COLUMBUS, Ohio – Reigning PBA Player of the Year Wes Malott will take on a diverse field in the Professional Bowlers Association’s Etonic Don Johnson Eliminator finals at Sequoia Pro Bowl Sunday, including Ohio native Brian Kretzer, U.S. Open runner-up Mike Scroggins and Finland’s two-handed star, Osku Palermaa.
The finals will air at 12:30 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
Kretzer, Malott, Scroggins and Palermaa emerged Saturday as survivors of three rounds of elimination games by dominating their respective four-player groups.
Kretzer, a 43-year-old veteran who has bowled 166 Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour events without winning a title, eliminated Mika Koivuniemi, Mike DeVaney and Michael Haugen Jr. to win his bracket. He topped Haugen, the top seed in his bracket, 221-210, in the final game for a 659-650 come-from-behind win in the three-game total pinfall Eliminator round.
“Winning out here isn’t easy,” Kretzer said. “If (a title) comes, it comes, but I’m not concerned about it. I don’t make that many TV shows, so it’ll be exciting, and to do it this close to home will make it a little extra special.”
Palermaa, who bowled in the tournament on a PBA Commissioner’s Exemption, topped Sean Rash, Brad Angelo and Ryan Shafer to win his group. The 28-year-old two-handed player won the Dubai Open a week ago in the United Arab Emirates, bowled a weekend tournament in Barcelona, Spain, and then made a quick stop in Sweden on his way to Columbus. In his only previous American television appearance, he finished fifth in the 2004 U.S. Open as an amateur.
“That was a learning experience,” Palermaa said. “My goal in being here is to get a chance to bowl full-time on the PBA Tour next year. To be the best, you have to bowl against the best. When I’m bowling my best, I can beat anyone.”
Malott earned his spot in the finals with a 700-697 win over non-titlist Steve Harman of Indianapolis after topping Tommy Jones and Mike Fagan in the first two Eliminator rounds. The Pflugerville, Texas, resident has had a solid year, but has yet to win a title in the 2009-10 Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour season.
“I’ve been fighting my timing. I’ve been close a couple of times, but this year things haven’t been falling my way. Last year, things went right for me,” Malott said. “It’s frustrating. It’s amazing how fast momentum changes in sports. But I have some confidence going into the show Sunday. I feel like I’m close to 100 percent compared to where I have been. I hope I can get a win. I’m missing that.”
Scroggins, the only left-hander to make the 16-player Eliminator Round, overcame a 35-pin deficit after one game to cruise past non-titlist Joe Bailey of Doylestown, Ohio, 624-563, for the final berth in Sunday’s finals. He also eliminated Colombia’s Andres Gomez and Bill O’Neill in his first two Eliminator rounds. Scroggins won the Red, White and Blue Open presented by USBC in December and finished second to O’Neill in the U.S. Open last Sunday. He came into the Eliminator tired, but filled with confidence.
“The U.S. Open kinda drains you,” Scroggins said, “but the 28 qualifying games here actually helped me out. After the first seven games, I starting getting my legs back under me, and after bowling the U.S. Open last week, it kinda felt like bowling league back home. The scores were pretty high.”
The Eliminator format took a toll quickly on two of the top four seeds. Rash got off to a slow start in Group A before rolling a 266 game to finish his round, but his 622 three-game series wasn’t enough to overcome an early 57-pin deficit. In Group B, Jones’ 617 series wasn’t enough to survive the first round. O’Neill was knocked out of Group D after posting a 537 series in the second round. Haugen was the only top seed to make it to the final round before losing in Group C to Kretzer.
All four group winners will meet in Sunday’s live ESPN finals starting at 12:30 p.m. Eastern, bowling concurrently in the first game. The player with the lowest game will be eliminated. The three survivors will bowl a second game, with another player eliminated. The two survivors will then bowl for the title and a $25,000 first prize.
LUMBER LIQUIDATORS PBA TOUR
ETONIC DON JOHNSON ELIMINATOR
Sequoia Pro Bowl, Columbus, Ohio, Saturday
(Low three-game score eliminated in each group, each round)
Ryan Shafer, Horseheads, N.Y., 725.
Brad Angelo, Lockport, N.Y., 640.
Osku Palermaa, Finland, 627.
Sean Rash, Wichita, Kan., 622 (eliminated, earned $3,000).
Angelo 635 (eliminated, earned $3,600).
Palermaa 702 (advances to ESPN finals)
Shafer 647 (eliminated, earned $4,300)
Mike Fagan, Patchogue, N.Y., 733.
Steve Harman, Indianapolis, 715.
Wes Malott, Pflugerville, Texas, 667.
Tommy Jones, Simpsonville, S.C., 617 (eliminated, earned $3,000).
Fagan 628 (eliminated, earned $3,600).
Malott 700 (advances to ESPN finals)
Harman 697 (eliminated, earned $4,300)
Brian Kretzer, Dayton, Ohio, 765.
Mike DeVaney, San Diego, 757.
Michael Haugen Jr., Carefree, Ariz., 699.
Mika Koivuniemi, Hartland, Mich., 651 (eliminated, earned $3,000).
DeVaney 657 (eliminated, earned $3,600).
Kretzer 659 (advances to ESPN finals)
Haugen 650 (eliminated, earned $4,300)
Bill O’Neill, Southampton, Pa., 712.
Mike Scroggins, Amarillo, Texas, 701.
Joe Bailey, Doylestown, Ohio, 654.
Andres Gomez, Colombia, 639 (eliminated, earned $3,000).
O’Neill 537 (eliminated, earned $3,600).
Scroggins 624 (advances to ESPN finals)
Bailey 563 (eliminated, earned $4,300)