DUBLIN, Calif. – Anthony LaCaze, a 27-year-old rookie from Melrose Park, Ill., won his first Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour title Sunday, throwing three clutch strikes in the ninth and 10th frames to defeat Michael Machuga of Erie, Pa., 214-206, in the title match of the Earl Anthony Memorial at Earl Anthony’s Dublin Bowl.
Stefanie Nation of Grand Prairie, Texas, virtually matched LaCaze, throwing three strikes in her 10th frame to nip Lynda Barnes of Double Oak, Texas, 201-181, for the Anthony women’s title.
LaCaze, in his second career Professional Bowlers Association television appearance, trailed until he threw the biggest strike of his life in the ninth frame and followed with two even bigger strikes in the 10th to force Machuga to double in his 10th frame to win. Machuga got the first strike, but left a 10 pin on his second to hand LaCaze the $25,000 first prize and a berth in next week’s PBA Tournament of Champions.
“It’s a great feeling,” LaCaze said. “I wanted to throw the best shots I could, and make Machuga throw the best shots he could, and whoever did it best would win. I’m speechless.”
Machuga was on the same page. “My second shot in the 10tInh frame is as good as I can throw it,” he said. “You always have the mindset that your opponent is going to strike out. Anthony stepped up in the 10th frame, bowling for his first title on very difficult lane conditions, and threw it as good as you possibly can. I give him all the credit in the world.”
“I always knew I could win,” LaCaze added, “but when you actually do it, it’s different. I’m up in the clouds right now.”
LaCaze and Machuga both survived low-scoring semifinal matches that set the stage for the title match. Machuga nipped Sean Rash of Wichita, Kan., in his semifinal match, 188-183. Machuga didn’t have two strikes in a row, but otherwise bowled an error-free game until he failed to convert the 3-10 split in the 10th frame. But Rash missed a pair of single-pin spares and that proved to be his undoing.
LaCaze, a former collegiate All-American bowler with Saginaw Valley State University, slipped past Mike Wolfe of New Albany, Ind., 190-158, in the other semifinal match. LaCaze had a double late in the game, but a pair of splits and a pair of missed single-pin spares ended Wolfe’s hopes.
In the PBA Women’s Series presented by BOWL.COM title match, Nation jumped into the lead with strikes in the first and second frames, but couldn’t build on her lead. An unconverted split in the sixth frame gave Barnes life, and Barnes then doubled in the eighth and ninth frames to take the lead. Even after she left the 4-6-7 split and opened in the 10th frame, Nation had to mark to win.
“I had it and I let it get away,” Barnes said. “I grabbed the ball in the 10th frame and pulled it. That’s what you tend to do when the lanes are as difficult as they were today.”
Nation, who lost the 2009 Earl Anthony women’s title with an errant shot in the final frame, threw three strikes in the 10th frame this time to avenge her loss a year earlier.
“I was fortunate things fell my way,” said Nation, who won her second PBA Women’s Series title. “It was a very difficult lane condition. You had to make good shots and hope. I followed my gut, made a move and I was able to strike out in the 10th frame. That was the difference.”
In addition to a $10,000 prize, the victory also earned Nation the final berth in the PBA Women’s Series Showdown presented by BOWL.COM which will be conducted in April at the new United States Bowling Congress International Training and Research Center in Arlington, Texas. Kelly Kulick, Union, N.J.; Shannon Pluhowsky, Kettering, Ohio; Liz Johnson, Cheektowaga, N.Y.; Carolyn Dorin-Ballard, Keller, Texas, and Michelle Feldman, Auburn, N.Y., had previously qualified for the special event during the PBA World Series of Bowling.
The Earl Anthony Memorial, the ninth event of the 2009-10 Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour season, was dedicated to the late superstar who was recognized as the greatest player in PBA history last January during the organization’s 50th anniversary celebration. Anthony, the first player in PBA history to earn $1 million, was a 43-time PBA Tour champion.
LUMBER LIQUIDATORS PBA TOUR
EARL ANTHONY MEMORIAL
Earl Anthony’s Dublin Bowl, Dublin, Calif., Jan. 17
Anthony LaCaze, Melrose Park, Ill. ($25,000) def. Michael Machuga, Erie, Pa. ($13,000), 214-206
Machuga def. Sean Rash, Wichita, Kan. ($7,000), 188-183
LaCaze def. Mike Wolfe, New Albany, Ind. ($7,000), 190-158
PBA WOMEN’S SERIES PRESENTED BY BOWL.COM
Stefanie Nation, Grand Prairie, Texas ($10,000), def. Lynda Barnes, Double Oak, Texas ($6,000), 201-181.