When the PBA Tournament of Champions was introduced in 1962 by PBA founder Eddie Elias and the organization’s tournament committee, it provided the PBA Tour with an elite platform to showcase an exclusive field of champions.
The 45th PBA Tournament of Champions, to be conducted Jan. 19-24 at Red Rock Lanes in Las Vegas, will feature 63 players who have earned their right to compete in the second major of the 2009-10 Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour season by virtue of winning a PBA title. The finals will be televised live on ESPN on Jan. 24 at 1 p.m. Eastern (10 a.m. Pacific).
With an event that has a rich tradition and a stellar field of players there are many storylines. Here are a few especially noteworthy stories:
*Kelly Kulick of Union, N.J., will once again make PBA Tour history by becoming the first woman to compete in a Tournament of Champions. She earned her berth by winning the first PBA Women’s World Championship. Kulick originally made history by becoming the first woman to qualify for the PBA’s Exempt Tour back in 2006.
*Tom Smallwood, of Saginaw, Mich., who earned a Tour exemption after being laid off from his job at General Motors last spring, will try to win his second major after winning the PBA World Championship in December in storybook fashion against reigning Player of the Year Wes Malott.
*At age 50, Hall of Famer and all-time PBA Tour titles leader Walter Ray Williams Jr. of Ocala, Fla., is still trying for his first Tournament of Champions win. As one of the few things the 46-time titlist has yet to accomplish in his career, a Tournament of Champions win would enable him to complete the Triple Crown (PBA World Championship, U.S. Open and Tournament of Champions) Grand Slam (Triple Crown plus the USBC Masters) and Super Slam (Grand Slam plus the Touring Players Championship).
*Australian two-handed specialist Jason Belmonte will compete in his first Tournament of Champions after winning his first Tour title in 2008-09.
*Thirteen-time PBA Tour Champion Patrick Allen of Wesley Chapel, Fla., will be looking to defend his 2009 Tournament of Champions title.
*Jason Couch of Clermont, Fla., is the only player to have won three consecutive Tournament of Champions titles and will be looking to become the first bowler to win it four times.
The Tournament of Champions is open exclusively to Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour exempt-player champions; the winners of the most recent PBA Regional Players Championship and Regional Players Invitational; the United States Bowling Congress Masters winner; the USBC Senior Masters, PBA Senior U.S. Open and PBA World Championship winners; all Tournament of Champions past winners, PBA Hall of Famers, and for the first time, the PBA Women’s World Championship titlist.
The first Tournament of Champions was conducted in 1962 in Indianapolis. The event was not conducted in 1963 and ’64 but moved to Akron, Ohio, in 1965 where it was conducted until 1994. Since then, it has been conducted in various locations.
Additional in-depth coverage of the PBA Tournament of Champions and all Tour events is available by subscribing to pba.com’s Xtra Frame video service. Subscription information is available by visiting pba.com/xtraframe.
45th PBA Tournament of Champions Schedule
Red Rock Lanes, Las Vegas, Nev.
(All times Pacific)
1 p.m. – Practice
Wednesday, Jan. 20
10 a.m. - Qualifying Round 1 (8 Games)
5 p.m.- Qualifying Round 2 (8 Games)
Thursday, Jan. 21
10 a.m. - Qualifying Round 3 (8 Games)
Cut to the top 24
5 p.m. - Match Play Round 1 (8 Games)
Friday, Jan. 22
11 a.m. - Match Play Round 2 (8 Games)
5 p.m. - Match Play Round 3 (8 games, top 4 advance to ESPN finals)
Saturday, Jan. 23
Pro-am squads: 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 3:30 p.m.
Autograph Session: 2 - p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 24
10 a.m. - Live ESPN TV finals