Monday, March 7, 2011

Couch Defeats Bohn in 2011 Mark Roth Plastic Ball Championship

"For it to be the Mark Roth and to be my first tournament win in three, four years is such a relief. It's special. ... It's a big monkey off my back."
--Jason Couch

It wasn't as entertaining as last year's plastic ball tournament in which Jason Belmonte left that impossible solid 7 pin on the first ball of a sudden-death rolloff and Brian Ziesig stepped up and delivered a clutch strike to win the championship. But it was still pretty entertaining watching hall-of-famer Parker Bohn defeat Tom Smallwood and fireballing hometown boy Ryan Ciminelli before falling to future hall-of-famer Jason Couch yesterday in the final game of the 2011 Mark Roth Plastic Ball Championship at the Thruway Lanes in Cheektowaga, N.Y.

And it all began in wonderful style with Mark Roth himself shown throwing a ball and getting a seven count just before the competition began. Mark overcame a serious stroke on June 4, 2009 to make his remarkable appearance yesterday, and I hope he continues to improve.

In last year's version of the tournament, Roth appeared in the public arena for the first time since his stroke and could barely walk. This time, with the aid of all the rehabilitation he's undergone plus the help of an electrical stimulator called "WalkAide," he was able to get around much better and to even throw a couple of balls in front of the crowd as well as beat his physical therapist a few days before with a 157 game while throwing a 15 pound ball. This is tremendous progress since almost dying less than two years ago and not being expected to ever be able to walk again.

As for yesterday's matches, Tom Smallwood, who's had another great season, especially with his second place $100,000 finish in the Tournament of Champions, never did get lined up but still kept his match with Bohn close to the very end. In the next match, Ciminelli outbowled Bohn but had trouble carrying corner pins and lost to Bohn in another squeaker. In the final match, neither bowler performed at his best, but Bohn struggled mightily with getting the right feel in his thumbhole and consequently threw some bad balls that put him out of the match with Couch fairly early on. This was Couch's first title since 2007. As you may recall, Couch is the only bowler to ever win the coveted Tournament of Champions title three consecutive times.

Also noteworthy was hall-of-famer Johnny Petraglia's eighth place finish in the tournament. This borders on astonishing for a 64-year-old man competing with the young lions!

Perhaps almost equally astonishing is the fact that Chris Barnes finished only 30th in a tournament where one would expect his superior talent, skill, and bowling knowledge to propel him to greater heights. After all, this tournament was designed to, as the PBA website describes it, "put a premium on knowledge of changing lane conditions, subtle adjustments in hand positions and delivery techniques, and other skills rather than relying on advanced bowling ball technology." Whom would one expect to be better in these areas than Chris Barnes? Well, maybe we should expect it from old timers like Johnny Petraglia and even Parker Bohn who grew up having to rely more on these very skills in order to succeed.

Below are the final standings, playoff results, and videos of the televised finals.

Final Standings

1. Jason Couch, Clermont, Fl., 219 (1 game), $20,000
2. Parker Bohn, Jackson, N.J., 589 (3 games), $10,000
3. Ryan Ciminelli, Cheektowaga, N.Y., (1 game), $6,000
4. Tom Smallwood, Saginaw, Mich., 197 (1 game), $5,000

Playoff Results

Match One: Bohn def. Smallwood 201-197
Match Two: Bohn def. Ciminelli 213-207
Championship Match: Couch def. Bohn 219-175

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