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Late-bloomer Mitch Beasley leads PBA Tournament of Champions

Mitch Beasley, who didn’t begin chasing his Professional Bowlers Association dreams seriously until after a 20-year career in the U.S. Air Force, rolled into the first round lead in the 52nd FireLake PBA Tournament of Champions at FireLake Bowling Center in Shawnee, Okla., Wednesday, averaging 243 to take an early nine-pin lead over 18-time PBA Tour titlist Tommy Jones of Simpsonville, S.C.

Beasley (pictured above and right), who came within a game of winning the Tournament of Champions a year ago, rolled games of 215, 222, 278, 279, 260, 260, 213, 211 and 268 for a 1,946 pinfall total, taking the lead with a strike in the 10th frame of his final game.

“I like it here. I’m always comfortable here,” the 48-year-old Clarksville, Tenn., resident said.

“I have a lot of friends around, and I got lucky today. I started with a couple small games and then I switched to the ball I used last year and shot back to back 270 games. I’m a little slow sometimes.”

Last year, Beasley came into the Tournament of Champions with a résumé of 18 PBA Regional titles over two decades of bowling part-time while in the military, and he dominated at FireLake Bowling Center, racing away to the top berth for the stepladder finals only to lose to Sweden’s 20-year-old Jesper Svensson (left) in the title match, 226-177.

Beasley finally won his first PBA Tour title in the Chameleon Championship presented by HotelPlanner.com during the GEICO PBA World Series of Bowling VIII in Reno in December, but he hasn’t forgotten the 2016 TOC finale, held on a special pair of lanes installed in FireLake Arena, that was watched by a live ESPN audience of one million viewers.

“I definitely have some unfinished business here,” he said. “I just hope to make the show. It wasn’t fun watching the train wreck last year. I think guys who bowled before me threw a total of one strike in three games on left lane. I just couldn’t figure out what to do. To have that kind of performance last year after setting the TOC match play record, it was tough.

“It’s not like it’s only happened to me,” he added. “That kind of thing has happened to a lot of guys over the years. I Just hope to shore up a couple of the bad shots I made early today and if I can improve just a bit each day, I’ll have a chance to make the TV finals and take care of unfinished business.”

Jones (left) sat in second place with 1,937 pins, 17 ahead of Jason Sterner (right) of Rockledge, Fla. PBA Hall of Famer Parker Bohn III of Jackson, N.J., was fourth with 1,894 pins and Sean Lavery-Spahr of Pasadena, Texas, was fifth, 10 pins behind Bohn.

The entire field of PBA tournament winners will bowl its second eight-game qualifying round Thursday.

After a seven-game qualifying round early Friday, the top 24 after 23 games will advance to a fourth eight-game qualifying round Friday night, with the top 16 then bowling their final eight qualifying games Saturday morning to determine the top five for Sunday’s live ESPN finals at 1 p.m. ET.

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52nd PBA FireLake Tournament of Champions – First Round Standings

Players with position, hometown and 8-game total; w-denotes woman

1, Mitch Beasley, Clarksville, Tenn., 1,946
2, Tommy Jones, Simpsonville, S.C., 1,937
3, Jason Sterner, Rockledge, Fla., 1,920
4, Parker Bohn III, Jackson, N.J., 1,894
5, Sean Lavery-Spahr, Pasadena, Texas, 1,874
6, Tom Smallwood, Saginaw, Mich., 1,859
7, Bryon Smith, Roseburg, Ore., 1,852
8, Brad Angelo, Lockport, N.Y., 1,850
9, Pete Weber, St. Ann, Mo., 1,849
10, Norm Duke, Clermont, Fla., 1,845
11, Dick Allen, Columbia, S.C., 1,844
12, Ronnie Russell, Marion, Ind., 1,842
13 (tie), Wes Malott, Pflugerville, Texas, and Dom Barrett, England, 1,839
15, Chris Barnes, Double Oak, Texas, 1,838
16, Anthony Simonsen, Austin, Texas, 1,824
17, Cameron Weier, Tacoma, Wash., 1,816
18, EJ Tackett, Huntington, Ind., 1,815
19, Mike Edwards, Tulsa, Okla., 1,813
20, Stuart Williams, England, 1,810
21, Matthew O’Grady, Rahway, N.J., 1,809, $100
22, Anthony Lavery-Spahr, Pasadena, Texas, 1,804
23, AJ Johnson, Oswego, Ill., 1,792
24, Josh Blanchard, Mesa, Ariz, 1,790
25, Connor Pickford, Plano, Texas, 1,787
26, Chris Loschetter, Avon, Ohio, 1,786
27 (tie), Scott Newell, Deland, Fla., and Dave Wodka, Beavercreek, Ohio, 1,784
29, Marshall Kent, Yakima, Wash., 1,779
30, Jake Peters, Henderson, Nev., 1,774
31, Francois Lavoie, Canada, 1,773
32, w-Kelly Kulick, Union, N.J., 1,767
33, Jason Belmonte, Australia, 1,762
34, Greg Ostrander, Freehold, N.J., 1,761
35, Tom Hess, Urbandale, Iowa, 1,759
36 (tie), Bryan Goebel, Shawnee, Kan., and Ryan Shafer, Horseheads, N.Y., 1,756
38, Graham Fach, Canada, 1,754
39, Brad Miller, Maryland Heights,, Mo., 1,752
40, Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., 1,749
41, Mike Bailey, Irving, Texas, 1,745
42, Rhino Page, Orlando, Fla., 1,734
43, DJ Archer, Friendswood, Texas, 1,733
44, Bill O’Neill, Langhorne, Pa., 1,730
45, Aaron Lorincz, Belleville, Mich., 1,728
46, Anthony Pepe, Elmhurst, N.Y., 1,725
47, Shawn Maldonado, Houston, 1,722
48 (tie), BJ Moore III, Greensburg, Pa., and Osku Palermaa, Finland, 1,718
50, Ryan Ciminelli, Cheektowaga, N.Y., 1,717
51, Andres Gomez, Colombia, 1,716
52, w-Clara Guerrero, Colombia, 1,713
53, Dino Castillo, Highland Village, Texas, 1,701
54, Thomas Larsen, Denmark, 1,698
55, Gary Faulkner Jr., Memphis, Tenn., 1,681
56, Ronnie Sparks Jr., Redford, Mich., 1,676
57, Lonnie Waliczek, Wichita, Kan., 1,659
58, Darren Tang, San Francisco, 1,652
59, Jesper Svensson, Sweden, 1,633
60, Walter Ray Williams Jr., Oxford, Fla., 1,620
61, Mike Wolfe, New Albany, Ind., 1,608
62, Kyle Troup, Taylorsville, N.C., 1,596
63, Mike Scroggins, Amarillo, Texas, 1,591
64, Blake Demore, Springfield, Mo., 1,586
65, Paul Brewbaker II, Midwest City, Okla., 1,553
66, Jakob Butturff, Tempe, Ariz., 1,547

300 games (1) – Matt O’Grady.

Author: Herbert Bickel
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