BY JOE JACQUEZ
A dark horse for the PBA Player of the Year award in a season where Jason Belmonte is so far ahead of the rest of his competitors?
It's certainly possible that Kris Prather could be that guy. After all, the Plainfield, Illinois, native has done his best work this season in major championships. He was the number-one seed at back-to-back majors, finishing second at the Tournament of Champions before winning the PBA World Championship at the World Series of Bowling just 10 days ago.
Prather entered this week's final Storm Cup event of the season, the inaugural PBA Colorado Springs Open at Harmony Bowl, sitting fourth in points with 17,900 — which may sound like a lot — but that is still 12,755 points behind Belmonte, who has 30,655 points, thanks in large part to four titles.
Prather is also behind EJ Tackett (21,655) and U.S. Open Champion Anthony Simonsen (18,695).
So while he wasn't ready to say he was a dark horse to catch Belmonte and win the sport's highest honor, he didn't think the thought was crazy.
However, what Prather was prepared to say is that he feels like he's in the same position he was a couple of years ago.
"I bowled really well and have had a lot of success, but Belmo has just had a little bit more," Prather said. "EJ has bowled really well also ... I think that it's the whole season that you have to really think about."
Could he win Player of the Year? Prather said he could, but as everyone knows, he would essentially have to win three events in a row, this week's stop in Colorado, the USBC Masters and the PBA Playoffs, an event he's won before, to "have even an inclining of a shot in my opinion."
"That would put me at four titles which would match Belmo, and I would have to go from there, maybe win a couple of the side events in the summer."
Prather's chances of catching Belmonte, and for that matter Tackett and Simonsen (who is not in Colorado this week) starts by winning this week, and he's off to as good of a start as he could have hoped for.
Other than a lackluster game four, when he shot 195, which he attributed to poor shotmaking, Prather shot no worse than 236 the other five games with a high game of 270 to lead the first round of qualifying at +273.
Brad Miller shot 278 in root to shooting +214 and sits in second, followed by Darren Tang (+202), Richard Teece (+193) and Jesper Svensson at +186 rounded out the top five.
Belmonte, who won his fourth title of the season last week in Lubbock, sits below the cutline at +65 in 34th.
Tackett sits in seventh at +168.
As far as what Prather is seeing on the lanes? The slower the ball speed the better because of how tight the lanes are playing.
Prather said that if you throw it too fast, the ball won't hook.
"You got to throw it really slow, create angle through the front and that is what I am good at," he said.
So why has a slower ball speed led to more success?
"A lot of that has to do with how much urethane that is going down the lane, so that makes it super tight down lane," he said. "So you have to throw it slow to get your ball to still hook down lane."
Prather may have had a lot of success today, but he didn't do it with just one bowling ball — he actually threw five of them.
It came down to just knowing he had to make the change off the previous shot to set him up for success in later games.
"Pair to pair was so different, we are moving across the house and you are playing the lanes based off how the people in front of you bowled," Prather said. "They transitioned fairly quickly and they transitioned often and there were a lot of times in the middle of the game where I was on a strike or a double, and I would be like, 'I need to ball change,' and so I did it and committed to that move.
Prather certainly has put himself in a good position to make a run at his second title of the season, but there is plenty of bowling left.