RENO, Nev. – Gary Faulkner Jr. of Memphis, Tenn., making his first professional television appearance, defeated top qualifier E.J. Tackett of Huntington, Ind., 216-178, to win Rolltech Professional Bowlers Association World Championship Thursday at the National Bowling Stadium. He became the second African American in the PBA’s 57-year history to win a Tour title.
The PBA World Championship, the crown jewel of the GEICO PBA World Series of Bowling VII presented by Silver Legacy, was the culmination of 66 games of qualifying and match play contested on five different lane conditions. The finals aired live on ESPN.
Faulkner, a 25-year-old third-year PBA member, qualified third for the World Championship finals and won three straight matches to join George Branham III of Indianapolis as the PBA’s only African American titlists. Branham, now retired, won five times, including the 1986 Brunswick Memorial World Open and the 1993 Firestone Tournament of Champions.
Faulkner, who threw two bad shots in three games, threw six strikes on his first eight attempts while Tackett, the only right-hander in the finals, left three splits in his first five frames to fall behind by 49 pins. Faulkner never gave him an opening.
“The first shot I was nervous, but after that I didn’t think about anything,” Faulkner said. “My mind was free. I didn’t watch the other guys. I don’t show a lot of emotions. My goal is always to win; I didn’t come here to lose.
“Over the past year, I felt it coming. I was making small mistakes, but I’d go home and check my stats and fix my mistakes. Those small pins add up over time. I knew I could do it. I visualized it. I had maybe a half hour of nervousness, but I took a nap and came over here to bowl, and that was it.”
Faulkner said he never saw Branham bowl, but he was aware he had a chance to become the second African American titlist.
“That’s definitely one thing I tried not to think about, but it’s amazing. To be honest, what I did think about is I wanted to shoot 300 on TV.”
Faulkner, who anchored Webber International University to the 2012 Intercollegiate Team Championship, won his way into the title match with a 247-237 victory over Ryan Ciminelli of Cheektowaga, N.Y., derailing Ciminelli’s bid to become the first player to win three consecutive PBA titles on American soil since PBA Hall of Famer Johnny Petraglia accomplished that feat in 1971. Ciminelli also was trying for his third title of the year and back-to-back majors after winning the Bowlmor AMF U.S. Open in November.
Faulkner, in his first game on television, started game two with 10 strikes on his first 11 shots, running away to a 262-218 win over Norton, who left single pins four times that prevented him from stringing the strikes he needed to keep up. Faulkner started the semifinal match with a spare and four strikes while Ciminelli struck only once in the first five frames to fall into a 31-pin deficit he couldn’t overcome despite rallying with a string of five strikes starting in the sixth frame. Faulkner clinched the win by converting a 7 pin in the 10th frame.
In the first match, Norton bowled an error-free game in defeating Rhino Page of Orlando, Fla., 215-202. Page left a 7-10 split in the fourth frame and a 3-6-7 split in the sixth, failing to convert both, and couldn’t recover from the open frames.
PBA World Series coverage on ESPN continues with the finals of the PBA Cheetah Championship presented by PBA Bowling Challenge Mobile Game Sunday at 1 p.m. EST.
ROLLTECH PBA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
National Bowling Stadium, Reno, Nev., Thursday
1, Gary Faulkner Jr., Memphis, Tenn., $60,000.
2, EJ Tackett, Huntington, Ind., $30,000.
3, Ryan Ciminelli, Cheektowaga, N.Y., $25,000.
4, Scott Norton, Mission Viejo, Calif., $20,000.
5, Rhino Page, Orlando, Fla., $15,000.
Match One – Norton def. Page, 215-202.
Match Two - Faulkner def. Norton, 262-218.
Semifinal Match – Faulkner def. Ciminelli, 247-237.
Championship – Faulkner def. Tackett, 216-178.