Wes Malott of Pflugerville, Texas, capped a three-match sweep in the finals of the Professional Bowlers Association Cheetah Championship, defeating top qualifier Parker Bohn III of Jackson, N.J., in the title match of the historic ESPN telecast, 243-169, for his ninth career PBA Tour title.
The first of seven telecasts from PBA World Series of Bowling V at South Point Hotel, Casino and Bowling Center aired Sunday on ESPN, and featured the use of a highly-visible blue oil on the lanes for the first time in PBA history.
Malott, in winning his second consecutive title, defeated Colombia native Clara Guerrero, 214-208, in the opening match, and was nearly perfect in ousting 51-year-old PBA Hall of Famer Pete Weber of St. Ann, Mo., 288-242, in advancing to the title match.
Guerrero, only the third woman ever to advance to the nationally-televised championship round of a PBA Tour event, made a short-lived, but exciting appearance. The 31-year-old former Wichita State University star – now married and an American citizen living not far from Malott in Pflugerville – took a 15-pin lead over Malott into the eighth frame of the opening match. But Malott finished with a string of five strikes to eliminate Guerrero, 214-208, and exorcise a personal demon.
In two previous nationally-televised matches against another woman star, Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, N.Y., Malott lost both times. He committed a foul that contributed to a 235-228 loss to Johnson in the 2005 PBA Banquet Open (the first time a woman had ever appeared on a PBA Tour telecast), and in July, after he won the U.S. Open in Columbus, Ohio, Malott lost a special “Battle of the Sexes” match against Johnson, the Women’s U.S. Open winner, 194-188.
“There was a lot riding on this show, especially for me,” Malott said. “The first match against Clara – the lady – I obviously remembered my foul against Liz and losing to Liz at the U.S. Open. I needed to get that off my back. As much as I acted like it wasn’t there, it was on the back of my mind. I told myself at the end of the match I couldn’t give up and let it happen again, so I wanted to put the pressure on her and I was fortunate to come out the winner.”
For Guerrero, just the opportunity “was a dream,” she said. “Every time you see the guys on TV, you want to compete with them, beat them. So being here, having the opportunity to bowl against the greatest bowlers in the world, it was a dream. It was the best part of my career.”
After closing out Guerrero with his string of five strikes, Malott added another 10 in a row against Weber, losing his shot at a perfect game when he left a 10 pin on his 11th shot.
“That might have been the best shot I threw all day,” Malott said of the 11th shot. “I’d throw that one again a million times.”
He continued his torrid pace, striking on seven of his first eight shots in racing away from Bohn in the title match.
“Against Pete, both of us are kind of in the running for player of the year, and I thought I would help my chances by winning that match,” Malott said, “but I also had to beat Parker to win the title, so every match meant a lot. I just worried about myself and did what I could to win back-to-back titles (the Cheetah Championship was the first PBA Tour event since the U.S. Open), and it’s a great feeling.”
The Cheetah Championship was the first time a lane conditioning oil with a color additive had ever been used in a PBA Tour championship event, and it was praised by both Guerrero and Malott.
“I saw it,” Guerrero said. “I thought it was going to be a little different. I thought I’d see the lines on the bowling ball, but it didn’t bother me at all. I think it’s cool for the audience to actually see the oil and understand the game a little more, but I just ignored it.”
“Everyone was concerned about what the dye was going to do to the oil, but I really didn’t move for all three games,” he said. “Because I bowled all three games playing the same line, so you could see the track of the ball. That’s what I was curious about.
“This oil could be very educating for the fans and outsiders to help them understand what we’re dealing with, and to see how accurate we are,” he added. “To me that’s more important than what the oil did to us. I don’t think it affected anything performance-wise. I’m kind of excited about it.”
The “blue oil” will be used in all four animal pattern championship finals held during the World Series. The Viper Championship presented by PBA Bowling Challenge will air next Sunday, Dec. 8, followed by the Chameleon Championship on Dec. 15 and the Scorpion Championship on Dec. 22. All December telecasts begin at 1 p.m. ET.
The Cheetah Championship telecast also included the first of four special “PBA League Challenge” segments, allowing the eight PBA League franchise players to demonstrate their skills in unique competitions. The first segment was a “blind bowling” event in which a large curtain was suspended over the lanes, hiding the pins from the players and leaving only the first part of the lanes visible for targeting. Each player bowled a ninth and 10th frame, and Weber – the franchise player for the PBA League New York City WTT KingPins – won the initial round of “challenge” competition by throwing four strikes for a perfect score of 60.
In the light-hearted competition, BROOKLYN STyLES franchise player Sean Rash of Montgomery, Ill., asked for a re-rack (despite not being able to see the pins) and competitors jokingly complained that Dallas Strikers franchise player Norm Duke had an unfair advantage because he’s so short, he could see under curtain.
After winning the round, Weber said, “I didn’t have to shoot any spares, so what’s the big deal? I spot at the foul line, so shooting spares wouldn’t have been a problem if I had needed to shoot at one. I never even saw the screen.”
Next Sunday’s Viper Championship telecast will include a “speed bowling” PBA League Challenge, calling for players to roll as many strikes as possible in a span of 90 seconds.
PBA CHEETAH CHAMPIONSHIP
South Point Exhibition Hall, Las Vegas
1, Wes Malott, Pflugerville, Texas, $20,000.
2, Parker Bohn III, Jackson, N.J., $10,000.
3, Pete Weber, St. Ann, Mo., $7,000.
4, Clara Guerrero, Colombia, $5,000.
Match One – Malott def. Guerrero, 214-208.
Semifinal Match – Malott def. Weber, 288-242.
Championship – Malott def. Bohn, 243-169.
PBA LEAGUE CHALLENGE ROUND ONE
Blind Bowling (Franchise players from eight PBA League teams bowled a ninth and 10th frame for total score; a large curtain was suspended over the lanes to obscure the pins from view. Players were allowed to see only a limited area of the lane for targeting).
1, Pete Weber, New York City WTT KingPins, 60.
2, Norm Duke, Dallas Strikers, 49.
3, Sean Rash, BROOKLYN STyLES, 48.
4 (tie), Chris Barnes, Silver Lake Atom Splitters, and Jason Belmonte, L.A. X, 40.
6 (tie), Mike Fagan, Motown Muscle, and Bill O’Neill, Philadelphia Hitmen, 39.
8, Osku Palermaa, Pittsburgh Jack Rabbits, 38.