What if the PGA Tour required players to use persimmon woods or the USTA required its players to use wood-framed tennis rackets instead of today’s equipment that incorporates high-tech titanium and graphite technology?
The PBA GEICO Mark Roth Plastic Ball Championship March 24-28 at AMF Babylon Lanes in West Babylon, N.Y., is the one event on the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour that turns back the clock on bowling ball technology so that players will have less reliance on today’s high-powered equipment.
This year’s Plastic Ball Championship is named after PBA Hall of Famer and native New Yorker Mark Roth who used plastic ball technology to win most of his 34 Tour titles, which ranks him in a tie for third all-time with fellow Hall of Famer Pete Weber. Roth, who suffered a stroke last May, is planning to attend the event.
Plastic polyester balls like the ones that will be used in this tournament are used today almost exclusively for spare shooting due to the balls’ proclivity to go straight on the majority of today’s lane conditions. Plastic was the most popular material used in bowling ball construction in the 1970s and early 80s. Today’s most popular balls are made of a resin material with exotic weight blocks, which enhance the balls’ ability to hook.
In addition to using equipment that emphasizes a player’s ability to make adjustments without being able to rely on the technology built into today’s more advanced bowling balls, the Plastic Ball Championship equalizes the playing field much like auto racing’s former International Race of Champions (IROC) series that required drivers to race the same type of car.
In 2009 Jeff Carter of Springfield, Ill., won the GEICO Plastic Ball Championship for his first career Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour title by defeating Hall of Famer Pete Weber, 235-213, in the championship match.
“Actually, I didn’t know what to expect and didn’t have a lot of confidence going into the tournament,” Carter said. “But as the tournament went on I found that a lot of the variables, mainly having to worry about what equipment to use, were eliminated. It kept things simple so I could concentrate on making the right physical adjustments and make good shots.”
The Plastic Ball Championship will require all 64 players to use two identical special Mark Roth custom-designed bowling balls manufactured by OntheBallBowling.com. These will be the only balls they will be able to use throughout the tournament. A limited number of balls also will be available for sale with a portion of the proceeds going to Roth’s continuing medical expenses.
The tournament is one of the Tour’s four Extreme Swing events. It will be conducted on the Tour’s Shark lane conditioning pattern, but with a lower volume of oil applied to the lane surface than normal.
Among the field of 64 players competing will be Australian two-handed star and 2008-09 Rookie of the Year Jason Belmonte, who made PBA Tour history last season at AMF Babylon Lanes, by becoming the first two-handed player to win a PBA Tour title, as well as native Long Islander Mike Fagan of Patchogue, N.Y., who won his second PBA Tour title at the Dick Weber Open in Orange County, Calif., in January. Also competing will be Hall of Famer and time 14-time Tour titlist Johnny Petraglia of Jackson, N.J.—a contemporary of Roth’s—who received a commissioner’s exemption for this event.
As the PBA Tour heads down the homestretch, as the second to last event of the 2009-10 PBA Tour season, the Plastic Ball Championship could be a determining factor for Player of the Year honors.
Currently Bill O’Neill of Southamption, Pa., leads the Player of the Year race with a four-point lead over Hall of Famer and all-time PBA win leader Walter Ray Williams Jr. in second and an eight-point lead over Mike Scroggins of Amarillo, Texas in third.
GEICO Mark Roth Plastic Ball Championship Schedule
AMF Babylon Lanes, West Babylon, N.Y.
Wednesday, March 24
8 a.m. - Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour Qualifying Round (7 games total pins. Players required to use plastic bowling balls)
4:30 – - Practice Session
Thursday, March 25
10 a.m. - Round of 64 Round 1 (7 Games)
5 p.m. - Round of 64 Round 2 (7 Games)
Cut to the top 32 Players
Friday, March 26
11 a.m.- Match Play Round 1 (9 games)
Cut to top 16 players
6 p.m. - Match Play Round 2 (9 games)
Top 5 advance to ESPN finals
Saturday, March 27
Pro-am Events and PBA Fan Day
Pro-am times: 9:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m, 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Sunday, March 28
2 p.m. (Eastern) - Live ESPN Television Finals from AMF Babylon Lanes