LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Ronnie Russell of Marion, Ind., in pursuit of his first Professional Bowlers Association Tour title, led a field of 16 players into the Eliminator Round of the Pepsi PBA Elite Players Championship Wednesday at South Point Bowling Center.
Russell, a 31-year-old right-hander, averaged 243.13 over 30 games to top Wes Malott of Pflugerville, Texas, by 144 pins for the top qualifying position. Russell has three second-place finishes in nine years of PBA Tour competition. Russell finished with 7,294 pins. Malott, a six-time PBA Tour champion and 2008-09 PBA Player of the Year, had 7,150 pins.
“It’s not as easy as it looks,” Russell said. “You still have to keep grinding it out. I’m actually not throwing the ball much better than I have since the start, but the lane conditions are matching up better with my game which gets you into a comfort level. Everyone goes through it.
“I have to watch going into the next round that I don’t get too comfortable because with the pins being dropped, you’re basically starting over and it’s easy to lose that edge.”
The top 16 players in the Pepsi PBA Elite Players Championship field advance to the Eliminator Round Wednesday afternoon where they will compete for four spots in the Elite Players Championship finals. Mike DeVaney of Murrieta, Calif., grabbed the 16th position by a single pin over Eugene McCune of Munster, Ind., and Tommy Jones of Simpsonville, S.C.
The qualifying order is also important because the same 16 players will compose the field for the Lumber Liquidators Mark Roth-Marshall Holman PBA Doubles Championship which will be contested on Sunday as part of a four-day PBA World Series of Bowling television extravaganza at South Point.
Russell will be the first player to select a doubles partner from among the remaining 15 during a special doubles selection session Thursday afternoon. After Russell selects his partner, the next highest qualifier will select a partner. That process will continue until the field of eight doubles teams has been determined. The doubles competition will be conducted Sunday afternoon as part of the World Series of Bowling’s weekend television package.
Beginning Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Pacific, the PBA will produce the first of 14 television shows for delayed telecast on ESPN in a special arena in South Point’s Exhibit Hall A. Admission is free for all of the shows.
PEPSI PBA ELITE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP
South Point Bowling Center, Las Vegas, Nov. 16
Final Qualifying Standings (after 30 games; top 16 advance to Eliminator Round and to Lumber Liquidators Mark Roth-Marshall Holman PBA Doubles Championship)
1, Ronnie Russell, Marion, Ind., 7,294.
2, Wes Malott, Pflugerville, Texas, 7,150.
3, Andres Gomez, Colombia, 7,134.
4, Mike Fagan, Dallas, 7,069.
5, Martin Larsen, Sweden, 7,039.
6, Bill O'Neill, Southampton, Pa., 6,976.
7, Ryan Ciminelli, Cheektowaga, N.Y., 6,942.
8, Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., 6,917.
9, Pete Weber, St. Ann, Mo., 6,903.
10, Jason Couch, Clermont, Fla., 6,896.
11, Norm Duke, Clermont, Fla., 6,889.
12, Jason Belmonte, Australia, 6,863.
13, Dick Allen, Columbia, S.C., 6,829.
14, Dan MacLelland, Saginaw, Mich., 6,796.
15, Mike Scroggins, Amarillo, Texas, 6,776.
16, Mike DeVaney, Murrieta, Calif., 6,760.
Did not advance:
17 (tie), Eugene McCune, Munster, Ind., and Tommy Jones, Simpsonville, S.C., 6,759, $2,490.
19, Patrick Allen, Baltimore, 6,756, $2,460.
20, Mika Koivuniemi, Hartland, Mich., 6,746, $2,440.
21, Michael Haugen Jr., Carefree, Ariz., 6,745, $2,420.
22, Rhino Page, Dade City, Fla., 6,727, $2,400.
23, Chris Loschetter, Avon, Ohio, 6,719, $2,390.
24, Parker Bohn III, Jackson, N.J., 6,717, $2,380.
25, Dino Castillo, Carrollton, Texas, 6,688, $2,370.
26, Brian Kretzer, Dayton, Ohio, 6,671, $2,360.
27, Amleto Monacelli, Venezuela, 6,655, $2,350.
28, Walter Ray Williams Jr., Ocala, Fla., 6,631, $2,340.
29, Tom Smallwood, Saginaw, Mich., 6,616, $2,330.
30, Steve Jaros, Yorkville, Ill., 6,605, $2,320.
31, Ryan Shafer, Horseheads, N.Y., 6,550, $2,410.
32, Tyler Jensen, Ft. Worth, Texas, 6,483, $2,300.
Pepsi PBA Players Championship Eliminator Round pairings
(Three rounds, two games per round, lowest scoring player eliminated each round, winner of each group advances to ESPN finals)
Group A: Ronnie Russell, Sean Rash, Pete Weber, Mike DeVaney
Group B: Wes Malott, Ryan Ciminelli, Jason Couch, Mike Scroggins
Group C: Andres Gomez, Bill O’Neill, Norm Duke, Dan MacLelland
Group D: Mike Fagan, Martin Larsen, Jason Belmonte, Dick Allen