TOKYO, Japan – Japan Professional Bowlers Association journeyman Yuya Katoh pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Round1 Japan Cup history, defeating countryman Kazuaki Watanabe, 243-235, in the title match to become the first Japanese player in 25 years to win the popular international event.
The finals of the 27th Round1 Japan Cup, which included 16 PBA members who qualified based upon a year-long competition points race plus special invitees and additional Japan, Korean and PBA players, were televised live in Japan and aired Sunday on ESPN.
Katoh, a 10-year Japan PBA Tour veteran who had never won a title, became only the third Japanese player to win his country’s most prestigious title after Watanabe failed to convert a 10 pin in the ninth frame. Katoh’s strike on his first shot in the 10th frame sealed the win. The only previous Japanese title winners were Ken Taniguchi, who defeated fellow JPBA member Kiyoshi Nakarai to win the inaugural Japan Cup in 1985, and Takeo Sakai, who defeated PBA star Wayne Webb to claim the 1988 title.
Katoh, a married father of two who works as a teaching pro in a Japanese bowling center, was aware of his country’s 25-year title drought, but didn’t want to think about it.
“I didn’t concentrate on anything other than thinking ‘one shot at a time,’” he said. “I knew it had been a long time since a JPBA bowler won, but I didn’t want to think about that.”
He also used the same philosophy to avoid the increasing pressure in the final frames.
“I knew if I watched the other bowler, I’d get nervous so I just closed my eyes and went through my routine,” he said. “I didn’t pay attention to anything else around me - not how long it’d been since a JPBA player had won, not going for my first title and not how the other bowler was doing. I only thought about my game.
“I’m very happy. This is a huge tournament to win for my first title,” he beamed. “I’m just very happy.”
The three JPBA players dominated the eight-player finals field. Katoh, who will make his American debut when he bowls in the United States Bowling Congress Masters in February in North Brunswick, N.J., advanced to the title match by eliminating Finland’s Osku Palermaa in his first match, 258-226, and defeating countryman Shinichi Horie in the semifinal round, 236-195.
Watanabe eliminated Chris Barnes of Double Oak, Texas, 278-239, in the Round of 8 and ended any PBA hopes for a title when he ousted PBA rookie E.J. Tackett of Huntington, Ind., 249-190, in his semifinal round match.
In the other two Round of 8 matches, Horie struck on his last five shots to slip past reigning PBA Player of the Year Sean Rash of Montgomery, Ill., 225-224, while Tackett eliminated two-time Japan Cup winner Tommy Jones of Simpsonville, S.C., 226-224, when Jones left the 2-8-10 on his fill ball in the 10th frame after Tackett missed a 10 pin in his 10th frame to give Jones a chance to win.
PBA coverage on ESPN continues next Sunday at 1 p.m. ET with three hours of coverage of three important aspects of PBA competition involving regional, senior and youth bowlers. The telecast will include the PBA Regional Players Invitational Finals, the PBA50 Tour Finals (the final two events in PBA World Series of Bowling V from South Point Hotel, Casino and Spa in Las Vegas), and the Teen Masters Grand Championship finals.
The RPI Finals will feature six PBA Regional Tour qualifiers: Brian LeClair, Athens, N.Y., representing the East Region; Tom Daugherty, Wesley Chapel, Fla., South Region; Brian Kretzer, Dayton, Ohio, Central Region; Dave Beres, Waukesha, Wis., Midwest Region; Chris Barnes, Double Oak, Texas, Southwest Region, and Ben Laughlin, Chandler, Ariz., West/Northwest Region.
The PBA50 Tour Finals includes three PBA Hall of Famers who qualified based on 2013 PBA50 Tour competition points. Pete Weber of St. Ann, Mo., will bowl in the opening match against Venezuela’s Amleto Monacelli with the winner facing Walter Ray Williams Jr. of Ocala, Fla.
The Teen Masters Grand Championship finals will feature outstanding youth bowlers including defending grand champion Greg Young of Viera, Fla., and defending girls’ champion Ashley Dunn of Palmdale, Calif., in a battle for a $64,000 scholarship package.
ROUND1 JAPAN CUP
Round1 Minami Suna, Tokyo, Japan
Yuya Katoh, Japan ($57,250) def. Kazuaki Watanabe, Japan ($30,525), 243-235.
Semifinal Round (losers earned $14,300):
Katoh def. Shinichi Horie, Japan, 236-195.
Watanabe def. EJ Tackett, Huntington, Ind., 249-190.
Round of 8 (losers earned $7,250):
Horie def. Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., 225-224.
Katoh def. Osku Palermaa, Finland, 258-226.
Tackett def. Tommy Jones, Simpsonville, S.C., 226-224.
Watanabe def. Chris Barnes, Double Oak, Texas, 278-239.