ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Riga Kalfas of Florence, Ky., revived his game just in time to win the Professional Bowlers Association Regional Players Championship at Thunderbowl Lanes Monday.
Kalfas, a 42-year-old truck driver by day and bowling pro shop operator by night, defeated Chris Collins of Savannah, Ga., 236-216, to complete a near-perfect day and claim the $7,500 first prize along with a guaranteed berth in the 2011 PBA Tournament of Champions, a record $1 million event with a $250,000 first prize.
Coming into the Detroit area event, however, Kalfas was on the brink of giving up the game.
“Three weeks ago, I was bowling so bad, I didn’t plan on bowling anything,” the former PBA Touring Player said. “I felt like the game had passed me by. To win this title is unbelievable. I can’t describe how it feels. I’m numb.”
After qualifying fifth in the field of 172 non-exempt PBA members to advance to Monday’s single-elimination match play finals, Kalfas lost first game of day, 254-252, to Bo Goergen of Midland, Mich., but he didn’t lose again, winning nine consecutive games for the victory. His closest call was a 210-209 squeeker against Tommy Gollick of Oberlin, Pa., in the semifinal round.
“I was throwing the ball good until toward the end,” he said, “but by the grace of God, I held on. I don’t know how.”
The Regional Players Championship is one of two major championships for PBA regional competitors, and a win means a paid entry into the Tournament of Champions. “I’ll probably bowl that one,” Kalfas said with a relieved laugh. “Hopefully this win will loosen up my arm swing a bit.”
The top three qualifiers – No. 1 Jonathan Van Hees of Charlestown, R.I.; No. 2 Matt White of Warren, Pa., and No. 3 Don Hogue of Akron, Ohio, were eliminated in the opening best-of-five-game match play round. No. 24 seed Chris Hibbitts II of Fort Worth, Texas, eliminated Van Hees, 3-1; No. 23 Richard Kidd of El Paso, Ill., ousted White, 3-2, and No. 22 Rick Zakrajsek, Lorain, Ohio, swept Hogue, 3-0.
PROFESSIONAL BOWLERS TOUR
REGIONAL PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP
Thunderbowl Lanes, Allen Park, Mich., Monday
Riga Kalfas, Florence, Ky., ($7,500) def. Chris Collins, Savannah, Ga., ($4,000), 236-216.
SEMIFINAL ROUND (losers eliminated and earned $2,200)
Kalfas def. Tommy Gollick, Oberlin, Pa., 210-209.
Collins def. Rick Zakrajsek, Lorain, Ohio, 233-153.
ROUND OF 8 (best of 3 games, losers eliminated and earned $1,450)
Gollick def. Chris Hibbitts II, Fort Worth, Texas, 2-1.
Kalfas def. Jeff Hicks, Allen Park, Mich., 2-0.
Zakrajsek def. Jesse Buss, Wichita, Kan., 2-1.
Collins def. Troy Stus, South Lyon, Mich., 2-1.
ROUND OF 16 (best of 3 games, losers eliminated and earned $950)
Hibbitts def. Cassidy Schaub, Ashland, Ohio, 2-1.
Gollick def. Jason Poli, West Des Moines, Iowa, 2-1.
Kalfas def. Brian Valenta, Lockport, Ill., 2-0.
Hicks def. Jason Sterner, McDonough, Ga., 2-1.
Buss def. Craig Hanson, Orlando, Fla., 2-1.
Zakrajsek def. Michael Gaither, Grain Valley, Mo., 2-1.
Collins def. Brian Himmler, Cincinnati, 2-0.
Stus def. Richard Kidd, El Paso, Ill., 2-0.
ROUND OF 32 (best of 5 games, losers eliminated and earned $750)
Hibbitts def. Jonathan Van Hees, Charlestown, R.I., 3-1.
Schaub def. JR Raymond, Belleville, Ill., 3-1.
Gollick def. Andy Patterson, Tyler, Texas, 3-1.
Poli def. Jason Wojnar, Chicago, 3-1.
Kalfas def. Bo Goergen, Midland, Mich., 3-1.
Valenta def. Matt Smallin, Minot, N.D., 3-2.
Sterner def. Nathan Bohr, Wichita, Kan., 3-2.
Hicks def. Greg Strahora, West Hazelton, Pa., 3-1.
Buss def. Eddie VanDaniker Jr., Essex, Md., 3-1.
Hanson def. Patrick Dombrowski, Parma, Ohio, 3-0.
Zakrajsek def. Donald Hogue, Akron, Ohio, 3-0.
Gaither def. Tom Sorce, Blasdell, N.Y., 3-2.
Himmler def. Tim Behrendt, St. Louis, 3-1.
Collins def. Shannon Pluhowsky, Kettering, Ohio, 3-2.
Stus def. John Szczerbinski, North Tonawanda, N.Y., 3-1.
Kidd def. Matt White, Warren, Pa., 3-2.