Eqab Al Abadla, United Arab Emirates
(6) Alejandro Cruz, Mexico vs. (11) Peter Ljung, Sweden
(7) Jason Belmonte, Australia vs. (10) Dominic Barrett, England
(8) Robert Andersson, Sweden vs. (9) Hussain Nasir Al Suwaidi, United Arab Emirates
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CONTACT: Kevin Hazaert