of Cheektowaga, N.Y., advanced from third place to take the lead earlier Friday and fired a 300 in his final game to lock up the top berth in Sunday’s finals of the Barbasol Professional Bowlers Association Players Championship at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl.
L-R Ciminelli, Fach, Cooley, Svensson and Duke.
Ciminelli (left), a 29-year-old left-hander and the PBA Tour’s only three-time title winner in 2015 – including the U.S. Open – has won 16 of his 24 matches and tied another, averaging 240.69 to claim the top rung in the stepladder finals by 70 pins over Canadian Graham Fach (right), who is making his first television final in only his second PBA Tour appearance.
Fach, 24, finished with a 14-10 match play record and 11,978 pins in his bid to become the first Canadian ever to win a PBA Tour title.
Australia’s Sam Cooley (left), also qualifying for his first TV final in third place, struggled early in the final round, but turned his fate around with a 300 game to finish with 11,832 pins, 70 ahead of Sweden’s two-hander Jesper Svensson (right).
Svensson, who turned 21 on Monday, became the youngest player to win the FireLake PBA Tournament of Champions two weeks ago in Shawnee, Okla.
It might not have been the prettiest round among the finalists, but PBA Hall of Famer Norm Duke (left) of Clermont, Fla., battled his way into the telecast with three exciting victories in his final three matches, slipping past Anthony Pepe of Elmhurst, N.Y., by 12 pins and DJ Archer of Friendswood, Texas – his position round opponent – by 36 pins.
Duke, who needs to win the Players Championship to join Mike Aulby as only the second player to complete the “Super Slam” of major championships, said, “That’s the hardest telecast I’ve made in recent memory. With three games to go I was 100 pins back and it seemed like I could do nothing but leave 10 pins. I just told myself, hang in there. I just willed myself to bowl three good games.
“This is the fifth major,” the 51-year-old Hall of Famer added. “Don’t think I don’t know it. I just know how hard it is to win out here. I want to win one. I just want to win. I don’t think my story is over yet.”
Ciminelli, as tournament leader, will meet the survivor of three stepladder matches for the title. After finishing second in 2015 PBA Player of the Year balloting to Australia’s Jason Belmonte, Ciminelli said he had a premonition about his final match.
“I had a feeling I was going to bowl 300 because I figured Fach was going to bowl 279 or 280, and I’d need the pins,” Ciminelli said. He doesn’t generally have that kind of confidence.
“Eight months ago, I was looking for a new job in my career training, construction engineering,” Ciminelli said, “but it was like I got a message from God – no, not yet. This is what you’re meant to do.
“As bummed out as I was (about losing in Player of the Year voting last year), and as confident as I look, I fight demons constantly,” he continued.
“I keep telling myself I’m not that good. It’s hard for me to keep believing in myself. I’m such a believer in you’re only as good as your last performance, so if I have a bad performance, I tell myself I stink. I just try to make a show. Every tournament is a battle to try to make a show.
“I’m averaging 240 in this tournament and asking myself, am I good enough to keep doing this? No matter what, I continue to question my ability – but I think that’s what makes me keep wanting to prove myself.”
Ciminelli will get a chance to prove himself during the live Barbasol PBA Players Championship ESPN stepladder finals Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. Immediately following the Players Championship, ESPN will air the World Bowling Tour Men’s and Women’s Finals presented by the PBA.
Graham Fach rebounds to lead field into final match play rounds
Canadian rookie Graham Fach leads top 36 into Cashers’s Round
Aussie Sam Cooley out-scores Hall of Fame trio for early lead in PBA Players Championship
Past PBA Players Championship winners Belmonte, Norton, Bohn earn retroactive majors
Barbasol PBA Players Championship returns to major title status
2016 PBA Tour Schedule & Champions
PBA Players Championship – Final Match Play Standings
Players with position, hometown and 48-game total, including match play bonus pins; top 5 advance live ESPN stepladder finals Sunday at 1 p.m. ET; f-denotes female
1, Ryan Ciminelli, Cheektowaga, N.Y., 16-7-1, 12,048
2, Graham Fach, Ontario, Canada, 14-10, 11,978
3, Sam Cooley, Australia, 11-11-2, 11,832
4, Jesper Svensson, Sweden, 16-7-1, 11,762
5, Norm Duke, Clermont, Fla., 14-9-1, 11,634
6, Anthony Pepe, Elmhurst, N.Y., 12-11-1, 11,622, $8,000
7, D.J. Archer, Friendswood, Texas, 12-12, 11,598, $6,500
8, Osku Palermaa, Finland, 13-10-1, 11,571, $5,500
9, Kyle Troup, Taylorsville, N.C., 14-10, 11,565, $5,000
10, Wes Malott, Pflugerville, Texas, 13-11, 11,485, $4,500
11, E.J. Tackett, Huntington, Ind., 13-11, 11,431, $4,000
12, Patrick Allen, South Salem, N.Y., 13-11, 11,426, $3,700
13, Walter Ray Williams Jr., Oxford, Fla., 13-11, 11,411, $3,400
14, Andres Gomez, Colombia, 11-12-1, 11,408, $3,200
15, Dave Wodka, Beavercreek, Ohio, 11-13, 11,389, $3,000
16, Rhino Page, Orlando, Fla., 12-11-1, 11,352, $2,800
17, Ryan Shafer, Horseheads, N.Y., 11-13, 11,349, $2,700
18, Parker Bohn III, Jackson, N.J., 13-11, 11,295, $2,600
19, John Szczerbinski, N. Tonawanda, N.Y., 10-13-1, 11,219, $2,500
20, Ronnie Sparks Jr., Ecorse, Mich., 9-15, 11,133, $2,400
21, Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., 9-15, 11,065, $2,300
22, Dom Barrett, England, 8-16, 11,050, $2,200
23, Mike Wolfe, New Albany, Ind., 5-19, 10,981, $2,100
24, yf-Shannon Pluhowsky, Dayton, Ohio, 3-2, 10,899, $2,000
25, xy-Tom Smallwood, Saginaw, Mich., 7-12, 9,818, $1,700
26, x-Pete Weber, St. Ann, Mo., 0-0-0, 5,637, $1,650
x-Smallwood replaced Pete Weber, who withdrew due to injury
y-Pluhowsky replaced Tom Smallwood, who withdrew due to illness.
300 Games (3) – Kyle Troup, Sam Cooley, Ryan Ciminelli
PBA Players Championship – Fifth Round Standings
Players with position, hometown and 40-game total, including match play bonus pins
1, Ryan Ciminelli, Cheektowaga, N.Y., 11-4-1, 9,952
2, Sam Cooley, Australia, 9-6-1, 9,921
3, Graham Fach, Ontario, Canada, 9-7, 9,916
4, Anthony Pepe, Elmhurst, N.Y., 8-8, 9,725
5, Jesper Svensson, Sweden, 10-6, 9,719
6, Norm Duke, Clermont, Fla., 11-5, 9,660
7, E.J. Tackett, Huntington, Ind., 9-7, 9,588
8, D.J. Archer, Friendswood, Texas, 8-8, 9,581
9, Osku Palermaa, Finland, 9-7, 9,568
10, Parker Bohn III, Jackson, N.J., 11-5, 9,551
11, Patrick Allen, South Salem, N.Y., 9-7, 9,528
12, Kyle Troup, Taylorsville, N.C., 9-7, 9,520
13, Dave Wodka, Beavercreek, Ohio, 8-8, 9,506
14, Andres Gomez, Colombia, 7-8-1, 9,427
15, Rhino Page, Orlando, Fla., 9-7, 9,405
16, John Szczerbinski, N. Tonawanda, N.Y., 7-8-1, 9,388
17, Ryan Shafer, Horseheads, N.Y., 7-9, 9,336
18, Wes Malott, Pflugerville, Texas, 7-9, 9,315
19, Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., 6-10, 9,293
20, Walter Ray Williams Jr., Oxford, Fla., 6-10, 9,288
21, Dom Barrett, England, 5-11, 9,266
22, xTom Smallwood, Saginaw, Mich., 6-10, 9,189
23, Ronnie Sparks Jr., Ecorse, Mich., 5-11, 9,168
24, Mike Wolfe, New Albany, Ind., 4-12, 9,132
x-Smallwood replaced Pete Weber, who withdrew due to injury