LAS VEGAS – England’s Stuart Williams, a third-year Professional Bowlers Association competitor, defeated Venezuela’s Ildemaro Ruiz, 246-194, to win the PBA Bayer Viper Open at South Point Casino and Hotel, becoming the first English bowler ever to win a PBA Tour title.
The finals of the Bayer Viper Open, the first of four PBA “animal pattern” championships contested during the PBA World Series of Bowling, aired Sunday on ESPN.
Williams, 30, started the title match with a spare and then reeled off five strikes in a row, building an insurmountable 44-pin lead when Ruiz failed to convert the 3-10 “baby split” in the fifth frame and missed a 10 pin in the sixth. Along with his first PBA Tour title, Williams earned $15,000 and an automatic berth in the Round of 36 for the end-of-season PBA Tournament of Champions, April 8-15 at Red Rock Lanes in Las Vegas.
“This is the best. It’s great. I’m really excited,” Williams said. “Once you’ve won, it makes it easier the second time. It certainly loosens up the arm swing.
“Bowling on the PBA Tour is all about learning the different moves you have to make. I had one full season, and half a season last year, and I feel like I learned a great deal,” he continued. “I spoke to the right people and they helped me out a lot. I throw many less bad shots per game now. I try to throw at least nine good shots a game, rather than six or seven. When you’re playing against the best players in the world, you can’t get away with throwing those bad shots.
“Today you had to be more conscious about using your speed adjustments rather than opening up angles. That’s one of the attributes of my game, so I felt comfortable that if I could just get through two games and the lanes didn’t get too easy, I felt like I had a pretty good chance.”
Williams established himself in the first game of the three-game eliminator finals, throwing nine strikes in 12 attempts for a 238. Ruiz was next with a 213, Sean Rash of Montgomery, Ill., posted a 203 and qualifying leader Mike Fagan of Dallas was eliminated with a 192 for the round’s lowest score.
Ruiz led the closely-contested game two with a 201. Williams advanced to the title match with a mistake-free 197. Rash was eliminated with a 186 game. A 4-6-10 split in the third frame and an unconverted 1-2-6-10 spare attempt in the ninth ended Rash’s hopes.
The victory gave Williams a feeling of redemption after a disappointing 2010-11 season that began when he was denied entry into the United States over a visa problem, causing him to miss the entire PBA World Series of Bowling.
“It comes down to what does it take to make you stronger,” Williams said. “We all have to go through adversity and it was my turn. Everything has gone well since then.”
A title winner in bowling competitions in nine different countries, Williams was thrilled to add the United States as his 10th.
“Being the first English title winner has become my specialty,” he smiled “I was the first Englishman to win on the European Bowling Tour, too, so hopefully this will lead to a flood of English wins on the American tour.”
On Sunday, Jan. 29, ESPN will air the finals of the Alka Seltzer Plus Liquid Gels USBC Masters live at 12:30 p.m. ET (9:30 a.m. PT) from Sunset Station’s Strike Zone in Henderson, Nev. The second major championship of the 2011-12 PBA Tour season offers a $50,000 first prize along with a berth in the Round of 36 for the PBA Tournament of Champions. Tom Hess of Urbandale, Iowa, is defending champion.
PBA’s online bowling channel, Xtra Frame, will webcast live coverage of the qualifying and three-game, double-elimination match play competition in the Masters Tuesday through Friday. A one-month subscription to Xtra Frame is available for $7.99 and a full-year subscription is $64.99. To enroll, visit pba.com and click on the Xtra Frame logo.
BAYER VIPER OPEN
South Point Exhibition Hall, Las Vegas
Round One (lowest score eliminated): Stuart Williams, England, 238; Ildemaro Ruiz, Venezuela, 213; Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., 203; Mike Fagan, Dallas, 192 ($4,000).
Round Two (lowest score eliminated): Ruiz 201, Williams 197, Rash 186 ($4,500).
Championship: Williams ($15,000) def. Ruiz ($7,500), 246-197.