Chris Barnes hopes to end 2010-11 PBA Tour season with win in Dick Weber Playoffs

    04/07/11

    2010-11 PBA Tour #12

    Jason Belmonte stands in the way in Conference Championship match Sunday on ESPN at 1 p.m. ET

    201011PBA12ChrisBarnes.jpg201011PBA12JasonBelmonte2.jpgThirteen-time Professional Bowlers Association Tour titlist Chris Barnes (pictured left) has every right to be envious of his good friend Mika Koivuniemi’s career season during the 2010-11 Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour season. But it isn’t quite over yet.

    As winner of the PBA World Championship – the season’s first of four major championships – Barnes would like nothing better than to win the PBA Dick Weber Playoffs to put his own stamp on the 2010-11 campaign. In order to have that opportunity, he has to beat Australia’s Jason Belmonte (right) in the Western Conference championship match which airs Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN.

    A win Sunday would put Barnes into the Lumber Liquidators Dick Weber PBA Playoffs championship round which will air live on ESPN on Sunday, April 17, at 1 p.m. ET from Woodland Bowl.

    While Barnes is enjoying a quality season, his close friend and frequent Tour roommate Koivuniemi has had a sensational year.

    A week after being eliminated in the championship round of the PBA World Championship (one win shy of a showdown with Barnes) in January, Koivuniemi won the record $250,000 first prize in the richest tournament in bowling history, the $1 million PBA Tournament of Champions. Koivuniemi went on to become the first bowler in PBA history to make the TV finals in all four majors in a single season, and he became only the fourth player to earn more than $300,000 in a season.

    On the heels of two rather lackluster seasons, Koivuniemi was one or two shots away from having even greater success in 2010-11. At the same time, the native Finlander has been one of the biggest reasons Barnes hasn’t had an even better season.

    “I’ve kidded Mika a few times that his career year came at my expense,” Barnes said. “There were a couple times in the majors where he either beat me or circumstances where we were both in contention at the end of the tournament, and he kept me from making the show.”

    One of those occasions was in the Tournament of Champions where Barnes missed the TV show by 18 pins because Koivuniemi lost his position round match against Colombia’s Andres Gomez. Another was a high-scoring three-game match in the Bayer USBC Masters where Koivuniemi defeated Barnes, 804-698, in the sixth round of the losers bracket. That loss knocked Barnes out of the tournament and Koivuniemi went on to finish third.

    In the U.S. Open, all PBA fans remember that Koivuniemi finished a disappointing second after missing a 10 pin spare in the 10th frame of the title match. But not many remember that Barnes missed the TV show by only five pins as a result of leaving a ringing 10 pin on the first ball of the 10th frame on his final game in match play.

    Regardless of those circumstances, Barnes readily admits that for the two PBA stars it has been mostly an enjoyable season.

    “There haven’t been a lot of down moments, that’s for sure,” Barnes said. “I think his (Mika’s) success this year was the combination of a lot of things. He realizes that’s there not a lot of time left in his career, he’s got his equipment situation straightened out and the hard work he applies to his game got him into a good rhythm.

    “We’re both the same in that regard because we work hard at the game and motivate each other and that has paid off for both of us this season.”

    Barnes and Koivuniemi both had the advantage of earning three byes for the PBA Playoffs based on their finishes in the top six in 2010-11 competition points, but Koivuniemi was eliminated in the Regional Championship Round while Barnes won the West/Northwest Region finale to keep his title hopes alive. He is the only player left who can win two titles during the 2010-11 season, and if he fails to do that, it will be the first time since the formation of the PBA in 1959 without a multi-title winner.

    That said, Barnes likes the concept of the Playoffs as a season finale.

    “There are a significant number of games to be bowled in this tournament which is going to reward good, consistent bowling. It takes out the luck factor in the preliminary rounds so it’s a fitting conclusion to the season,” Barnes said. “I guess the one disadvantage for me is that having the byes you’re not able to experience the transitions in lane conditions as much as some of the other guys, but you can overcome that.”

    Barnes advanced to the Conference Championships by winning the West/Northwest Regional Championship with a 217, topping Lonnie Waliczek’s 201 and Lennie Boresch Jr.’s 177.

    Barnes, who is on the brink of becoming the eighth player in PBA history to exceed $2 million in career earnings ($1.92 million), is generally satisfied with a season that also includes four other top 10 finishes including fifth in the Tournament of Champions, seventh in the U.S. Open, 10th in the USBC Masters and fourth in the Chameleon Championship. The highlight was not only winning the PBA World Championship, but becoming the sixth player in history to complete the PBA Triple Crown (U.S. Open, PBA World Championship, PBA Tournament of Champions) in the process.

    “I’ve had a few disappointments this season, but winning the World Championship by bowling four good games in matches on tough conditions definitely makes it all worthwhile,” Barnes said. “Winning the Playoffs would be a nice bookend to the season.”

    The march to Barnes’ World Championship title actually began at the World Series of Bowling which opened the 2010-11 season in Las Vegas where the top eight scorers from the combined qualifying rounds of the “animal pattern” events (60 games) advanced to the TV finals which took place at the South Point Bowling Center in January.

    In Sunday’s opening Conference Championship match, East Region winner Steve Jaros of Yorkville, Ill., will meet South Region surprise winner Randy Weiss of Columbia, S.C. Jaros has now qualified for a PBA Tour television final in his 20th consecutive season. In Sunday’s second match, Central Region winner Dick Allen of Columbia, S.C., will meet Midwest Region champion Jack Jurek of Lackawanna, N.Y. Both are two-time PBA Tour champions. The Barnes-Belmonte match will conclude the show.

    A “pre-game” preview of Sunday’s Conference Championships can be seen on pba.com’s Xtra Frame.

     


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    Dick Weber PBA Playoffs Conference Championships


    Woodland Bowl, Indianapolis (ESPN, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET)

    East vs. South
    Steve Jaros, Yorkville, Ill., vs. Randy Weiss, Columbia, S.C.
    Winner advances to Lumber Liquidators Championship Round.

    Central vs. Midwest
    Dick Allen, Columbia, S.C., vs. Jack Jurek, Lackawanna, N.Y.
    Winner advances to Lumber Liquidators Championship Round.

    Southwest vs. West/Northwest
    Jason Belmonte, Australia, vs. Chris Barnes, Double Oak, Texas
    Winner advances to Lumber Liquidators Championship Round.

     


    Lumber Liquidators Dick Weber PBA Playoffs Championship Round


    Woodland Bowl, Indianapolis (ESPN, live Sunday, April 17, 1 p.m. ET)

    Match One
    Three Conference Championships winners bowl one game; low score eliminated.

    Championship Match
    Two Match One survivors bowl a best-of-two-game match; if players split the two games, title will be decided in a one-ball roll-off.