Reigning Lumber Liquidators PBA Player of the Year Chris Barnes fought his way back into contention to repeat with an impressive three-game 722-693 victory over Walter Ray Williams Jr. in the title match of the Go RVing Match Play Championship at Norwich Bowling and Entertainment Center Sunday.
Barnes, the No. 3 seed in the PBA’s “March Madness” match play elimination tournament, used the three-game, total pinfall format to his advantage in winning his 12th career title and back-to-back titles for the first time in his career. Two weeks earlier, Barnes won the Don Johnson Buckeye State Eliminator in Columbus, Ohio.
Barnes, who has been notorious for making critical mistakes in a number of past TV losses, had the luxury of three games to make up for an error this time, and that’s exactly what he did.
Williams and Barnes both flirted with perfection in the first two games, but unforced errors by both players kept the contest up in the air going into the decisive third game.
The No. 5 seeded Williams, the PBA’s all-time titles leader with 45, looked like he was going to run away with the match early. Williams, who has been the victim of three perfect games on TV without ever bowling one himself, started the match with nine strikes. But when he left a 7 pin on his first shot in the 10th frame and missed the spare, he gave Barnes hope, finishing with 267 to Barnes’ 241. Instead of a possible 59-pin lead, Williams led by only 26 pins.
“Brain (expletive),” the 49-year-old Williams said of his uncharacteristic missed spare. “That’s what happens when you get old.”
Barnes quickly erased his deficit in game two, starting with nine strikes himself. With back-to-back splits and open frames, Williams struggled to a 192. But Barnes returned Williams favor, leaving a 4-10 split to end his perfect-game bid. Despite that error, Barnes finished with 266 and took a 48-pin lead into the third game.
“It was the same bad shot I made when I left the Big Four in the first game,” Barnes said. “But in general, the move I made worked, so I was pleased.”
Williams threw a couple more strikes than Barnes in game three, but it was basically a contest of staying out of trouble. Working on three strikes, Williams left a 4 pin in the seventh frame that took away the momentum he needed to overcome Barnes’ lead. Williams won the third game, 234-215, but he was still 29 pins short.
“Chris bowled a lot better than I did,” Williams said. “If it had been a best of three match, I win, but that’s not the way it went today.”
“Three games was a big deal for me. It gave me a chance to win,” Barnes said. “Normally, I leave the Big Four in game one and I’m out.
“The right lane was troublesome for both of us,” he continued. “I was just able to put together a bigger string on that lane than Walter Ray was, but it was getting to be a problem. Fortunately, we ran out of frames before I ran out of pins.”
Barnes, who won $25,000, surged into third place in the Player of the Year points race behind Wes Malott and Norm Duke, and he still has a mathematical chance to pass both and retain his Player of the Year title.
“Things seem to be going my way right now,” the Double Oak, Texas, resident said. “The U.S. Open is the toughest tournament of all to win. I will need that to happen to have a chance.”
The Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour’s next stop is the Bowling Foundation Long Island Classic at AMF West Babylon Lanes in West Babylon, N.Y., Wednesday through Sunday.
GO RVING MATCH PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP
Norwich Bowling and Entertainment Center, Norwich, Conn.
Championship (three games, total pinfall)
Chris Barnes, Double Oak, Texas ($25,000) def. Walter Ray Williams Jr. ($13,000), 772-693