BY NOLAN HUGHES
Two weeks removed from a crushing loss at the Kia PBA Tournament of Champions, Kris Prather would not be denied again. He captured the PBA World Championship presented by Pabst Blue Ribbon title, securing his second career major title and a $100,000 prize.
The match eerily resembled his loss at the Tournament of Champions a fortnight ago. After five straight strikes, he left nine-counts on four of his next five shots. He bore the same look of devastation across his face as he watched Jason Sterner attempt to lock up his first career major title.
But then Sterner, who managed to overcome spikes of adrenaline all afternoon, could not deliver when it mattered most. He’s earned the nickname “Flash” because of his tendency to run to the line, which is exactly what happened. He missed the head-pin on the first shot of the tenth frame, luckily knocking over the necessary eight pins. Then in the roll-off, he failed to match Prather’s strike, leaving a 3-6-9-10.
Prather halted Sterner’s climb from the bottom of the stepladder. The 38-year-old defeated Jakob Butturff in the first match 279-244. “It's never easy accepting losses,” Butturff said. “But the fact that I felt comfortable on the show with still three tournaments left this week, it's cloud nine.”
Sterner threw a Purple Hammer urethane in the first match, but knew that look had a short shelf-life. Once Jason Belmonte proved to have a great look early in the second match, Sterner felt he had to make the switch to reactive. He knew he couldn’t grind out a 220 and expect to win. “I'd rather fail the other way because I know what happens if I throw this purple and it doesn't strike,” he said.
Belmonte, who aimed to notch his 15th career major title, left a 10-pin in the tenth frame that opened the door for Sterner. Needing a double in the tenth, Sterner secured the 266-255 victory. In the semifinal, Tommy Jones never got comfortable on the TV pair, as Sterner rolled to a 238-183 victory. Jones amazed the crowd with a pair of difficult split conversions, but spares would not be enough this afternoon.
For Prather, the taste of redemption is oh, so sweet. His stampede to the one-seed began during a three-game stretch during the Round of 8: He struck on 31 of 34 shots, rolling games of 245, 300 and 279.
“I missed a 10 pin in the 10th frame of that 245 game and it pissed me off. I was furious at myself,” Prather said. “I just told myself, “You're going to be perfect from now on.’” He nearly made good on that promise, as a stuffed 9-pin was the only deterrent to consecutive perfect games. He said his goal was merely to make the show; he didn’t realize the one-seed was within reach until late in the final game, then he doubled in the tenth to earn the top spot over Jones.
Prather said the loss at the TOC taught him to stay in the moment. He dialed up his level of focus, especially on having a more consistent release. “To be able to perform in the clutch Friday night, and performing in the clutch today is gratifying,” he said.
After leading consecutive major tournaments, it’s hard to argue anyone on the planet is bowling better than Prather. But he said that’s not for him to decide: “I'm just gonna keep throwing the ball and hoping they all fall down.”
PBA commissioner Tom Clark described the afternoon as one of the best shows in recent memory, which sets quite the bar for the four remaining shows this week in Wauwatosa. The Guaranteed Rate PBA World Series of Bowling XIII continues tomorrow with the PBA Cheetah Championship.
PBA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP PRESENTED BY PABST BLUE RIBBON THROUGH 54 GAMES
- Kristopher Prather $100,000
- Jason Sterner $55,000
- Tommy Jones $40,000
- Jason Belmonte $30,000
- Jakob Butturff $25,000
Match 1: No. 4 Sterner def. No. 5 Butturff, 279-244
Match 2: No. 4 Sterner def. No. 3 Belmonte, 266-255
Match 3: No. 4 Sterner def. No. 2 Jones, 238-183
Match 4: No. 1 Prather def. No. 4 Sterner, 237-237 (10-6)
GUARANTEED RATE PBA WORLD SERIES OF BOWLING XIII TV SCHEDULE
PBA Cheetah Championship – Mar. 14, 8 p.m. ET on FS1
PBA Scorpion Championship – Mar. 15, 8 p.m. ET on FS1
PBA Shark Championship – Mar. 16, 8 p.m. ET on FS1
PBA Collegiate Invitational presented by Storm – Mar. 20, 2:30 p.m. ET on FS1