TOKYO, Japan – Finnish native Mika Koivuniemi won his second Round1 Japan Cup and a $71,700 first prize at Round1 Stadium Diver City Tokyo Plaza Bowling Center with a 268-164 victory over Japan’s Yoshihiro Kaji, denying Kaji’s bid to become the first Japanese player to win the event in 24 years.
The 45-year-old Koivuniemi, wearing glasses for the first time in a championship round, started the title match with eight strikes before a 10 pin in the ninth frame ended his bid for a 300 game. The finals aired Sunday on ESPN.
“I got glasses about two years ago and started to practice with them, but I didn't like them at all,” the Hartland, Mich., resident said. “I bowled a couple of games in the 180s with them on, so I took them off and shot a 300 game. After that I didn’t even try them again in competition. I just wore them when I was driving at night.
“I told my wife I would start wearing them after I won my 10th title, but after I screwed up a couple of times during the World Series of Bowling, I decided to try them again and they felt ok. So I decided to test my luck and I bowled with them on in Japan.
“It worked,” he said with a laugh.
Kaji started the title match with back-to-back open frames and never had a chance after that. Takeo Sakai (1988) and Ken Taniguchi (1985) are the only Japanese bowlers who have won the Japan Cup.
Koivuniemi made it into the championship match by winning a sudden death roll-off against reigning PBA Player of the Year Sean Rash of Montgomery, Ill., in one of the season’s most exciting matches. Rash converted the 2-10 split in the ninth frame and threw three strikes in the 10th to force Koivuniemi to mark in his 10th frame for the winner.
Koivuniemi, however, left the 4-9 split and got one pin for a 223-223 tie. In the one-ball sudden death roll-off, both players threw strikes on their first two shots, and both left a single pin on their third attempts before Koivuniemi struck while Rash left a 9 pin on their fourth shots.
PBA Tour coverage on ESPN continues next Sunday with the live debut of PBA League competition from Thunderbowl Lanes in Allen Park, Mich., at noon ET. The two-hour live event will feature five five-man teams bowling in a Baker team format stepladder final.
Pre- and post-telecast coverage will be webcast on PBA’s online bowling channel, Xtra Frame.
ROUND1 JAPAN CUP
Round1 Stadium Diver City Tokyo Plaza Bowling Center, Tokyo, Japan, Dec. 2 (ESPN telecast Jan. 20)
Championship: Mika Koivuniemi, Finland ($71,700) def. Yoshihiro Kaji, Japan ($38,500), 268-164.
Semifinal Round (losers earned $17,900): Koivuniemi def. Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., 223-223, 10-10, 10-10, 9-9, 10-9 in four-frame, one-ball sudden death roll-off. Kaji def. Osku Palermaa, Finland, 235-225.
Round of 8 (losers earned $9,000): Koivuniemi def. Yoshihiro Sakuraba, Japan, 228-171. Rash def. Parker Bohn III, Jackson, N.J., 223-202. Palermaa def. Takeshi Suda, Japan, 268-257. Kaji def. Wes Malott, Pflugerville, Texas, 226-213.
Round of 16 (best of five games, losers earned $4,100): Palermaa def. Mike Fagan, Dallas, 3-0. Rash def. Bill O’Neill, Langhorne, Pa., 3-1. Malott def. Yuya Katoh, Japan, 3-1. Sakuraba def. Yoichi Hirayama, Japan, 3-2. Bohn def. Park Jean Soo, Korea, 3-0. Kaji def. Masanori Saito, Japan, 3-0. Suda def. Jason Belmonte, Australia, 3-0. Koivuniemi def. Masanori Satoh, 3-0.
Round of 32 (best of five games, losers earned $2,000): Palermaa def. Akio Harada, Japan, 3-1. Fagan def. Yuji Akimoto, Japan, 3-1. O’Neill def. Kim Young Kwan, Korea, 3-0. Rash def. Subaru Nagano, Japan, 3-0. Katoh def. Rhino Page, Dade City, Fla., 3-1. Malott def. Jeong Tae Hwa, Korea, 3-1. Hirayama def. Shinichiro Tamai, Japan, 3-2. Sakuraba def. Isao Yamamoto, Japan, 3-2.
Bohn def. Rim Sung Chol, Korea, 3-0. Soo def. Ryan Ciminelli, Cheektowaga, N.Y., 3-1. Saito def. Chris Barnes, Double Oak, Texas, 3-2. Kaji def. Hiroshi Nagatani, Japan, 3-1. Suda def. Koji Kawazu, Japan, 3-1. Belmonte def. Norm Duke, Clermont, Fla., 3-1. Koivuniemi def. Teruyuki Obara, Japan, 3-1. Satoh def. Yasuyuki Sadamatsu, Japan, 3-1.
Round of 64 (best of five games, losers earned $1,000): Bohn def. Koji Hosoi, Japan, 3-0. Chol def. Yoshimi Kitaoka, Japan, 3-1. Soo def. Shiegeo Saito, 3-0. Ciminelli def. Jim Ohtomo, Japan, 3-0. Barnes def. Dom Barrett, England, 3-1. M. Saito def. Yoshihiro Gima, Japan, 3-2. Kaji def. Shogo Yamashita, Japan, 3-1. Nagatani def. Ryo Nishimura, Japan, 3-0.
Kawazu def. Yuki Hattori, Japan, 3-2. Suda def. Amleto Monacelli, Venezuela, 3-1. Duke def. Pete Weber, St. Ann, Mo., 3-1. Belmonte def. Kenji Kawashima, Japan, 3-0. Koivuniemi def. Masami Koura, Japan, 3-0. Obara def. Satoshi Tsushima, Japan, 3-0. Satoh def. Takashi Ishibashi, Japan, 3-1. Sadamatsu def. Akiyoshi Hokura, Japan, 3-2.
Palermaa def. Tetsuya Kobayashi, Japan, 3-2. Harada def. Takuya Murakami, Japan, 3-2. Akimoto def. Akihiro Sunako, Japan, 3-2. Fagan def. Choi Won Young, Korea, 3-1. Kwan def. Shigeyuki Mizuno, Japan, 3-1. O’Neill def. Hiroki Suzuki, Japan, 3-0. Rash def. Kengo Tagata, Japan, 3-1. Nagano def. Walter Ray Williams Jr., Ocala, Fla., 3-1.
Katoh def. Fumihiro Yoshida, Japan, 3-0. Page def. Kazuma Naborikawa, Japan, 3-1. Malott def. Yukihiro Nakashima, Japan, 3-0. Hwa def. Makoto Dohkan, Japan, 3-2. Hirayama def. Junia Yoshida, Japan, 3-0. Tamai def. Kim Sun Tae, Korea, 3-2. Yamamoto def. Seo Jeng Hwan, Korea, 3-0. Sakuraba def. Keijiro Miyauchi, Japan, 3-1.