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MIKE J. LANESIDE: The Signature Event

by MIke Jakubowski April 21, 2010 07:50

Each professional sport has a signature event that loyal fans as well as casual and some non-fans put on a “don’t miss” schedule once a year.  What is professional bowling’s signature event?

Horse racing has the Kentucky Derby, auto racing fans have the Indianapolis 500, tennis has the U.S. Open, golf has The Masters, pro football has its Super Bowl; there are many examples of signature professional sports events that attempt to capture the attention of those sports’ loyal fans, casual and non-fans for one big week of media coverage.

What is professional bowling’s signature event?  The new PBA Tournament of Champions featuring a million-dollar prize fund and a $250,000 first prize check will be.

As Patrick Allen attempts to defend his victory in the 2009 Dydo Japan Cup this week in Tokyo, the 2010-11 Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour season is in the process of being finalized for next season’s event and ESPN TV schedule.

One element of next season’s schedule taking shape is marking the rebirth of what was generally considered the greatest week in the history of the PBA Tour.  The Firestone Tournament of Champions used to be the signature event of the PBA Tour.  During each event of the regular season, part of the conversation always included: What non-winners are in the final round this week?  Who is on the bubble for the Firestone?

The conversations will no doubt heat up this season and expand to the entire fan base and 4,000-plus membership of the Professional Bowlers Association.  Starting this season any PBA Title holder (PBA Tour, PBA Senior Tour, PBA Women’s Series, PBA Regional) will be eligible for the PBA Tournament of Champions.  The champions will be competing for a million dollar prize fund and a top prize of $250,000.

The championship venue combined with the most elite fields and the richest prizes in the sport of pro bowling built the glory and mystique of the PBA Tournament of Champions.  Together that alchemy produced some of the greatest moments in the history of professional bowling.

From the T of C’s inception in 1965 to 1994, the event was contested at Riviera Lanes in Fairlawn, Ohio.  In 1967, Jack Biondolillo rolled the first televised 300 game beating Les Schissler.  In 1970, Don Johnson’s ten pin at the end of his 299-268 win over Dick Ritger still stands as the single most memorable moment in the history of the PBA Tour.

Starting with the 2007-08 season the PBA Tournament of Champions moved to Las Vegas and to the Red Rock Resort and Casino.  In 2008 Michael Haugen Jr. came back from a 50-pin deficit to defeat Chris Barnes in what may have been the greatest comeback in the history of a PBA Tour title match.

In 2009, Rhino Page needed a nine-count on his fill ball in the tenth frame to defeat Patrick Allen for his first major title.  Page missed the headpin for a four-count washout handing the title to Allen in one of the most heart-wrenching finishes in a PBA Tour title match.

Last season, Kelly Kulick made history by becoming the first woman to win a PBA Tour title by defeating Chris Barnes in one of the most memorable, if not the most memorable title match in the history of the PBA Tour.

Another schedule has been released which makes every PBA Senior and PBA Regional tournament important heading into the 2011 PBA Tournament of Champions.  Xtra Frame will be covering selected PBA Senior and PBA Regional tournaments for the first time:

April 20 – PBA Senior Dayton Classic (archived now on Xtra Frame)

April 25 – PBA Central Region Boss Snow Plow/Brunswick Open

April 27 – PBA Senior Columbus Open
May 2 – PBA South Region Rocky Mountain, N.C. Open

May 5 – PBA Senior Miller High Life Classic

May 9 – PBA South Region Canton, Ga. Open

May 16 – PBA South Region Jupiter, Fla. Open

May 31 – PBA Regional Players Championship

A signature sports event would be one that would inspire conversations every week during the regular season of the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour.  The 2011 PBA Tournament of Champions is more than up to that task.  Now add each and every PBA Tour national stop, PBA Senior event, PBA Women’s Series event and PBA Regional tournament to the conversation.  Those conversations will now end with: that winner just qualified for the PBA Tournament of Champions.

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