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Canada’s Graham Fach to defend PBA Players Championship

Graham Fach of Guelph, Ontario, placed his name in Professional Bowlers Association history by becoming the first Canadian to win a PBA Tour title when he won the 2016 Barbasol PBA Players Championship. But little did he know that he would be just the opening act in bringing Canada into the international bowling spotlight for the first time in nearly 60 years.

Fach will return to defend his title against a field of approximately 100 PBA Tour stars when the Players Championship returns to Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl Feb. 6-12, 2017.

Bowling in only his second PBA Tour event, the 24-year-old Fach was nearly perfect in winning his first PBA Tour title, and a PBA major championship, when he defeated top qualifier Ryan Ciminelli, 279-244, in front of a capacity crowd after advancing to the title match with a 247-244 win over Australia’s Sam Cooley in the semifinal match.

“It’s a great feeling to win against players of this caliber,” Fach said after his win. “They want to win, but obviously I want to win, too. I wasn’t sure I would be able to compete out here, but the only way to find out is to come out and try.”

After going 57 years without a PBA Tour title, in a matter of a few months Canada would have two titlists. Also bowling in his second PBA Tour event in Columbus, 23-year-old Francois Lavoie placed his name in the record books as the second Canadian to win a PBA Tour title – and a major as well – when he won the U.S. Open in November in Las Vegas.

Lavoie, a Quebec City native, also bowled the first nationally-televised 300 game in U.S. Open history en route to the win, becoming the first international player and only the 26th player to bowl a televised perfect game.

With their historic victories, Fach and Lavoie set up the first-ever race between two Canadians for PBA Rookie of the Year honors. The only Canadian who has ever won a PBA national award was George Lambert IV who was selected as the 2009-10 Steve Nagy Sportsmanship Award winner.

In December, Lavoie improved his Rookie of the Year chances by winning his second Tour title, beating PBA Hall of Famer Walter Ray Williams Jr., 204-196, to win the PBA Shark Championship.

Both players honed their skills in the American collegiate ranks. Fach, a left-hander, starred for Urbana University in Ohio. Lavoie, a right-hander, starred with perennial powerhouse Wichita State University in Kansas. Both players are members of Team Canada and both are members of a group of PBA players ages 25 or younger who have won the last six consecutive major championships.

The 2017 Barbasol PBA Players Championship will be contested over a demanding new 40-game format that will include five eight-game, total pinfall qualifying rounds leading into the five-player stepladder final with a $40,000 first prize at stake.

All of the preliminary rounds will be video-streamed live for PBA fans around the world who subscribe to PBA’s exclusive Xtra Frame online video-streaming service.

The Players Championship will get underway on Monday, Feb. 6, with practice and a celebrity pro-am at Columbus Bowl, which is co-owned by PBA Hall of Famer Wayne Webb. Additional pro-am squads that provide an opportunity for grassroots adult, youth and senior league bowlers to bowl alongside the pros will be conducted on Saturday, leading up to Sunday’s live ESPN finals.

In addition to ESPN’s live coverage of the stepladder finals on Feb. 12 at 1 p.m. ET, the finals will be simulcast on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN mobile app for those who would like to watch online or on mobile devices.

To purchase tickets for the live ESPN finals click here. For qualifying round admission and pro-am entry information fans should contact Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl at (614) 491-7155 or click here.

The tournament is open exclusively to PBA members, and has served as a stepping stone toward induction into the PBA Hall of Fame for a number of players, including past winners Williams (1994), Pete Weber (1992), Amleto Monacelli (1989) and Parker Bohn III (2015) who are still active and among the players already entered.

2017 Barbasol PBA Players Championship Schedule

Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl in Columbus, Ohio (Feb. 6-12, 2017)

(all times are Eastern)

Monday, Feb. 6, 2017
1 p.m. – Official practice session
7 p.m. – Celebrity pro-am

Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017
10 a.m. – Squad A, 8 qualifying games
4 p.m. – Squad B, 8 qualifying games

Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017
10 a.m. – Squad A, 8 qualifying games
4 p.m. –Squad B, 8 qualifying games

Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017
10 a.m. – Squad A, 8 qualifying games
4 p.m. – Squad B, 8 qualifying games
Top 24 players advance to fourth qualifying round

Friday, Feb. 10, 2017
10 a.m. – Top 24, 8 qualifying games
Top 16 advance to fifth qualifying round
5 p.m. – Top 16, 8 qualifying games
Top 5 after 40 games advance to ESPN stepladder finals

Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017
1-3:30 p.m.– pro-am squad
4 – 6:30 p.m. – pro-am squad

Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017
1 p.m. – Top 5 ESPN stepladder finals

History of PBA Players Championship Winners

2016 – Graham Fach
2015 – Parker Bohn III
2013 – Scott Norton
2011 – Jason Belmonte
2000 – Dennis Horan Jr.
1999 – Steve Hoskins
1998 – Dennis Horan Jr.
1997 – Steve Hoskins
1996 – Mike Aulby
1995 – Ernie Schlegel
1994 – Walter Ray Williams Jr.
1993 – Jason Couch
1992 – Pete Weber
1991 – Dave Ferraro

Author: Herbert Bickel
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