The Professional Bowlers Association’s Player of the Year Wes Malott of Pflugerville, Texas has demonstrated he is unwilling to surrender his king’s crown without a fight. His next challenge will come from either Walter Ray Williams Jr., the all-time titles leader in PBA history or Bill O’Neill, a young gun eager to make Malott his first victim.
The one-hour King of Bowling Powered by Amp Energy telecast will air Wednesday on ESPN2 at 9 p.m. Eastern. The third of five weekly prime-time telecasts also will feature the conclusion of a special challenge match pitting Malott against ESPN “Pardon the Interruption” co-host Michael Wilbon.
The match came into being after Wilbon criticized Malott for not bowling in the PBA’s GEICO Plastic Ball Championship earlier in the season. The on-air controversy in the aftermath of Wilbon’s comments led to a challenge whereby Malott agreed to bowl with “throw-back” plastic ball technology while Wilbon was given a 57-pin handicap and was allowed to use the latest in high-tech equipment.
Malott defeated Chris Barnes, 268-214, in the first King of Bowling Powered by Amp Energy telecast. Then Malott beat reigning H&R Block Tournament of Champions winner Patrick Allen in his second test. The current King of Bowling will bowl the winner of the opening match featuring 45-time PBA Tour winner Williams of Ocala, Fla., and non-titlist O’Neill of Southampton, Pa., a player who has been widely touted as a “can’t miss” future star. O’Neill and Williams finished sixth and seventh, respectively, on the 2008-09 Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour Player of the Year points list.
“Walter Ray is obviously the greatest player on tour today,” Malott said, “so you can never take him lightly. On the other hand, I feel for Bill. He’s a good friend and he bowled unbelievable all season, but he just couldn’t get the break he needed on TV to get his first title. It’s just a matter of time, but I’m hoping it isn’t going to come against me.”
O’Neill and Williams will bowl a one-game match for the right to bowl Malott for the $10,000 weekly first prize. The winner also will return in week four to defend his King of Bowling Powered by Amp Energy throne.
Players in the May 13 King of Bowling show will be USBC Masters winner John Nolen and Rhino Page. The May 20 show features Brad Angelo and “wild card” competitor Parker Bohn III who will face off to determine the King’s final challenger.