LAS VEGAS – Finland’s Osku Palermaa became the first international player, and the first two-handed bowler, to win the Professional Bowlers Association World Championship when he defeated Ryan Shafer of Horseheads, N.Y., 203-177, in the 2011-12 season’s first major championship.
The PBA World Championship, which included a $50,000 first prize and a berth in the Round of 36 for the end-of-season PBA Tournament of Champions, aired Sunday on ESPN.
Palermaa, who had battled flu-like symptoms for two months leading into the World Championship, was feeling much better after winning his second career PBA title. He saved his best for the final game after surviving two earlier elimination games that saw fellow two-handed player Jason Belmonte of Australia and top qualifier Sean Rash of Montgomery, Ill., knocked out of contention.
The 28-year-old Finn started the title match in South Point Casino and Hotel’s exhibition hall with a 7-10 split, but that was his only open frame. Shafer threw only three strikes – two of them for his only double – but his failure to convert the 3-6-10 spare in the seventh frame proved fatal, shifting the match to Palermaa’s favor. Strikes in the ninth and 10th frame secured the victory for Palermaa, and extended Shafer’s PBA record for television appearances in major championships without a title to 13.
“I was grateful. I knew I had the pocket, but to see all 10 pins go down, I felt grateful,” Palermaa said. “The 7-10 was only one frame. After that, I threw a lot of strikes on the left lane, so it evened out. I don’t know if this makes me the best in the world, but I hope so.”
The anticipated showdown between Palermaa and Belmonte, the world’s premier two-handed players, created some excitement, but not in the way most observers expected. Rash dominated the first elimination game with a 245, Shafer was second with a 236, and Palermaa and Belmonte rolled to a 203-203 tie, forcing a one-ball roll-off to see who would advance and who would be eliminated.
In the roll-off, Belmonte barely touched the headpin, leaving the 2-4-5-8 “bucket.” Needing only seven pins, Palermaa struck to move on.
“All you can do is throw a good shot and you get what you get,” Palermaa said. “Seeing Jason leave a bucket helped. But I bowled a good game. It is what it is.”
In the second elimination game, Shafer, a 25-year PBA Tour veteran, struck on his last four shots to finish with a 222. Palermaa threw three strikes in the 10th for a 217. Rash, who dominated the World Championship qualifying rounds, saw his title hopes collapse when he left a 7-10 in the ninth frame, finishing with a 193.
The finals were conducted on the PBA’s Scorpion lane condition, selected by Rash as the leading qualifier in the field.
Next Sunday, ESPN will televise the finals of the Bayer Viper Open at 3 p.m. ET. Finalists in the first of four “animal pattern” championships contested during the PBA World Series of Bowling will be Stuart Williams of England, Ildemaro Ruiz of Venezuela, Rash and Mike Fagan of Dallas. A preview of the Bayer Viper Open finals will be webcast on PBA’s official online bowling channel, Xtra Frame, on Wednesday.
PBA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
South Point Exhibition Hall, Las Vegas
Round One (lowest score eliminated): Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., 245; Ryan Shafer, Horseheads, N.Y., 236; x-Osku Palermaa, Finland, 203; Jason Belmonte, Australia, 203 ($10,000); x-Palermaa won a one-ball roll-off, 10-6, to break the tie for third place.
Round Two (lowest score eliminated): Shafer 222, Palermaa 217, Rash 193 ($13,000).
Championship: Palermaa ($50,000) def. Shafer ($25,000), 203-177.