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Ryan Express temporarily derailed, back on track at Masters

2016USBCMattCannizzaro2.jpgWith a big event or a new season on the horizon, you’ll often see athletes hit the gym to help build strength and endurance or even lose a few pounds.

Heading into a three-week stretch of Professional Bowlers Association Tour majors this month, red-hot Ryan Ciminelli (pictured above at the 2015 U.S. Open) of Cheektowaga, New York, lost 14 pounds. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in a top-of-your-game kind of way, it was a scary and unexplainable perspective-on-life-changing way.

Pictured right is the author, Matt Cannizzaro, USBC Public Relations Manager.

The 29-year-old left-hander is in the midst of a streak that resulted in three wins during the 2015 PBA Tour season, including his first major victory at the 2015 Bowlmor AMF U.S. Open in November, and made him a legitimate rival for Australian Jason Belmonte in the PBA Player of the Year race.

Ciminelli also has made the championship round of the last three majors he’s bowled in, so he was hoping to continue that momentum at this month’s FireLake PBA Tournament of Champions, United States Bowling Congress Masters and Barbasol PBA Players Championship.
His preparation came to a halt following a 19th-place finish at the 2016 DHC PBA Japan Invitational, where all he received for his efforts was a mysterious illness that left him weak, tired and barely able to eat for the two weeks leading up to the Tournament of Champions.

But, while the rest of the PBA Tour competitors were getting their last practice sessions in before hitting the road for the trio of majors, Ciminelli was traveling from the local urgent care to the emergency room to endure a series of tests that yielded only a head-scratching all clear from multiple doctors.

“I starting feeling sick with flu-like symptoms on our last day in Japan, and that made for a really long trip home,” said Ciminelli, a five-time PBA Tour winner. “I spent a week in bed, and even when the flu symptoms went away, I had stomach trouble and no appetite. All the tests seemed fine, but they recommended going to a specialist.”

The only appointment Ciminelli could get was during the TOC, so he unquestionably was forced to withdraw, even when considering the success he’s had in that event in the past.

“We just took all of it as a fluke sickness with terrible timing that lasted three weeks, but I couldn’t risk being away from home if it turned out to be really serious, even if I started to feel better,” Ciminelli said. “I’ve had a great run in majors, so it was disappointing, but it really put things into perspective about what’s important in life.”

The extra rest at home might end up working in Ciminelli’s favor as he looks to continue his recent success and make another run at the PBA Player of the Year honors, which Belmonte has claimed three consecutive times.

The other Belmonte streak Ciminelli is hoping to end is his run at this week’s USBC Masters, where the Australian two-hander is the three-time defending champion.

After a couple of roller-coaster days at Woodland Bowl, everything finally fell into place for Ciminelli on the 39-foot Masters oil pattern, and a big final qualifying block solidified his place in the 64-player double-elimination match-play bracket as the No. 30 seed.

Match play will continue throughout the day Friday and Saturday, with five players earning spots in the stepladder finals, which will take place live on ESPN on Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern.

“It was hard to sit on the couch and watch the TOC scores, but now I feel rested and grateful to be OK and out here bowling again,” said Ciminelli, whose best finish at the Masters was a third-place effort in 2010.

“I feel 100 percent physically right now, and I’ve even put some of the weight back on. I also still had some time to prepare for the Masters, and I feel like being fresh, without the mental fatigue of the TOC, could be a benefit.”

Although he still plans to follow up with the doctors after the swing of events is over, Ciminelli’s complete focus is back on bowling.

2016USBCMastersLogo_small.jpgThe 2016 USBC Masters features a total prize fund of $295,000 and is a major event on the PBA Tour. All competitors this week bowled 15 games of qualifying, before a cut was made to the top 63, who joined Belmonte in the double-elimination match-play bracket.

Last year, Belmonte became the first bowler in history to claim three consecutive Masters titles, and he joined USBC and PBA Hall of Famer Mike Aulby as the event’s only three-time winners. In 2014, he became the first bowler since 1965 to successfully defend his Masters crown.

All qualifying and match play rounds of the Masters are being covered live on Xtra Frame, the PBA’s online bowling channel.

Other news and notes from the 2016 Masters

2015KoreaCupChrisBarnes3.jpgBarnes is back – Chris Barnes (pictured) of Double Oak, Texas, also is on his way back to 100 percent after back surgery in October to repair a herniated disk.

Barnes missed November’s Bowlmor AMF U.S. Open, in Garland, Texas, just a short drive from his home, as well as the GEICO PBA World Series of Bowling VII.

His progress did allow him to compete in the 2016 USBC Team USA Trials in early January and then travel to Japan to defend his title at the DHC PBA Japan Invitational, where he made the TV finals and finished third.

The three-time USBC Masters runner-up advanced to match play at Woodland Bowl this week as the No. 50 seed after averaging 210.33 in qualifying.

2015PWBATourClaraJulianaGuerrero.jpgLadies first – There were 17 women in the field this week at the USBC Masters, and 16 are members of the PWBA, which just completed its first season since 2003.

Four women advanced to match play at Woodland Bowl – Colombian star Clara Juliana Guerrero (pictured), who resides in Pflugerville, Texas; Kelly Kulick of Union, New Jersey, who became the first woman to win a PBA Tour title when she defeated Chris Barnes to win the 2010 PBA Tournament of Champions; former collegiate standout Erin McCarthy of Omaha, Nebraska; and the PBA’s first female member, Missy Parkin of Laguna Hills, California, who earned the No. 64, and final, spot in the bracket.

Kulick eliminated Parkin from this week’s event, 541-538, after both bowlers lost in the opening round of match play. Kulick, the 2007 and 2010 USBC Queens champion, is looking to become the first player to win the Queens and Masters.

2014WorldBowlingLogo.jpgFrom far and wide – There were 13 countries represented at the USBC Masters this week – Argentina, Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, England, Ireland, Japan, Latvia, Puerto Rico, Sweden, Venezuela and the United States.

The match-play bracket featured eight international players, representing five countries – Jason Belmonte and Sam Cooley (Australia); Dan MacLelland, Francois Lavoie and David Simard (Canada); Clara Guerrero (Colombia); Osku Palermaa (Finland); and Martin Larsen (Sweden).

Perfecto – The 39-foot oil pattern at the 2016 USBC Masters yielded 11 perfect games during qualifying.

They were rolled by – Matt Ogle, Louisville, Kentucky (2); George Gohagan III, Dayton, Ohio; Dan Bock, Albert Lea, Minnesota; Jason Sterner, Cocoa, Florida; Perry Crowell IV, Hoquiam, Washington; Cotie Holbek, Burlington, Wisconsin; David Simard, Canada; Osku Palermaa, Finland; Bill O’Neill, Langhorne, Pennsylvania; Jason Belmonte, Australia.

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Author: Herbert Bickel
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