LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Chris Barnes of Double Oak, Texas, was the second-biggest story in the 2010 Professional Bowlers Association Tournament of Champions. As the leading qualifier and odds-on favorite heading into the title match at Red Rock Lanes in Las Vegas, Barnes found himself on the losing end of a 265-195 thrashing administered by Kelly Kulick of Union, N.J.
Not only did Barnes become the first male in PBA Tour history to lose a title to a woman, but it was the second time he had a Tournament of Champions title snatched out of his hands. In 2008 – also at Red Rock – Barnes saw a 52-pin lead disappear as Michael Haugen Jr. of Carefree, Ariz., rallied to win, 215-214.
Despite the disappointments, Barnes is a glass-half-full guy. He’d rather focus on 2006, when he did win the Tournament of Champions, defeating Steve Jaros of Yorkville, Ill., 234-227, at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. And on his plan to be back on the PBA’s largest stage on Saturday, Jan. 22, when the PBA and the Tournament of Champions returns to ABC for the first time in 14 years to decide the winner of the $250,000 first prize – the richest in PBA history. The live telecast of the TOC finals begins at 2:30 p.m. Eastern/11:30 a.m. Pacific.
“I’m looking forward to the TOC,” the 40-year-old Barnes said. “I think my worst finish ever at Red Rock is sixth place. It’s our biggest tournament. I’m looking forward to bowling for the richest prize in our sport.
“I don’t have the pressure of defending a title or anything like that,” he said. “Losing last year caused no more pain than any of the other times I’ve lost. I don’t like losing, period, whether it’s to Kelly, my wife Lynda, my friend Mika (Koivuniemi) or Bill O’Neill, or anyone else. You want to win, even though there are some times where you feel like you gave a title away on the last day.
“Looking back to last year, I didn’t make the right adjustments,” Barnes said, “but as long as I keep getting to the TV shows and giving myself opportunities, things will eventually even out. It just happens that I have a couple of Tournament of Champions moments that are ready to be evened out.”
Barnes’ critics are quick to point out his television record. He owns 12 titles, but he has finished second 22 times. His critics would note that means 22 loses; Barnes would note that means he’s reached the title match 34 times. He owns two majors, including the 2005 U.S. Open and his 2006 TOC title; he was PBA Player of the Year in 2007-08, and he proved he can win big money when he won back-to-back $200,000 winner-take-all prizes in the 2006 and 2007 Motel 6 Roll to Riches special events.
Barnes will make his final tune-up appearance prior to the Tournament of Champions on Saturday night as the No. 4 qualifier in the PBA World Championship finals which will air on ESPN2 starting at 8:30 p.m. Eastern/5:30 p.m. Pacific from South Point Bowling Center on the south side of Las Vegas. Barnes has a shot at the $50,000 first prize and the title he needs to complete the PBA Triple Crown if he can win Saturday night and advancing to Sunday’s World Championship finals, where he would need to win three more matches.
Following the PBA World Championship finals at 1 p.m. Eastern/10 a.m. Pacific Sunday on ESPN, all of the attention shifts to the northwest side of Las Vegas and Red Rock Lanes where the Tournament of Champions will be getting underway.
“The TOC is the tournament I’ve always liked. I like what it stands for. It’s all about champions,” he added. “I remember in 2009, when the PBA celebrated its 50th anniversary, I got to cross with Nelson Burton Jr. during qualifying and I sat next to (PBA Hall of Famer) Harry Smith at the hall of fame dinner.
“It’s a very special event, the highlight of my year.”
Whether Barnes will be among the top four competing for the record $250,000 first prize on ABC on remains to be seen. Tune in on Saturday, Jan. 22, at 2:30 p.m. Eastern/11:30 a.m. Pacific to find out.