LAS VEGAS – Brad Angelo of Lockport, N.Y, with two strikes and an eight-count in the 10th frame, ended four years of frustration with a 233-232 victory over Finland’s Mika Koivuniemi to win the Professional Bowlers Association Viper Championship at South Point Hotel and Casino.
Angelo, who won his only PBA Tour title in the 2008 Viper Championship in Omaha, Neb., came into the Viper Championship finals as the top qualifier, but got help from Koivuniemi in the final frame before pulling off his clutch victory.
The Viper Championship, the second of five PBA Tour events held as part of the GEICO PBA World Series of Bowling IV at South Point, aired Sunday on ESPN.
“The finals are airing on my birthday, and I guarantee there will be an absolute blow-out Christmas party, slash birthday party, slash victory number two party at Brad Angelo Lanes,” the now-43-year-old Angelo said.
Koivuniemi started the title match with a 4-10 split and an open frame. Angelo returned the favor in the third frame when he left a 4-6-7 split and opened. Neither bowler missed the pocket after those errors, although each left and converted a single-pin spare.
The contest came down to the 10th frame where Koivuniemi, working on a string of four strikes, added a fifth on his first shot. Needing nine pins and a spare to lock up the title, Koivuniemi left the 3-6-9-10 to give Angelo a chance to win with a double and eight pins, and that’s exactly what the 11-year PBA Tour veteran got.
“Mika gave me a chance, but I feel for him,” Angelo said. “I’ve bowled against him for 25 years and he’s about as classy as they come. He made some great shots to virtually shut me out, and the next thing I know, he got six (pins).
“All you ever want is a chance. That’s what I kept saying to myself, give me a chance,” Angelo continued. “I thought I needed nine pins to win. I guess it didn’t register that he got six pins, not seven, but I didn’t look at the score. That’s the first time in my career I didn’t look to see what I really needed; I just got up and tried to make three quality shots.”
The victory was redemption for four years of extreme frustration for Angelo.
“My slow years were certainly not for lack of effort,” he said. “I dealt with the evolution of the sport. Bowling with so much friction on the lanes here in Las Vegas, a guy like me without the speed and rev rate some of the power guys have, is pretty much nullified.
“Some of these guys – and they’re great players – have an advantage over guys like me. My weak 10 pin is their messenger 10-pin strike. My 2-10 split could be another strike for them because they can send the headpin off the wall.
“It’s been a struggle, but today I feel great. Great,” he said with a grin. “Hopefully I’ve silenced some of the people who decided that my career is over. Hopefully I’ve shoved that right in their mouths.”
Koivuniemi advanced to the title match with a 214-150 victory over Mike Fagan of Dallas in the first match, and a 258-180 win over reigning PBA Player of the Year Sean Rash of Montgomery, Ill., in the semifinal match.
The GEICO World Series of Bowling continues on ESPN next Sunday at 1 p.m. ET with the finals of the Chameleon Championship. Finalists will include Bahrain’s Fawaz Abdulla, the first Middle Eastern player to reach the nationally-televised finals of a PBA Tour event; 2010-11 PBA Rookie of the Year Scott Norton of Costa Mesa, Calif.; PBA Hall of Famer Walter Ray Williams Jr., of Ocala, Fla., the winningest player in PBA history with 47 PBA Tour titles, and top qualifier Jason Belmonte of Australia, a two-handed player who won three titles during World Series of Bowling III in 2011.
Pre- and post-telecast shows for all PBA-ESPN telecasts will be available on Xtra Frame, PBA’s online bowling channel.
South Point Exhibition Hall, Las Vegas
Final Standings: 1, Brad Angelo, Lockport, N.Y., $20,000. 2, Mika Koivuniemi, Finland, $10,000. 3, Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., $7,000. 4, Mike Fagan, Dallas, $5,000.
Stepladder Results: Match One – Koivuniemi def. Fagan, 214-150. Semifinal Match – Koivuniemi def. Rash, 258-180. Championship – Angelo def. Koivuniemi, 233-232.