Perhaps the most anticipated and certainly the most controversial event in this 50th Anniversary season of the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour is the first-ever GEICO Plastic Ball Championship to be held at Brunswick Zone in Wheat Ridge, Colo., Feb. 18-22.
Debates in the bowling world rage on as to what bowling styles and players will succeed in this radical departure from the usual, generally unlimited equipment rules. In the Plastic Ball Championship, each of the 64 players in the main draw will be given two identical, unmarked plastic bowling balls with pancake weight blocks, branded only by the PBA 50th Anniversary logo.
“Plastic” polyester balls like the ones that will be used in this tournament are used today almost exclusively for spare shooting due to the balls’ tendency to go straight on the majority of today’s lane conditions. Plastic was the most popular form of bowling ball in the 1970s and early 80s. Today’s most popular bowling balls are composed of resin with exotic weight blocks, which enhance the balls’ ability to hook.
“Having all the players in a PBA Tour event use the same, low technology bowling ball could be likened to the International Race of Champions auto racing series where all drivers compete in identical cars,” said PBA Chief Operating Officer Tom Clark. “Normally, those same bowlers choose from hundreds of bowling balls of different makes and models with varying characteristics.”
Because all of the exempt players seeded into the main draw of 64 qualified by virtue of their success in tournaments with unlimited bowling ball technology, the event’s Tournament Qualifying Round will be contested with normal, unlimited technology (as always, equipment must be PBA product registered), on the traditional Cheetah lane pattern. Another reason for the TQR being a separate tournament not limited to plastic balls is the main draw event will use just one exact replica ball, which is impossible to do in the TQR. Also, if the TQR players’ personal plastic balls were the only balls allowed in the TQR, there would be the potential for dramatic inequality from ball to ball.
The 64 players, including the players who emerge from the TQR, will be distributed their plastic balls for use for the first time in the Wednesday afternoon practice session. The lane condition will be a modified Cheetah pattern, utilizing less volume of oil yet the same shape as the Cheetah, which is the shortest pattern in the PBA stable of sport-compliant lane conditions.
Players will be granted the same rules for drilling options and surface manipulation of the bowling balls as they are typical weeks, meaning that while the balls will be identical in composition and color, there will be the opportunity for diversity of ball reaction. While the players will be given two plastic balls initially, they will have the option of drilling more than two over the course of the event. The players will not be permitted to take the plastic balls out of the bowling center.
While some fans and experts expect experienced players who had success in the plastic ball era such as Pete Weber to rise to the top, others lean towards accurate players who have succeeded in many eras such as Walter Ray Williams Jr. and Parker Bohn III, while some think younger players with incredibly high revolution rates such as Tommy Jones will excel.
The 64 players in the main draw will bowl 14 games of qualifying on Thursday before the top 32 are set off into brackets for single elimination, best-of-seven game matches on Friday until the final four are remaining for the ESPN finals airing Sunday, Feb. 22, at 1 p.m. Eastern.
The GEICO Plastic Ball Championship is part of the 50th Anniversary season “Extreme Swing,” which also includes the Ultimate Scoring Championship, Etonic Marathon Open, Don Johnson Buckeye State Eliminator and the GoRVing Match Play Championship. The creative format events are meant to test the greatest bowlers in the world in different areas of the game, provide television audiences with a fresh look while providing education on pertinent aspects of the game.
At the end of the five-week swing, the top eight points leaders from those events will automatically be entered into the Six Flags Shootout this summer in New Jersey. Points from the Plastic Ball Championship also count towards Player of the Year and PBA points lists, and the winner earns a one-year exemption.
On the Plastic Ball show, the final four players, who normally use the most modern technology, will have time to describe the bowling balls they more typically would have been using that week. A feature story on the evolution of bowling balls will educate viewers of the ESPN show as well.
Most bowling Web site message boards have been buzzing about the GEICO Plastic Ball Championship ever since it was announced before the season began. Now all that’s left is the answer to the question most asked on those message boards: Who will win?
The GEICO Championship marks the PBA Tour’s return to the Denver area after a three-year absence. Wes Malott of Plugerville, Texas won the Mile High Classic conducted in Lakewood, Colo., in the 2005-06 season.
Learn from the pros following the live ESPN finals on Sunday Feb. 22 starting at 2 p.m. Brunswick Zone Wheat Ridge will play host to the Brunswick Zone Mini Camp featuring instruction from the world’s best professional bowlers.
Bowling fans will also have two opportunities to participate in Pro-Ams at Brunswick Zone Wheat Ridge. Pro-Am squads are scheduled for 7 p.m. on Feb. 18 and 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 4 p.m. on Feb. 21. For more information on the Brunswick Zone Mini Camp or Pro-Am information call (303) 467-7989.
LUMBER LIQUIDATORS PBA TOUR
GEICO Plastic Ball Championship Schedule
Brunswick Zone Wheat Ridge, Wheat Ridge, Colo.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2009
8 a.m. – 3 p.m. - Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour Qualifying Round (7 games total pins)
4:30 – 6 p.m. - exempt player practice
Pro-Am: 7 p.m.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2009
10 a.m. – 2 p.m. - Round of 64 (7 games of qualifying, all bowlers advance)
5 – 9 p.m. / Round of 64 (7 games of qualifying, cut to top 32 players)
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2009
9 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. - Round of 32 (Best 4 of 7)
2 – 5 p.m. - Round of 16 (Best 4 of 7)
7 – 10 p.m. - Round of 8 (Best 4 of 7, Final Four advance to ESPN finals)
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2009
PBA Pro-Am Events and Fan Day
Brunswick Zone Wheat Ridge, Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Pro-Am Times: 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Live ESPN Television Finals, 1 p.m. Eastern, 11 a.m. Mountain Time
2 – 4 p.m. – Brunswick Zone Mini Camp