The unique Professional Bowlers Association World Championship qualifying format, conducted during the GEICO PBA World Series of Bowling VI, could easily cause a player to lose focus. With four qualifying rounds on four different PBA animal pattern conditions followed by a fifth PBA World Championship lane oiling pattern for match play, maintaining a rhythm can be difficult.
For four-time PBA Tour winner and No. 2 PBA World Championship qualifier Mike Fagan of Fort Worth, Texas, combining a short- and long-term strategy throughout the World Series last October at the South Point Bowling Center made the 52-game trek to the finals a particularly difficult challenge.
The stepladder finals for the PBA World Championship – the season’s final tournament and third major – will be televised live on ESPN on Sunday, Jan. 11 at 1 p.m. ET from the new South Point Bowling Plaza.
The grueling road to the finals involved four seven-game qualifying rounds on the PBA’s 35-foot Cheetah, 39-foot Viper, 43-foot Chameleon and 47-foot Scorpion lane conditions and three eight-game match play rounds on the 41-foot World Championship lane condition.
“One of the biggest challenges was looking at the big picture,” said the 34-year-old Fagan. “Each and every day on the animal patterns was like a short sprint. You had to find the magic formula in the first game or two and continue that momentum in order to make it through the daily rounds
“At the same time, keeping my eyes on the long format and the World Championship allowed me to keep composed when times got tough. I excelled on the shorter length patterns but I wouldn't say I favored them. It was just a matter of seeing the pattern correctly and the shorter ones caught my eye right away.”
As the No. 2 qualifier, the 2012 USBC Masters champion will wait as other World Championship finalists – No. 5 qualifier Stuart Williams of England, No. 4 qualifier Todd Book of Russells Point, Ohio and No. 3 qualifier Ronnie Russell of Marion, Ind. – battle it out in the first two stepladder matches with the survivor meeting Fagan. If Fagan wins the semifinal match, he will take on tournament leader Wes Malott of Pflugerville, Texas, in the championship match for the title. Malott will be trying for his 10th title and second major.
Going into the World Championship finals, Fagan has a season’s best finish of third place in the Wolf Open in last summer’s Oklahoma Grand Casino Resort Summer Swing. He finished fourth in last season’s PBA World Championship.
“I can’t say if it will be easier or harder to prepare for the finals because this is my first time experiencing this type of lay off, but I will practice and prepare like any other final,” Fagan said of the two-month break between the World Series and the finals. “I’ve been there before and I will do everything in my power to bowl 10 great frames.”
As the third and final major of the season the PBA World Championship (formerly called the PBA National Championship from 1960-2001) has distinguished itself as one of the premier showcases for the world’s best bowling talent. The winner takes home the Earl Anthony Trophy named after the late PBA Hall of Famer who holds the record for most World Championship titles with six.
For video highlights of Fagan click on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRvZz3v77xc
PBA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS
South Point Bowling Plaza, Las Vegas, Nev., Sunday, Jan. 11 (live on ESPN, 1 p.m. ET)
FAST FACTS ABOUT MIKE FAGAN
1. Favorite movie: Back to the Future Part II
2. Favorite food or meal: There’s not much I don’t like
3. Favorite TV show: Homeland
4. Favorite group or musician: Incubus
5. Most memorable bowling moment: Title match of 2012 U.S. Open when he lost to Pete Weber by one pin
6. Most coveted bowling accomplishment: Winning 2012 USBC Masters
7. Prized possession: Trophy from my first singles title
8. Hobbies: Play piano, reading, exercising
9. Job I would have other than bowling: Financial consultant
10. Favorite athlete: Mike Piazza
11. Most cherished accomplishment outside of bowling: Marrying my wife Emily
12. Charities: Any charity I can help is special to me
13. No. 1 item on bowling bucket list: Win another major
14. No. 1 item on personal bucket list: Live in Hawaii
15. Are you accomplished at any other sports: Ping pong; I've beaten Tommy Jones on numerous occasions