2012 Tournament of Champions was More Than a Major Title for Sean Rash

by Jerry Schneider March 15, 2013 03:26

When sports enthusiasts look for deciding factors in a player of the year season, one of the first places they look is how an athlete performs in major tournaments.

Defending Barbasol Professional Bowlers Association Tournament of Champions winner and reigning Chris Schenkel PBA Player of the Year Sean Rash didn’t feel any special urgency to win the 2012 edition of the PBA’s signature tournament. He went into the event at Red Rock Lanes in Las Vegas like he does for every tournament he bowls in — planning to win.

But as it turned out, Rash’s victory in the TOC was the defining moment in his first Player of the Year campaign, concluding one of the most competitive Player of the Year contests in years.

Rash, who made a record five consecutive television finals during the 2011 PBA World Series of Bowling, concluded the season with his fifth career PBA Tour title and second major, defeating Ryan Ciminelli of Cheetowaga, N.Y., in the championship match, 239-205, ending a five-year, 14-tournament television drought that extended back to his win in the 2007 USBC Masters for his first major title.

During the 2011-12 PBA Tour season, the TOC was the Montgomery, Ill., power-player’s only title, but he made it to the championship round six times and the Alaska native dominated PBA Tour stats, finishing first in average, competition points and earnings for the season.

By any measure, his World Series performance was eye-catching, resulting in three runner-up finishes, three third-place finishes and a fifth. Arch-rival Jason Belmonte of Australia won three titles during the World Series, and had five top-five finishes, making him a co-favorite for Player of the Year, but the race came right down to the end of the year.

“I didn’t really feel the need to win the Tournament of Champions to validate that I could win, but it did validate what had been a very good season all along,” Rash said. “I was disappointed I didn’t win at the World Series, but I was happy with the way I bowled in all of the tournaments.

“Nothing can really eliminate the frustration when you let opportunities slip away, but the win at the Tournament of Champions did come as a welcome sense of relief.”

Rash will try to defend his title against at least 50 other Tour champions on March 27, when the 48th Barbasol PBA Tournament of Champions gets underway at Woodland Bowl in Indianapolis. He will try to become the first player to successfully defend a TOC title since Hall of Famer Jason Couch won an unprecedented three consecutive TOCs (1999, 2000 and 2002). Couch, who also will be in the field in Indianapolis, is the only player who has successfully defended a TOC title.

“I think what Jason (Couch) did will be a record that will never be repeated,” Rash said. “Winning the Tournament of Champions means you have beaten the best of the best.

“Every major has an element that makes it especially challenging to win, but for the Tournament of Champions, it’s the fact that you are competing against proven champions and I think that’s what separates it from the other majors.”

In addition to Rash and Couch other past TOC champions entered are Mika Koivuniemi (2011), Kelly Kulick (2010), Patrick Allen (2009), Chris Barnes (2006), Mark Williams (1985 and 1988), Wayne Webb (1980), Norm Duke (1994), Bryan Goebel (1998), Michael Haugen Jr. (2008), Johnny Petraglia (1971), George Branham III (1993), Steve Jaros (2005), Tommy Jones (2007), and Pete Weber (1987).

The 2013 TOC gets underway with three eight-game qualifying rounds on Wednesday, March 27, and Thursday, March 28, with the top 24 players after 24 games advancing to three eight-game round robin match play rounds Thursday and Friday which will determine the five players for the stepladder finals which will be televised Saturday, March 31 live on ESPN at 2:30 p.m. ET.

On Saturday, the PBA champions will bowl with Indianapolis-area amateur men, women and youth league bowlers in a pro-am event, and Saturday evening, Danny Wiseman of Baltimore and Doug Kent of Newark, N.Y., will be inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame in ceremonies at the Indianapolis Marriott North. Sunday’s schedule also will include the stepladder finals of the PBA League Elias Cup, the inaugural PBA League championship round, which will air on ESPN on Sunday, April 7, at 1 p.m. ET.

All preliminary rounds of the TOC will be webcast live, exclusively on PBA’s online bowling channel, Xtra Frame. Xtra Frame subscription information, pro-am entry and ticket information, are available on pba.com.

BARBASOL PBA TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS WINNERS

1962 Joe Joseph
1965 Billy Hardwick
1966 Wayne Zahn
1967 Jim Stefanich
1968 Dave Davis
1969 Jim Godman
1970 Don Johnson
1971 Johnny Petraglia
1972 Mike Durbin
1973 Jim Godman
1974 Earl Anthony
1975 Dave Davis
1976 Marshall Holman
1977 Mike Berlin
1978 Earl Anthony
1979 George Pappas
1980 Wayne Webb
1981 Steve Cook
1982 Mike Durbin
1983 Joe Berardi
1984 Mike Durbin
1985 Mark Williams
1986 Marshall Holman
1987 Pete Weber
1988 Mark Williams
1989 Del Ballard Jr.
1990 Dave Ferraro
1991 David Ozio
1992 Marc McDowell
1993 George Branham III
1994 Norm Duke
1995 Mike Aulby
1996 Dave D’Entremont
1997 John Gant
1998 Bryan Goebel
1999 Jason Couch
2000 Jason Couch
2002 Jason Couch
2003 Patrick Healey Jr.
2005 Steve Jaros
2006 Chris Barnes
2007 Tommy Jones
2008 Michael Haugen Jr.
2009 Patrick Allen
2010 Kelly Kulick
2011 Mika Koivuniemi
2012 Sean Rash

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