RENO, Nev. – Using skills developed as a teenager nearly a quarter century ago, 40-year-old Mike Wolfe of New Albany, Ind., upstaged the Professional Bowlers Association’s youth movement when he routed 23-year-old rookie Darren Tang of San Francisco, 279-143, to win the PBA Cheetah Championship presented by PBA Bowling Challenge Mobile Game.
The Cheetah Championship, the first of four PBA animal pattern championships conducted during the GEICO PBA World Series of Bowling VIII at Reno’s National Bowling Stadium, aired Sunday on ESPN.
Wolfe, playing a treacherous outside angle to the pocket, delivered clutch strikes throughout the game, to win his fifth career PBA Tour title and first in four years. While the final score makes it look like Wolfe had an easy time, it was only because he was able to control a thin line between throwing a strike and throwing the ball into the gutter.
“I grew up playing that shot on short oil back in the urethane days,” Wolfe said of his formative years. “People always told me Pete Weber was one of the best gutter players ever and I was a fan of his growing up, so I thought it was cool to play out there.”
In the title match, Wolfe was seen smiling nervously after throwing a couple of early strikes.
“I thought I threw them in the gutter,” he confessed. “The very first shot out of the (commercial) break, I threw it too hard, but it got back to the pocket. There were two shots, at least, that I thought I threw them into the gutter.”
Living on the edge of the lane, however, almost resulted in a perfect game. Wolfe’s only flaw was leaving a 10 pin in the seventh frame, which he converted for a spare.
Wolfe used the same approach during the four-player match to open the telecast, where he had a more difficult time. In the elimination match, the two players with the highest scores advanced to the championship match. Tang, in his ESPN-television debut, doubled in the 10th frame for a 237 to lead the four finalists.
Wolfe also doubled in the 10th frame, but fired a rocket shot down the middle of the lane for a seven-count fill ball to finish with 223. That almost opened the door for 19-year-old Anthony Simonsen of Austin, Texas, who then needed three strikes in his 10th frame to force a roll-off with Wolfe. Simonsen got the first strike, but missed on his second to finish with a 210. Also eliminated was 28-year-old B.J. Moore III of Greensburg, Pa., who posted a 192 in his ESPN debut in singles competition.
“Over the past few years, Belmo (Australian two-handed star and three-time PBA Player of the Year Jason Belmonte) and some of the other young guys have made winning look easy,” Wolfe said. “Bowling a first-timer on TV helped, I think. They look at it differently, like I did when I was their age.
“Darren bowled amazingly for his first show, but you just have to use your experience to make good shots. When the little guys (like me) can sneak one out, it’s special.”
The PBA’s World Series animal pattern championships continue with a busy holiday weekend on ESPN including the finals of the Chameleon Championship presented by HotelPlanner.com on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET followed by a Christmas Day doubleheader – the Scorpion Championship presented by Reno Tahoe USA and the Shark Championship – at 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. ET, respectively. In all three events, a PBA veteran will take on a field of youthful challengers.
For fans who may have missed ESPN’s live coverage of the PBA World Championship on Dec. 11, ESPN will present an encore telecast of the PBA’s final major championship of 2016 on New Year’s Day at 1 p.m. ET.
PBA CHEETAH CHAMPIONSHIP
presented by PBA Bowling Challenge Mobile Game
National Bowling Stadium, Reno, Nev. (aired on ESPN on Sunday, Dec. 18)
1, Mike Wolfe, New Albany, Ind., $20,000.
2, Darren Tang, San Francisco, $10,000.
3, Anthony Simonson, Austin, Texas, $5,000.
4, B.J. Moore III, Greensburg, Pa., $5,000.
Elimination Match (top two scores advanced): Tang 237, Wolfe 223, Simonsen 210, Moore 192.
Championship: Wolfe def. Tang, 279-143.