SHAWNEE, Okla. – Tom Smallwood of Saginaw, Mich., who has made a career out of bowling well in major championships, averaged 231.4 for 16 games to move into the lead at the end of qualifying in the 51st FireLake PBA Tournament of Champions at FireLake Bowling Center Wednesday.
Smallwood, 38, posted games of 258, 258, 203, 259, 260, 200, 206 and 231 Wednesday for a 16-game total of 3,703 pins, advancing from 10th place to first in a hotly contested battle for the top 27 berths in Thursday’s eight-game cashers round.
Among those who remained in title contention was Australia’s two-handed star, Jason Belmonte, who advanced from 48th place to qualify 13th for the cashers round. Belmonte is trying to equal PBA Hall of Famer Jason Couch’s record as the second player to win the Tournament of Champions three consecutive times.
Trailing Smallwood at the end of qualifying was 2014 PBA Rookie of the Year Marshall Kent of Yakima, Wash., with 3,665 pins, 38 pins behind Smallwood, followed by PBA Hall of Famer Pete Weber of St. Ann, Mo., at 3,662; EJ Tackett of Huntington, Ind., at 3,661 and Dom Barrett of England at 3,633.
Smallwood, who made national news when he won the 2010 PBA World Championship after losing his job at General Motors during the recession, has done his best work in PBA majors. He finished second in the 2011 Tournament of Champions, fourth in the 2014 United States Bowling Congress Masters and fifth in the 2012 PBA World Championship in addition to winning his second PBA title in the 2012 PBA Scorpion Championship.
“I don’t put any more time or effort into the majors, but it’s only natural to put a little more emphasis on them because they pay more and they’re more prestigious,” Smallwood said. “For whatever reason my ball decides to strike more in the majors, which is fine with me.”
Smallwood said he found a way to play the lanes that other players weren’t playing, and they actually helped move the oil around to his favor.
“Usually I’m playing the wrong part of the lane, but I played a little farther right of everybody tonight and it worked,” he said. “The first six games, I only moved four boards with my eyes, and that was it. Everyone else was playing farther inside than I was, and they actually gave me more hold area which allowed me to stay where I was.”
Among the players advancing to Thursday’s cashers round was reigning Professional Women’s Bowling Association Player of the Year Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, N.Y., who also is the first woman ever to advance to the PBA national telecast and the only woman ever to accomplish that feat twice. Johnson qualified in a tie for 20th place.
“I never really put a PBA Tour title on my bucket list, but it would be nice to win one,” Johnson said. “The thing I realized this week is that I bowled my first women’s pro tournament 20 years ago this week, and to think I’m still out here doing what I’m doing is pretty amazing to me.”
Johnson was one of four women in the TOC field. Kelly Kulick of Union, N.J., who won the 2010 Tournament of Champions to become the only woman ever to win a PBA Tour title, was in contention Wednesday but faltered down the stretch, finishing 31st and missing the cut by 14 pins.
At the conclusion of Thursday’s cashers round, the top 24 based on 24-game pinfall totals will advance to three eight-game rounds of head-to-head match play to determine the top five for Sunday’s live ESPN finals at 2 p.m. ET. PBA’s Xtra Frame online video-streaming service will cover the cashers round and all three match play rounds live. Rounds start at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. CST Thursday and Friday.
FIRELAKE PBA TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS
FireLake Bowling Center, Shawnee, Okla., Wednesday
Final Qualifying Standings (after 16 games)
1, Tom Smallwood, Saginaw, Mich., 3,703.
2, Marshall Kent, Yakima, Wash., 3,665.
3, Pete Weber, St. Ann, Mo., 3,662.
4, E.J. Tackett, Huntington, Ind., 3,661.
5, Dom Barrett, England, 3,633.
6, Jesper Svensson, Sweden, 3,631.
7, Bill O'Neill, Langhorne, Pa., 3,627.
8, Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., 3,606.
9, D.J. Archer, Friendswood, Texas, 3,595.
10, Tom Daugherty, Riverview, Fla., 3,594.
11, Andres Gomez, Colombia, 3,580.
12, Wes Malott, Pflugerville, Texas, 3,579.
13, Jason Belmonte, Australia, 3,575.
14, Tyler Jensen, Ft. Worth, Texas, 3,569.
15, Dino Castillo, Carrollton, Texas, 3,567.
16, Amleto Monacelli, Venezuela, 3,560.
17, Mitch Beasley, Clarksville, Tenn., 3,525.
18, Norm Duke, Clermont, Fla., 3,522.
19, Kyle Troup, Taylorsville, N.C., 3,512.
20, (tie) Connor Pickford, Charlotte, N.C., and f-Liz Johnson, Cheektowaga, N.Y., 3,497.
22, Anthony Simonsen, Princeton, Texas, 3,496.
23, Tommy Jones, Simpsonville, S.C., 3,495.
24, Brad Angelo, Lockport, N.Y., 3,493.
25, Jason Sterner, Covington, Ga., 3,483.
26, A.J. Johnson, Oswego, Ill., 3,480.
27, Chris Loschetter, Avon, Ohio, 3,476.
Failed to advance
28, Stuart Williams, England, 3,470.
29, (tie) Jon Van Hees, Charlestown, R.I., and Ryan Shafer, Horseheads, N.Y., 3,468.
31, f-Kelly Kulick, Union, N.J., 3,462.
32, Parker Bohn III, Jackson, N.J., 3,458.
33, Josh Blanchard, Mesa, Ariz., 3,457.
34, Eugene McCune, Munster, Ind., 3,454.
35, Thomas Larsen, Denmark, 3,453.
36, Cameron Weier, Tacoma, Wash., 3,447.
37, Sean Lavery-Spahr, Pasadena, Texas, 3,435.
38, Bryon Smith, Roseburg, Ore., 3,433.
39, Shawn Maldonado, Houston, 3,431.
40, Chris Barnes, Double Oak, Texas, 3,427.
41, Osku Palermaa, Finland, 3,422.
42, Paul Moor, England, 3,416.
43, Will Barnes, Wichita, Kan., 3,414.
44, Gary Faulkner Jr., Memphis, Tenn., 3,405.
45, Patrick Allen, South Salem, N.Y., 3,379.
46, Scott Norton, Mission Viejo, Calif., 3,359.
47, Brett Spangler, Niles, Ohio, 3,353.
48, Ronnie Russell, Marion, Ind., 3,352.
49, Tom Hess, Urbandale, Iowa, 3,346.
50, David Scardaville, Houston, Texas, 3,341.
51, Anthony Pepe, Elmhurst, N.Y., 3,325.
52, Mike Edwards, Tulsa, Okla., 3,313.
53, Lonnie Waliczek, Wichita, Kan., 3,296.
54, Dave Wodka, Beavercreek, Ohio, 3,294.
55, Rhino Page, Orlando, Fla., 3,286.
56, Walter Ray Williams Jr., Oxford, Fla., 3,276.
57, Aaron Lorincz, Belleville, Mich., 3,269.
58, Mike Wolfe, New Albany, Ind., 3,265.
59, Michael Haugen Jr., Phoenix, 3,244.
60, J.T. Jackson, Sherman Oaks, Calif., 3,222.
61, (tie) f-Diana Zavjalova, Latvia, and Anthony Lavery-Spahr, Pasadena, Texas, 3,210.
63, f-Danielle McEwan, Stony Point, N.Y., 3,207.
64, Dick Allen, Columbia, S.C., 3,202.
65, Scott Greiner, Platte City, Mo., 3,193.
66, Blake Demore, Springfield, Mo., 3,189.
67, Bryan Goebel, Shawnee, Kan., 3,180.
68, Scott Newell, Deland, Fla., 3,150.
69, Paul Brewbaker , Midwest City, Okla., 3,141.
70, Kyle Bigelow, Troy, Ohio, 3,133.
71, Brandon Bivens, East Ridge, Tenn., 3,083.
72, David Williams Jr., Omaha, Neb., 3,067.
73, Lee White, Odessa, Texas, 3,048.
74, Joe Salvemini, Nevada City, Calif., 2,987.
75, Ted Staikoff, Black Hawk, S.D., 2,890.
76, Carmen Salvino, Schaumburg, Ill., 2,887.
77, Jason Couch, Clermont, Fla., 2,369.