Photos: Hero Noda
The Japan Cup once was an event PBA stars bowled virtually certain that one among them would take the cup back home. After Randy Pedersen outlasted Amleto Monacelli for the 1989 title, the event saw a PBA star’s name top the standings every year for more than two decades.
Japan’s Ken Taniguchi and Takeo Sakai won the title in 1985 and 1988 respectively, before the PBA’s run of 22 straight years of dominance. Parker Bohn III won three times consecutively from 1998-2000 and four times overall. Tommy Jones has become synonymous with the event more recently, winning it back-to-back in 2004 and 2005 and then again in 2010, while also advancing to the final round in other years. Water Ray Williams Jr. has won it twice, as have Pete Weber and Mika Koivuniemi.
[Park’s historic 2014 Japan Cup win officially ended an era of PBA dominance.]
The days when someone other than a PBA standout had a legitimate shot at winning the event seemed remote, possibly irretrievable. 2014 may mark the year that era officially came to an end.
2013 saw Japan’s Yuya Katoh stun the bowling world when he emerged the winner among a field of finalists dotted with some of the finest talent the PBA Tour ever has seen, including Sean Rash, E.J. Tackett, Chris Barnes, Tommy Jones, and Osku Palermaa. The all-Japanese title match saw Katoh defeat Kazuaki Watanabe, 243-235, for the title. Katoh previously had taken care of Palermaa, 258-226, while Watanabe defeated both Barnes (278-239) and Tackett (249-190).
But that was just one year, perhaps a mere anomaly after which the dominance of PBA heavyweights would resume.
Not so fast.
If Japanese players thought they had it tough, Kyung Shin Park, a left-hander, emerged to make clear there was one nation that had it even tougher: Korea. Park became the first Korean player in the event’s history to win the title at the 2014 Round 1 Japan Cup, marking back-to-back years in which someone other than a PBA standout won the event, a feat never before seen in the tournament’s 28-year history.
[Koivuniemi is one PBA star who belongs on the Mount Rushmore of Japan Cup history.]
Park one-upped Katoh in doing so, downing none other than the all-time leading PBA Tour title holder, Walter Ray Williams Jr., who made a bid for his 48th PBA Tour title and third Japan Cup victory before falling short in the semifinals, when Park dismantled him by a score of 278-214.
2014 also saw a PBA standout fail to advance at least to the championship match for the second straight year, as Park defeated Japanese player, Akio Ishihara, for the title and the $51,700 top prize. Ishihara earned $27,570 for finishing runner-up.
Other PBA stars who advanced to the final round included Mika Koivuniemi, Marshall Kent, and Chris Loschetter. Koivuniemi lost to another Korean player, Young Kwan Kim, 247-226. Ishihara defeated Kent, 216-203; and Japan’s Takuya Miyazawa defeated Loschetter, 244-166.
[If winning never gets old, neither does Walter Ray, who made a bid for his 48th PBA title.]