With all the options that today’s high-tech bowling balls offer professional bowlers, choosing the right equipment to complement the player’s ability is often the key to success.
But when the Lumber Liquidators Professional Bowlers Association Tour returns to Cheektowaga, N.Y., for the third annual Mark Roth Plastic Ball Championship at AMF Thruway Lanes March 2-6, any advantage that can be gained by choosing the right equipment will be thrown out the window because all of the competitors will be required to use the same type of bowling ball.
The Mark Roth Plastic Ball Championship, which requires players to use identical “throwback” polyester ball technology, is named in honor of the PBA Hall of Famer who dominated the so-called plastic ball era, winning a PBA-record eight titles in 1978 followed by another seven-title season in 1979. Roth’s total of 34 PBA Tour titles ranks fourth on the all-time list of PBA champions behind Walter Ray Williams Jr. (47), Earl Anthony (43) and Pete Weber (35).
The inaugural Plastic Ball Championship, held in Wheat Ridge, Colo., in 2009 was won by Jeff Carter of Springfield, Ill. Last year’s event, the first held in Roth’s honor, was held in West Babylon, N.Y., and was won by Brian Ziesig of Levittown, N.Y., who became the first amateur ever to win a standard PBA Tour event.
The concept behind the plastic ball tournament is to put a premium on knowledge of changing lane conditions, subtle adjustments in hand positions and delivery techniques, and other skills rather than relying on advanced bowling ball technology.
“It’s definitely a totally different mindset because you can’t rely on technology,” said Carter, who won the 2009 Plastic Ball Championship by defeating Hall of Famer Pete Weber in the championship match, 235-213, for his first and only PBA Tour title. “The emphasis moves from a reliance on technology to mechanics and being able to repeat the shots the way you want to. The adjustments you make are more subtle and have to come from your physical game.
“I started bowling in the plastic ball era and have experienced the evolution of technology and I’m one of those who have been a proponent of new technology in the sport,” Carter continued. “So winning that tournament was kind of a surprise for me because I really didn’t think I was going to do that well. I actually thought about taking the week off.”
Ziesig, a sales representative for a bowling equipment distributor who bowls only occasional Tour stops, feels that a tournament such as the Plastic Ball Championship levels the playing field for players like himself who don’t compete regularly on Tour.
“If you want to be successful on Tour you really have to know your equipment and what it can do for you under different conditions you’ll experience week-in and week-out,” Ziesig said. “With two or three weeks practice using a plastic ball similar to what we’ll be using in the Plastic Ball Championship, I can be as ready as the guys who bowl every week on Tour.
“If they’re going to beat me, it’s because they bowled better than me – not because they have better equipment or better knowledge of all the equipment choices that are available.”
The Mark Roth Plastic Ball Championship also is giving the PBA an opportunity to support the sport’s official charities. A series of plastic balls have been produced as a special fund-raising event, support Bowlers to Veterans Link (BVL), Bowl for the Cure (benefitting Komen for the Cure’s battle against breast cancer), the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame, the new YES Fund youth bowling initiative, and other charities supported by The Bowling Foundation. All of the individual balls are available to the public through OnTheBallBowling.com or by visiting pba.com. The official tournament ball – which also is available – features logos of all of the participating charities.
The tournament itself will get underway on March 2 with a seven-game Tour Qualifying Round where non-exempt players will compete for a minimum of 10 spots in the 64-player field. The 64-player field will bowl 14 qualifying games on March 3 with the top 32 advancing to round-robin match play on March 4. After a nine-game morning round, the top 16 will bowl another nine games in the evening to determine the top four for the live ESPN stepladder finals at 1 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, March 6.
Coverage of the tournament will be available to subscribers on pba.com’s exclusive Xtra Frame video streaming service. For one-month or full-year subscription enrollment, visit pba.com and click on the Xtra Frame logo.
MARK ROTH PLASTIC BALL CHAMPIONSHIP
AMF Thruway Lanes, Cheektowaga, N.Y., March 2-6 (all times Eastern)
Wednesday, March 2
10 a.m. - Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour Qualifying Round (7 games; minimum 10 players advance to Round of 64)
4:30 p.m. - Official practice session
Thursday, March 3
10 a.m. - Round of 64, Round 1 (7 games)
5 p.m. - Round of 64, Round 2 (7 games)
Top 32 advance
Friday, March 4
11 a.m. – Round of 32, 9 games round-robin match play
Top 16 advance
6 p.m. – Round of 16, 9 games round-robin match play
Top 4 advance to ESPN finals
Saturday, March 5
Pro-Am PBA Fan Day
Pro-Am squads at noon, 3:30 and 7 p.m.
Sunday, March 6
1 p.m. – Top 4, live ESPN stepladder finals