RENO, Nev. – Ryan Ciminelli of Cheektowaga, N.Y., became the Professional Bowlers Association’s first three-time winner in 2015 when he defeated Thailand’s Kim Bolleby, 237-201, to win the GoBowling Viper Championship at the National Bowling Stadium. The win puts Ciminelli into contention for 2015 PBA Player of the Year honors.
The Viper Championship, presented by Xtra Frame, was the second of four “animal pattern” championships contested during the GEICO PBA World Series of Bowling VII presented by Silver Legacy. The finals aired Sunday on ESPN.
Ciminelli, 29, jumped out to a 33-pin lead on the strength of three strikes and a spare while Bolleby opened in his fourth frame, and Ciminelli never gave Bolleby a chance to get back into the game.
Ciminelli got a measure of revenge over newly-crowned PBA World Champion, Gary Faulkner Jr. of Memphis, Tenn., with a 245-225 victory in the semifinal round while Bolleby eliminated PBA Tour rookie, Jakob Butturff of Chandler, Ariz., 222-181, in the other semifinal match.
All four players are left-handers. It was the first all-lefty field in a PBA Tour event since 2007.
Ciminelli fell short of his dream of winning a third consecutive PBA Tour title and a second major in 2015 when he lost to Faulkner, 247-237, in the Rolltech PBA World Championship finals on Dec. 17. He knew a win in the Viper Championship was important if he wanted to challenge Australia’s Jason Belmonte in the Player of the Year chase. Belmonte, the 2013 and 2014 Player of the Year, staked himself to a big lead earlier in the year when he won the USBC Masters and Barbasol PBA Tournament of Champions, both majors.
“That was the hardest show I’ve ever been part of, knowing Player of the Year was on the line and I had to have this win,” Ciminelli said of the Viper finals. “I knew I had another chance after the World Championship even though that one was heartbreaking. I felt like I bowled one of the best games of my life in that one, but this was do-or-die.
“My legs were jello,” he added. “I was comfortable where I was playing the lane, but I was using a new ball and it didn’t feel quite right. I just kept it in play and fortunately [Bolleby] didn’t shoot a big game against me.”
Ciminelli believes his third win will make a big difference in the PBA Player of the Year voting, which will take place early in January.
“I think three titles says a lot, with one of them being the U.S. Open,” he said. “I think I had some votes before this one, but now I think I deserve it. It’s something I never thought I’d have a chance to win, so when you get the chance, you have to seize it. It could be 10 years before I ever have another chance.
“Belmo and I talked about (POY) yesterday, and he told me I would be deserving if I win, and I feel the same about him. I think he’s the best in the world, but if he doesn’t win again this year, he’ll probably win it again next year. I told him, ‘Hey, bro, I just want one.’”
PBA World Series coverage on ESPN continues with the finals of the PBA Chameleon Championship presented by HotelPlanner next Sunday at 1 p.m. EST. The first all-international final in PBA Tour history will feature England’s Stuart Williams vs. Sweden’s Jesper Svensson and Germany’s Pascal Winternheimer vs. Denmark’s Thomas Larsen in the semifinal round. The two winners will bowl for the Chameleon title.
GOBOWLING.COM VIPER CHAMPIONSHIP PRESENTED BY XTRA FRAME
National Bowling Stadium, Reno, Nev. (contested Dec. 18, aired Dec. 27 on ESPN)
Championship: Ryan Ciminelli, Cheektowaga, N.Y. ($20,000) def. Kim Bolleby, Thailand ($10,000), 237-201.
Semifinal Round (losers each earned $5,000): Ciminelli def. Gary Faulkner Jr., Memphis, Tenn., 245-225. Bolleby def. Jakob Butturff, Chandler, Ariz., 222-181.