Rallying in dramatic form in the final match play round, Kelly Kulick of Union, N.J., moved a step closer in her quest to become the first woman to win a Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour tournament Friday by qualifying in the No. 2 position for the stepladder finals of the 45th PBA Tournament of Champions at Red Rock Lanes.
Going into the final round in sixth position and after starting with games of 174 and 172, Kulick came back with games of 223, 279, 277, 222, 236 and 267 (231.2 average) to make the final four for Sunday’s stepladder finals which will be televised live on ESPN at 1 p.m. Eastern (10 a.m. Pacific).
Kulick finished with an 11,265 48-game total and had an overall match play record of 14-9-1. She finished 57 pins behind tournament leader Chris Barnes of Double Oak, Texas.
“Actually being in a position where I had to work my way back into the top four took pressure off of me,” said the 32-year-old Kulick. “I’ve been in this situation many times before and I would rather fight to get there because for me there’s less pressure than being on top.”
Kulick earned a berth in the Tournament of Champions, by winning the PBA Women’s World Championship, the first PBA women’s major tournament.
After the first two games in the final block, Kulick had to change to another ball to get a better ball reaction on the lanes.
“I had those two bad games to start but I still wasn’t too worried because there was a long way to go in the block,” she added. “I went to another ball and started watching how the other guys were playing the lanes and it was like a strikefest for me.”
As one of four PBA Tour major tournaments, the Tournament of Champions is considered PBA’s signature event.
Kulick is not a stranger to performing well in major tournaments. In women’s professional competition she won the 2007 United States Bowling Congress Queens and the 2003 U.S. Women’s Open in addition to winning the PBA Women’s World Championship.
In 2006, Kulick became the first woman to earn an exemption on the PBA Tour by finishing sixth in the PBA Tour Trials. Her best finish in the 2006-07 season was 22nd which she accomplished twice. The previous high finish by a woman in a PBA Tour event was second by Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, N.Y., in 2005.
Barnes, the 2007-08 PBA Player of the Year and 2006 Tournament of Champions winner, is seeded into the championship match where he will bowl one game for the title.
“The lanes were a lot different for me in that block and I had to work a lot harder to score as well as I did,” Barnes said, “but, I’m in the position I want to be and that’s bowling one game for the title.”
Sunday’s first match will be between No. 3 qualifier Mika Koivuniemi of Hartland, Mich. and No. 4 qualifier Rhino Page of Dade City, Fla.
Koivuniemi, a native of Finland, is an eight-time titlist and the winner of two majors who will be trying for his first Tournament of Champions win. Page, a three-time PBA Tour titlist, who suffered a heartbreaking championship match loss last season in the Tournament of Champions, will also be trying for his first Tournament of Champions win.
PBA TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS
Red Rock Lanes, Las Vegas, Nev.
Jan. 22, 2010
Final Round (after 48 games, including match play records and bonus pins)
Top four advance to Sunday’s stepladder finals at 1 p.m. Eastern
1, Chris Barnes, Double Oak, Texas, 19-5, 11,322
2, Kelly Kulick, Union, N.J., 14-9-1, 11,265
3, Mika Koivuniemi, Hartland, Mich., 16-8, 11,194
4, Rhino Page, Dade City, Fla., 10-14, 11,175
5, Pete Weber, St. Ann, Mo., 13-11, 11,174, $5,000
6, Tony Reyes, San Bruno, Calif., 13-11, 11,156, $4,600
7, Wes Malott, Pflugerville, Texas, 14-10, 11,140, $4,200
8, Tommy Jones, Simpsonville, S.C., 12-12, 11,105, $4,000
9, Mike Fagan, Patchogue, N.Y., 11-13, 11,032, $3,800
10, Mark Williams, Beaumont, Texas, 13-10-1, 10,917, $3,600
11, Sean Rash, Wichita, Kan., 11-13, 10,883, $3,400
12, Walter Ray Williams Jr., Ocala, Fla., 13-11, 10,878, $3,200
13, Dave Wodka, Chatsworth, Calif., 15-9, 10,801, $3,000
14, Harry Sullins, Chesterfield Twp., Mich., 12-11-1, 10,785, $2,800
15, Wayne Webb, Sacramento, Calif., 9-15, 10,735, $2,700
16, Danny Wiseman, Baltimore, 16-8, 10,691, $2,600
17, Jason Couch, Clermont, Fla., 11-12-1, 10,663, $2,500
18, Brad Angelo, Lockport, N.Y., 11-13, 10,615, $2,400
19, Anthony LaCaze, Melrose Park, Ill., 9-15, 10,581, $2,350
20, John Nolen, Grand Blanc, Mich., 9-15, 10,473, $2,300
21, Joe Ciccone, Buffalo, N.Y., 11-13, 10,413, $2,250
22, Parker Bohn III, Jackson, N.J., 9-15, 10,397, $2,200
23, Bryan Goebel, Shawnee, Kan., 8-14-2, 10,360, $2,150
24, Ritchie Allen, Columbia, S.C., 6-18, 10,249, $2,100