Reigning Professional Bowlers Association Player of the Year Wes Malott of Pflugerville, Texas, avenged his 2008 PBA Shark Championship title match loss to Rhino Page of Wesley Chapel, Fla., and Kelly Kulick of Union, N.J., won a stunning rematch battle against USBC Queens champion Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, N.Y., in the PBA Women’s Shark Championship semifinals Saturday night at Thunderbowl Lanes.
Malott, who hadn’t made a TV final in five previous PBA World Series of Bowling events, rallied to edge Page, 4-3, in their best-of-seven-game elimination match.
“It was pretty crazy,” Malott said. “I saw Rhino was getting forced to move to the right, and he was trying to open up the lane condition, which you can’t do on this pattern. When he started to struggle, I relaxed more.
“There’s really no history between us,” Malott said of their Shark title rematch, “other than we don’t like to lose to each other. It’s another week, another year, a different bowling center.”
Also advancing to the semifinal round were two “comeback” players and one of the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour’s talented young power players, Michael Fagan of Patchogue, N.Y., who is trying for his first singles title.
Jack Jurek of Lackawanna, N.Y., who won his only PBA Tour title in 1995, defeated Tim Mack of Indianapolis, 4-2, while 15-time PBA titlist Jason Couch of Clermont, Fla., on the comeback trail after undergoing knee surgery in 2007, advanced to the TV finals with a 4-2 win over Australia’s two-handed sensation, Jason Belmonte.
“I’ve had an unbelievable four weeks in Detroit,” Jurek said, “but it’s been a long time since I’ve won. It’s not like I have a bad record on TV; I’ve averaged 220-something, but my opponents have averaged 250. You just have to keep knocking on the door and one of these days, something good will happen.”
Jurek, 46, missed the match play cut in the Motor City Open to start the five-week, seven-event PBA World Series of Bowling, but since then he has made match play in five consecutive events with three top eight finishes.
Couch, on the other hand, has made steady progress in coming back from surgery on his right knee.
“It’s been a tough year and a half,” he said. “I think I came back too early, but my issues have probably been more mental than anything. You worry about whether the knee will hold up or not. You can’t bowl if you don’t have confidence.”
Fagan, who has won one doubles title in his eight-year career, said he realizes superstars Walter Ray Williams Jr. and Norm Duke weren’t overnight successes, either.
“It’s time to win, but I don’t feel like I’m struggling. It’s a tough sport,” Fagan said. “You never know when it’ll turn around. Even when you’re bowling bad, the next week it can be completely different. This is my career. Someday I want to be one of those people you remember.”
On the women’s side, Kulick won what she called “the best match of my career” when Johnson left the 6-7-10 split and missed in the 10th frame of the seventh game, handing Kulick a 246-240 victory and a 4-3 come-from-behind win. Johnson, who defeated Kulick in the USBC Queens title match in April, won the first two games, 261-238 and 279-258. Kulick won the next two games, but then lost again, 265-259. She then topped Johnson, 243-226, to force the seventh game.
“That’s the best seven games I’ve put together in my life,” Kulick said. “There was no missing. In the last game, I had her score circled as winning when she went high and left that split. She maybe went high on the headpin one other time in seven games. It was amazing.”
In the other women’s semifinal, 20-time women’s champion Carolyn Dorin-Ballard of Keller, Texas, earned her berth in the Women’s Shark title match with a 4-2 victory over 2009 U.S. Women’s Open champion Tammy Boomershine of North Ogden, Utah, after taking a few days off to return home for her daughter Alyssa’s first day in school.
“The Scorpion Championship was the first tournament I’ve missed in 18, 19 years as a professional,” she said, “but some things take a precedent. There’s only one word to explain that experience as a parent: priceless.”
The PBA Shark Championship and Women’s Shark Championship finals will be contested on Saturday, Sept. 6, for tape-delayed broadcast on ESPN on Sunday, Dec. 6.
PBA SHARK CHAMPIONSHIP
Thunderbowl Lanes, Allen Park, Mich., Aug. 29
Round of 8 (best of seven games, winners advance to ESPN final on Sept. 6; losers eliminated and earned $4,600)
Wes Malott, Pflugerville, Texas, def. Rhino Page, Wesley Chapel, Fla., 4-3. Jack Jurek, Lackawanna, N.Y., def. Tim Mack, Indianapolis, 4-2. Jason Couch, Clermont, Fla., def. Jason Belmonte, Australia, 4-2. Michael Fagan, Patchogue, N.Y., def. Chris Loschetter, Avon, Ohio, 4-2.
PBA WOMEN’S SERIES PRESENTED BY BOWL.COM SHARK CHAMPIONSHIP
Thunderbowl Lanes, Allen Park, Mich., Aug. 29
Semifinal Round (best of seven games, winners advance to ESPN final on Sept. 6; losers eliminated and earned $4,000)
Kelly Kulick, Union, N.J., def. Liz Johnson, Cheektowaga, N.Y., 4-3. Carolyn Dorin-Ballard, Keller, Texas, def. Tammy Boomershine, North Ogden, Utah, 4-2.