ALLEN PARK, Mich. – If you aren’t a hard-core bowling fan like me, give me a moment to explain something that’ll really help you appreciate how difficult it is to win at bowling’s highest level, and using golf as an analogy will really paint a good picture. Think about a professional golfer’s strategy when teeing off: he or she can see the hazards they want to avoid…the rough, sand and water…and feel the wind they need to adjust for. Professional bowlers have only one hazard, the oil pattern on the lane, but they can’t see it! The only way they can determine how to throw the successful shots they want is through experimentation. Options include changing where they stand on the bowling approach, changing their target on the lane, and changing what type of ball they throw (different chemical compositions in the ball’s surface and/or different weight blocks in the ball’s core affect how much and when it hooks after being rolled).
Monday’s oil pattern for the PBA Wolf Open had less oil, so balls hooked more. Many players abandoned their hard-hooking reactive resin balls and switched to lesser hooking urethane balls, and they had no problem controlling their shots and throwing strikes.
Tuesday’s pattern for the PBA Bear Open had a lot more oil, so the pros switched back to their high-hooking balls, but even that wasn’t enough in some instances. They really had to earn their strikes…marginal shots didn’t carry all ten pins…and I saw a lot of guys leaving splits.
I was able to attend the final Bear Open qualifying Tuesday night, and it was a true test for these bowlers. After six games of daytime qualifying, the top twelve then bowled six more games in the evening to narrow the field down to the final five for the televised finals this weekend.
It was a true seesaw battle between Sweden’s Jesper Svensson and Indiana’s E.J. Tackett. After the evening’s first three games, Tackett had three pin lead over Svensson; after the fourth game Svensson led Tackett by fourteen pins; after the fifth game, Tackett retook the lead seventeen pins; but Svensson’s brilliant 222 in the final game to Tackett’s 150 (I told you it was a tough oil pattern) sealed the number one spot going into this weekend’s final.
"The Five finalists for the PBA Bear Open: (From left to right) Jesper Svensson (Sweden), E.J. Tacket (Indiana), Josh Blanchard (Arizona), John Szczerbinski (New York) and Jon Van Hees (Rhode Island)."
I had the opportunity to talk to Jesper Svensson right after the qualifying, and here’s what he had to say:
I stopped by Thunderbowl this morning to see some of the action on the oil pattern for today’s PBA Badger Open, and the difference was immediately seen: a lot more strikes, and much fewer splits.
"Detroit's Mason Brantley throws a great shot."
"If you want to emulate a pro bowler's approach, Chris Barnes' would undoubtedly be at or near the top of your list."
"Hall of Famer Walter Ray Williams Jr. is trying to become the first bowler in history to win a total of 100 PBA events."
This morning I chatted with Thunderbowl’s Tom Strobl, who tells me that some tickets are still available for this weekend’s finals. Think about this: on Saturday, you can watch three champions being crowned, and two others on Sunday. You don’t get this opportunity with any other professional sport. Tickets are $20 for each individual event, or $30 for an all-day pass…what a deal.