Saturday, February 27, 2010

What a Difference a Pin Makes

Yesterday, P.J. Haggerty was in fifteenth place going into the final game of qualifying. The top 24 after that final game would advance to 24 games of match play. He bowled 146. Pete Weber, who was below 24th place, bowled a 248 and tied with P.J. for the 24th and final spot to advance to match play. So, they had to bowl a roll off game, and Pete came through, as one of the greatest bowlers of all time usually does, to win the game and head into match play.

Tonight, the position round of match play had Jason Belmonte, , Walter Ray Williams, Norm Duke, and Jason Couch vying for the fourth and final spot in tomorrows televised finals of the biggest tournament of the year. Belmonte, hobbled by an ever-worsening hamstring injury as he limped and struggled to hold on to fourth place, faltered against Tommy Jones and lost. Fifth place Walter Ray and sixth place Norm Duke scratched and clawed to overtake Belmonte and make it on to the show. It was neck and neck the whole way. Duke punched out in the tenth for a 201. Seventh place Jason Couch finished his match with a game in the 220's. Walter Ray needed to double and get a seven count to seize the fourth and final spot for the telecast.

He threw the first one flush for a strike. He struck again on the second ball. The crowd behind him erupted. He needed only seven pins to beat Duke and take the 30 bonus points for a win and make the telecast. He approached the line, threw the ball, and left the 3-6-9-10 to tie Duke with a 201 game, split the bonus pins at 15 instead of taking all 30, and Jason Couch passed him to snatch the fourth and final spot for the telecast. (You can read Jason Thomas' account of these events here.)

Jason Couch couldn't believe it. Walter Ray couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe it. But there it was. And if there was ever any doubt of how important every single pin is in a bowling tournament or league, what happened to P.J. Haggerty and Walter Ray showed that every single pin can be crucial. When you're bowling, try to knock down EVERY pin you can. Don't throw away ANY shots. Don't give away ANY pins.

One pin could make all the difference between advancing and being left out in the cold. One single, solitary pin could spell the difference between winning and losing. If P.J. Haggerty had knocked down one more pin or Pete Weber one less over 18 games of qualifying, it would have been P.J. going into match play and Pete sitting on the sidelines. If Walter Ray had thrown the ball just a little better and knocked down one more pin on that fill ball in the tenth, we would have been watching him bowl for his 48th title and third U.S. Open title tomorrow on ESPN. One lousy pin cost them both immeasurably.

Don't let it cost you someday.

Here are the four seeds for tomorrow's show:

1, Mike Scroggins, Amarillo, Texas, 16-8, 11,537.
2, Bill O'Neill, Southampton, Pa., 13-11, 11,486.
3, Tommy Jones, Simpsonville, S.C., 16-8, 11,413.
4, Jason Couch, Clermont, Fla., 13-11, 11,282.

I was sorry to see Belmo crippled by his injury. Had that not happened, he'd have almost certainly made the finals tomorrow. And I was terribly disappointed that Walter Ray wasn't the one to take the biggest advantage of Belmo's collapse. Nevertheless, tomorrow's finals boasts a stellar field and should be a good one. And Mike Scroggins, who shot 300 today in match play, has a very good chance of winning his second consecutive U.S. Open. He beat Norm Duke last year.

1 comment:

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