Connor Pickford of Charlotte, North Carolina, who has never finished higher than 14th in his abbreviated four-year Professional Bowlers Association Tour career, will make his national television debut as the top qualifier in the GEICO PBA World Series of Bowling VI’s Viper Championship.
Pickford, 22, averaged 230.57 for 14 games on the Viper lane condition at South Point Bowling Center Sunday, finishing with a 3,228 pinfall total to capture the No. 1 berth in the Viper Championship ESPN finals by 32 pins over Ronnie Russell of Marion, Indiana. England’s Dom Barrett jumped for fifth to third with a 223 final game and veteran Mika Koivuniemi of Hartland, Michigan, held on to fourth place with a 3,141 total, six pins ahead of Australia’s Jason Belmonte and 11 ahead of first-round leader B.J. Moore III of Apex, North Carolina.
The top four players will bowl for the Viper Championship title on Saturday, Nov. 1, in the new South Point Bowling Plaza. The finals will air on ESPN on Sunday, Dec. 21.
“I had an amazing ball reaction tonight,” Pickford said. “I’ve had all of my success with a MOTIV Venom Shock, my purple ball. I told my ball rep when I got into that ball tonight, it was game on. I didn’t realize scores were so low because my ball reaction was so good.”
Being in position to win his first national professional title is a dream Pickford began chasing at age 14 when he entered a PBA regional tournament, with parental consent. His dreams were temporarily derailed, he said, when he won $100 in a youth tournament, which resulted in a year-long suspension from the national governing body. After sitting out a year, he was reinstated and returned to PBA competition, earning 2011-12 PBA South Region Player of the Year honors.
“That’s when I decided this is what I’m supposed to do with my life,” he said. “It’s unbelievable to know (making his first TV final) is what I’ve worked for. A couple of years ago, I watched Jason Sterner – a fellow South Region competitor and a good friend – throw all three strikes in 10th to make the show and I remember it was an incredible feeling. Now I get to bowl for my first title. I don’t know what to think, but I’m pretty sure I won’t get much sleep tonight.”
World Series competition continues with qualifying for the PBA Chameleon Championship, the third of four qualifying legs in the PBA World Championship, Monday. Qualifying squads will bowl at 8 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. local time.
All qualifying and match play rounds of the animal pattern events and PBA World Championship will be covered live on Xtra Frame. For subscription information, visit pba.com and click on the Xtra Frame Season Ticket link.
PBA VIPER CHAMPIONSHIP
South Point Bowling Center, Las Vegas, Sunday
FINAL QUALIFYING STANDINGS (after 14 games; top 4 advance to ESPN finals on Saturday, Nov. 1, at South Point Bowling Plaza)
1, Connor Pickford, Charlotte, N.C., 3,228.
2, Ronnie Russell, Marion, Ind., 3,196.
3, Dom Barrett, England, 3,148.
4, Mika Koivuniemi, Hartland, Mich., 3,141.
5, Jason Belmonte, Australia, 3,135, $4,000.
6, B.J. Moore III, Apex, N.C., 3,130, $3,500.
7, Shawn Maldonado, Houston, 3,116, $3,000.
8, Mike Fagan, Ft. Worth, Texas, 3,101, $2,500.
9, Shuichi Heki, Japan, 3,080, $2,200.
10, Eddie VanDaniker Jr., Chatsworth, Calif., 3,064, $2,000.
11, Parker Bohn III, Jackson, N.J., 3,063, $1,800.
12, Pete Weber, St. Ann, Mo., 3,061, $1,700.
13 (tie), Bryon Smith, Roseburg, Ore., and Chris Loschetter, Avon, Ohio, 3,060, $1,625.
15, Devin Bidwell, Wichita, Kan., 3,049, $1,550.
16, Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., 3,042, $1,500.
17, Mike DeVaney, Winchester, Calif., 3,041, $1,450.
18, Kurt Pilon, Warren, Mich., 3,037, $1,400.
19, Dino Castillo, Carrollton, Texas, 3,008, $1,350.
20, John Furey, Freehold, N.J., 3,002, $1,300.
21, Brad Angelo, Lockport, N.Y., 2,995, $1,275.
22, Patrick Allen, Wesley Chapel, Fla., 2,965, $1,250.
23, Chris Barnes, Double Oak, Texas, 2,913, $1,225.
24, John Ferraro, Kingston, N.Y., 2,853, $1,200.
Other Cashers (after 7 games):
25 (tie), Giorgio Clinaz Jr., Venezuela; Brett Spangler, Niles, Ohio, and Bill O'Neill, Langhorne, Pa., 1,546, $773.
28, D.J. Archer, Friendswood, Texas, 1,542, $740.
29, Josh Blanchard, Mesa, Ariz., 1,541, $730.
30, Brian Kretzer, Dayton, Ohio, 1,540, $720.
31, Tom Daugherty, Wesley Chapel, Fla., 1,538, $710.
32, Jesse Buss, Belvidere, Ill., 1,537, $700.
300 Game: Dom Barrett.