February 8, 2009 19:00
By: Lucas Wiseman
Sean Rash's professional bowling career may be just beginning, but over the past four seasons a trend has quickly developed. Rash brings his best game when it comes time to compete in major events.
Rash, a Wichita, Kan., resident and the defending champion in the United States Bowling Congress Masters, has finished among the top 15 in 10 of the 14 majors he has competed in since the 2005-06 season. He will look to add to that total when the USBC Masters is conducted on 60 specially-constructed lanes inside Cashman Center in Las Vegas from Feb. 10-15.
"I just enjoy bowling the majors because those are the events people remember the most," said Rash, who defeated Steve Jaros 269-245 to win the 2007 Masters in Milwaukee. "Any time you get to a major, you are trying to do the best you can. I've knocked on the door quite a bit over the past few years, and eventually I will win more of them."
So far this season on the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour, Rash has a pair of top 10 finishes in majors, taking fourth in the PBA World Championship in October and 10th at the recently concluded H&R Block Tournament of Champions.
The Masters, however, presents a different challenge for Rash. As the defending champion, he is guaranteed a spot in the 64-player, double-elimination, match-play bracket.
If Rash can find a way to survive bracket again, he will become just the third person to win back-to-back Masters titles, joining USBC Hall of Famers Dick Hoover (1956 and 1957) and Billy Welu (1964 and 1965).
"It's going to be tough because there are going to be 63 other bowlers who you know are bowling well to get to that point," Rash said. "The biggest thing I can do is make sure I get some practice during the week and stay sharp while everyone else is competing."
The Masters will present unique challenges as the event will be contested in a stadium setting on new lanes, specially constructed and completed just days before the tournament starts.
Following the Masters, the lanes will play host to the USBC Open Championships and more than 17,000 five-player teams. Rash, however, has experience competing in the unique venue, claiming the Regular Doubles title in 2003 with Derek Sapp in Knoxville, Tenn.
"There will be grandstands with people watching, and I think it will be very special to see how many people show up," Rash said. "The atmosphere is a lot different than we bowl in every week on Tour. The ceilings are very high, and the lanes will be brand new. It will be fun, that's the most important thing. Everyone will have a good time."
Standing in Rash's way of defending his title will be nearly 500 of the world's top amateur and professional bowlers looking to get their share of the more than $350,000 prize fund.
With the exception of Rash, all participants will bowl two five-game blocks of qualifying on Feb. 10 and 11 before the first cut is made to the top 25 percent. After another five games the morning of Feb. 12, the top 63 bowlers will join Rash in match play, which continues until the top four bowlers are determined Feb. 13 for the TV finals, which will air live Feb. 15 on ESPN at 1 p.m. Eastern.
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