LAS VEGAS – After two years and more than 400,000 miles of global competition, reigning Professional Bowlers Association Player of the Year Sean Rash of Montgomery, Ill., along with PBA Tour titlist Kelly Kulick of Union, N.J., have won the World Bowling Tour Finals.
Rash, a seven-time PBA Tour title winner, defeated Mike Fagan of Fort Worth, Texas, 255-231, to win the WBT Men’s Finals presented by the PBA during the PBA World Series of Bowling V, hosted by South Point Hotel, Casino and Spa, while Kulick, the 2010 PBA Tournament of Champions winner, raced away from defending champion Missy Parkin of Laguna Hills, Calif., 267-194, to win the WBT Women’s Finals. Both events aired Sunday on ESPN.
Rash, who entered the WBT event as the leader in a two-year rolling points competition involving a series of WTBA/PBA International Tour tournaments held around the world, started his match against Fagan with seven strikes and was never challenged.
Fagan had been nearly perfect himself in eliminating Finland’s Mika Koivuniemi, 279-223, in the first match. Koivuniemi, who won the 2011 WBT Men’s Finals and finished second in 2012, is the only player to make the series finals in all three years the competition has been held.
“Anytime you have a chance to compete, whether it’s in the U.S. or around the world, it’s fun,” Rash said. “That’s why you’re an athlete. You love to compete.
“I came into this event with a different mindset,” he added. “The World Series wasn’t as great as I would have liked, but it wasn’t terrible. I feel great. I’ve been bowling well for the past few months. My life has changed since the arrival of our new baby. I’m in a happy place.
“You have to take advantage of opportunities,” Rash continued. “Mike got a little lost on the left lane and that’s why I had him finish there. I kinda figured the first mistake would come on that lane and that’s what happened.
“It’s always good to win. It doesn’t matter; it could be league. I like to win.”
In the all-U.S. women’s preliminary match, Parkin held off Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, N.Y., 198-195, but was no match for Kulick, who struck on every shot except for leaving a 10 pin (which she missed) in the eighth frame.
“The question I’ve been asking myself is ‘Am I still good enough to be out here? Should I keep doing this?’” Kulick said. “The WBT event was just reassurance of my confidence level and my ability as a player. I came out to prove something to nobody except myself today. It was just sheer determination to beat whomever I had to face. It’s almost a relief knowing I won again.”
The WBT Finals, like the PBA animal pattern tournaments held earlier in the World Series, were bowled on the unique blue-tinted lane conditioner in order to allow onsite fans and ESPN viewers an opportunity to see the WTBA’s Atlanta lane oiling pattern. Like the players who had experienced bowling on the tinted oil in previous events, it was a non-factor as far as Kulick was concerned.
“I didn’t even see it,” she said. “As a professional, we look at ball reaction, so honestly, I didn’t even notice it, other than the lane was blue.”
PBA competition on ESPN continues on Sunday, Jan. 12, at 1 p.m. ET with the finals of the Round1 Japan Cup from Tokyo. The eight finalists for the single-elimination match play format finals include PBA members Rash; Osku Palermaa, Finland; Tommy Jones, Simpsonville, S.C.; Chris Barnes, Double Oak, Texas; E.J. Tackett, Huntington, Ind., and Japan PBA members Shinichi Horie, Yuya Kotah and Kazuaki Watanabe.
ESPN’s coverage of the PBA World Series of Bowling V concludes on Sunday, Jan. 19, at 3 p.m. ET with the PBA Regional Players Invitational Finals and PBA50 Tour Finals, followed by one-hour coverage of the Teen Masters Grand Championship.
A post-finals recap of the WBT Finals and a preview of next Sunday’s Japan Cup will be included in “The Bowling Center,” a magazine-style program available on YouTube Monday.
WTBA WORLD BOWLING TOUR FINALS
presented by the PBA
South Point Exhibition Hall, Las Vegas
Men’s Final Standings:
1, Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., $20,000.
2, Mike Fagan, Fort Worth, Texas, $10,000.
3, Mika Koivuniemi, Finland, $5,000 .
Semifinal Match – Fagan def. Koivuniemi, 279-223.
Championship – Rash def. Fagan, 255-231.
Women’s Final Standings:
1, Kelly Kulick, Union, N.J., $20,000.
2, Missy Parkin, Laguna Hills, Calif., $10,000.
3, Liz Johnson, Cheektowaga, N.Y., $5,000.
Semifinal Match – Parkin def. Johnson, 198-195.
Championship – Kulick def. Parkin, 267-194.