The inaugural PBA Fall Classic, hosted by South Point Bowling Plaza in Las Vegas, has been a showcase for some of the PBA’s brightest young stars and some of the country’s best women bowlers, and it also provided a unique look at PBA stars in team competition.
The first contest officially concluded during the Fall Classic was the awarding of the women’s invitation to compete in the DHC PBA Japan Invitational in January in Tokyo. Based on total pinfall for 40 qualifying games in the Bowlmor AMF U.S. Women’s Open and PBA Xtra Frame Las Vegas Open, Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, N.Y., won the women’s invitation, knocking down 5,199 pins in the Women’s U.S. Open and 3,426 in Las Vegas for an 8,625 total to the competition by 27 pins over Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, N.Y. (5,146, 3,452, 8,598 total).
The top 10 men based on the same qualifying pinfall totals from the Las Vegas Open and the upcoming Bowlmor AMF U.S. Open will be invited to the DHC event. Based on Las Vegas Open qualifying, the men’s pinfall leaders are: Anthony Pepe, 3,843; Kris Prather, 3,705; Patrick Girard, 3,603; Aaron Lorincz, 3,598; Parker Bohn III, 3,571; Ryan Ciminelli, 3,571; Matt McNiel, 3,562; Lonnie Waliczek, 3,559; Jason Belmonte, 3,549, and Tom Daugherty, 3,549.
● One of the most competitive PBA Rookie of the Year races was on display during the South Point Bowling Plaza PBA Fall Classic, where a handful of talented young players are making a splash after graduating from college in late May and early June.
Among the rookies who are getting a real test under fire of a full field of PBA Tour stars are McKendree University grad A.J. Johnson of Oswego, Ill., who got the sport’s attention as top qualifier and eventual second-place finisher in the USBC Masters earlier in the year; lefthander Matt McNiel of Prior Lake, Minn., who completed his graduate degree at Wichita State after helping the team win the USBC Intercollegiate Team Championship in addition to winning his record third USBC Open Championships all-events title, and former Wichita State star Kris Prather of Milton, Fla., who won the MOTIV Revolution tournament in July, earning a full season of PBA Tour competition as a representative of MOTIV’s products.
Anthony Simonsen of Princeton, Texas, skipped college, joined the PBA in 2014 at age 17 and now he’s also in the thick of the Rookie of the Year race. Approaching his 19th birthday on Jan. 6, the young two-handed player made a statement when he finished third in the Xtra Frame PBA Pensacola Open in June and this week in Las Vegas, he teamed with Connor Pickford of Charlotte, N.C., to claim the No. 1 berth in the Mark Roth/Marshall Holman PBA Doubles Championship presented by Storm…which presents Simonsen with a dilemma. One of his goals is to become the youngest PBA Tour champion, but he’s running out of time.
Thirty-two years later, Norm Duke still holds the “youngest PBA Tour champion” record after winning the Cleveland Open in 1983 at the age of 18 years, 11 months, 8 days. That means Simonsen needs to win a title by Dec. 13 to break Duke’s record by one day, and the Roth/Holman Doubles finals won’t be contested until Dec. 19 in Reno. After missing the cut to match play in the PBA Xtra Frame Las Vegas Open Wednesday, Simonsen’s last chance is to win the Bowlmor AMF U.S. Open in Garland, Texas, Nov. 2-8, the final PBA Tour event to be completed prior to Dec. 13.
For the record, if he wins the U.S. Open, Simonsen would become the youngest player to win a PBA major. That record is held by Hall of Famer, Mike Aulby, who won the 1979 PBA National Championship at age 19 years, 75 days.
● Liz Johnson distinguished herself once again by rolling a 300 game in the final game of the qualifying round of Roth/Holman Doubles Championship presented by Storm on Monday. The 2015 PWBA Player of the Year, USBC Queens and Bowlmor AMF U.S. Women’s Open champion became the first woman to bowl four 300 games in PBA Tour competition. Perfect game no. 4 came in a clutch situation, boosting her and partner Andrew Anderson of Holly, Mich., into the match play finals of the doubles event. Kelly Kulick and Diana Zavjalova also have bowled a 300 in a PBA Tour event. Several women have bowled 300s in PBA Regionals.
PBA Hall of Famer Pete Weber, suffering from a pinched nerve in his lower back, was forced to withdraw from the PBA Fall Classic. He was replaced in the Roth/Holman doubles event, where he had been paired with Sean Rash of Montgomery, Ill., by Tom Hess of Urbandale, Iowa. His replacement on the McCorkle Real Estate team of PBA50 all-stars (Tom Baker, Brian LeClair, Amleto Monacelli and Ron Mohr) for the PBA Team Challenge hasn’t been confirmed yet.