Professional Bowlers Association Player of the Year Wes Malott of Pflugerville, Texas, kept his King of Bowling record perfect in more ways than one on Wednesday’s telecast, defeating Walter Ray Williams Jr. of Ocala, Fla., 300-238, at Kegel Training Center.
In the third weekly installment of the King of Bowling Powered by Amp Energy series, Malott was perfect in winning another $10,000 King of Bowling prize and becoming the fourth PBA player to throw a nationally-televised 300 game atthe winningest bowler in PBA Tour history.
Malott, sitting on his lane-side throne while Williams won a thrilling opening match over Bill O’Neill of Southampton, Pa., in a five-ball sudden-death roll-off after they rolled to a 247-247 tie, actually thought he could run the table on the 45-time PBA Tour champion in the King of Bowling match.
“As I was practicing on the TV pair, I definitely saw the transition those guys went through,” Malott said. “Walter Ray was playing farther right than anyone else, so when I got to bowl, the blend was really nice for the way I wanted to play the lanes. I was actually thinking a perfect game could be bowled.
“And there it was,” he grinned. “I put one (a 300) on the board.
“Normally when I think like that, it never happens. But that Scorpion pattern held up for me all year and with the new surface at Kegel, it held up even better. Having some confidence from my first two King of Bowling wins didn’t hurt anything, either.
“When it was over, I was kinda thinking to myself, what else could you ask for after the season I’ve had?” Malott continued. “I’ve accomplished every goal I had except a major. Shooting 300 on TV? You never think about it. There have only been 19 guys who have ever done it, so it’s not something that happens every day.”
As he approached his final frame, however, Malott said he was in control of himself. “There was definitely some excitement, but I just tried to focus and do the job. I’ve seen some guys fall on the ground and cry after bowling a 300 on TV. Some guys jump in the other guy’s arms.” The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Malott then grinned and said, “I’m not going to jump into someone’s arms. That could hurt.”
Williams probably wouldn’t have welcomed a leap, either. He was previously victimized on television by 300 games thrown by Johnny Petraglia (1993 PBA National Championship in Toledo, Ohio), Steve Hoskins (Rochester, N.Y., 1997) and Norm Duke (Tacoma, Wash., 2003).
Despite his flawless performance in the King of Bowling finale, it wasn’t a perfect day for Malott, who fell victim to ESPN “Pardon the Interruption” co-host Michael Wilbon, 256-248, in their special challenge match. Malott, using plastic equipment, spotted Wilbon 57 handicap pins, and rallied behind a string of seven strikes, but Wilbon threw a four-bagger of his own to keep Malott at bay.
The Malott-Wilbon match came about after Wilbon criticized Malott for not bowling in the GEICO Plastic Ball Championship held earlier in the year. After winning the Etonic Marathon Open, Malott threw a challenge back at Wilbon: Malott would use a plastic ball and Wilbon could use whatever high-tech equipment he wanted, and they’d bowl a match.
“It wound up that Wilbon said he’d be honored to bowl, so we made it happen,” Malott said. “What a super nice guy he is.
“He came to Florida and we set him up with new equipment. We helped him a bit with coaching and gave him some knowledge about our sport. After our match, he said some of the knowledge we gave him really helped.
“(Wilbon) threw his first shot in gutter, but he came back and threw four strikes in a row,” Malott said, shaking his head. “I shot 248, but he bowled an unbelievable game. He shot 199 scratch. He put some pressure on me, and I put some pressure on him, forcing him to mark in the 10th frame. It was a great match. I may take some grief from the guys, but it couldn’t have turned out any better.”
Malott has successfully retained his King of Bowling Powered by Amp Energy crown for three straight weeks, and he has only two challenges left to run the table. Malott’s next test, on May 13, will be against the winner of a match between two of the PBA Tour’s brightest young stars – USBC Masters champion John Nolen of Waterford, Mich., and 2008-09 PBA Rookie of the Year Rhino Page of Topeka, Kan.
King of Bowling Powered by Amp Energy telecasts air Wednesdays at 9 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2 through May 20.