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Ballmaster champ Kimmo Lehtonen sets the tone in Helsinki on Saturday


Two full squads with 72 players each took to the 36 lanes at Tali Bowling Center in Helsinki, Finland, Saturday for the third and fourth qualifying block of the 48th Brunswick Ballmaster Open bringing the number of participants to 233 players (200 men and 33 women), 222 from Finland and 11 from Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Russia and Sweden.

Past world champion Pasi Uotila (right; 2013 in team event), who won the prestigious event in 2000, ’04 & ’09, did not compete on Saturday but remained atop the leaderboard with his 1407 total from the first squad yesterday, an average of 234.50 for six games.

Current national team member Niko Oksanen (left) bowled in the first three squads of the European Bowling Tour gold level tournament. After finishing second to Uotila in the opening squad with 1382 total, he had 1172 in squad 2 and led squad 3 on Saturday morning with 1301 to stay in second place overall.

Oksanen, a two-time gold medalists in all-events at the 2016 and 2017 European Youth Championships, won two bronze medals in doubles (with Petteri Salonen) and trios (with Salonen and Joonas Jähi) at the adult World Bowling Championships in Las Vegas last month.

The 19-year-old started squad 3 with 235, then suffered back-to-back low games (171 and 181) before he closed strong with 257, 245 and 212. He said after this squad that he got some ideas for his game plan.

Past world champion Mika Luoto (Right; 2013 in singles) stayed in third place with 1379.

Kimmo Lehtonen (left and above) led squad 4 on Saturday afternoon behind games of 201, 235, 234, 215, 234 and 235 to move into seventh place with 1354 total and an average of 225,67 for six games. He improved on a 1331 total from yesterday.

The lefty, who became the fifth multiple Ballmaster champion by winning the coveted title in 2002 and 2007 (others are Uotila, Simo Vähäkorpela, 1983, ’84 & ’93; Lasse Lintilä, 1988, 2003 & ’06; and Mika Koivuniemi; 1998, 2010, ’11 & ’14), will turn 50 in March and is eligible to bowl in tomorrow’s senior squad (#5) for the first time in his career.

15-year-old Pyry Puharinen was second to Lehtonen in squad 4 with 1321 but remained in fourth place in the overall standings with his 1377 total from squad 2.

No other bowlers than Oksanen, Lehtonen and Puharinen reached the 1300-bar on Saturday.

National team members Petteri Salonen and Joonas Jehkinen, who were tied at 1360 in the opening squad, sit in fifth and sixth place, respectively. Salonen had the higher last game (244 to 221), which breaks the tie.

Ani Juntunen, continued to hold the bragging rights for the best woman in 12th place with 1316 total, including 8 pins handicap each game, a standard for women on the European Bowling Tour.

Qualifying continues Sunday, January 7 with squads 5 & 6 scheduled to start at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Eastern European Time (EET).

Photos courtesy of Seija Lankinen.

The 48th Brunswick Ballmaster Open will be held from January 5-14 at 36-lane Tali Bowling Center in Helsinki, the capital and largest city of Finland. Other than last year, when the BBO was a “platinum” level tournament, the 48th edition of the prestigious event is one of two “gold” events this season, the second highest of five EBT categories (satellite, bronze, silver, gold and platinum).

The BBO offers total prize money of 83.700 Euro, including all extra prizes, with 10.000 Euro going to the winner, 6.000 Euro to the runner-up and 4.000 Euro apiece to the third and fourth place finishers. Low to cash is 48th place, worth 800 Euro.

The tournament offers 3.000 Euro for the first 300 game, or for the highest game if there will be no 300 game.

Qualifying (six games, unlimited re-entries) begins Friday, Jan. 5, with squads 1 & 2 and concludes Saturday, Jan. 13, with squad 16 followed by the ultimate one-game Desperado Squad slated for 7 p.m. Eastern European Time (EET).

Women receive 8 pins handicap each game (up to 292 – maximum score is 300), an equality handicap provided to women in all EBT events.

Total 48 players, including the top 40 from the overall qualifying standings, the top 2 from a separate leaderboard of squads 9-10 and the top 3 of squads 1-8, who are not among the top 40 plus the top 3 from the Desperado Squad, qualify for the finals. The top 12 qualifiers receive a first-round bye.

The other 36 finalists bowl six games starting from scratch with the top 24 advancing to the second round. Those 24 join the top 12 qualifiers to bowl eight games starting from scratch.

The top 16 players will be seeded into two groups according to their positions: Group A (1, 4, 5, 8, 9, 12, 13 and 16) and Group B (2, 3, 6, 7, 10, 11, 14 and 15). Round 2 pins carry over. The group phase features seven games of round robin match play (no position round). During match play, players receive 30 bonus pins for winning a match and 15 pins each in the event of a tie.

The 15-game totals, including all bonus pins, will determine the top two players in each group who advance to the semi-finals (B1 vs. A2 and A1 vs. B2). The semi-final winners will bowl for the title (all one-game head-to-head matches).

The 2018 European Bowling Tour features 13 tournaments in 10 countries including two “platinum”, two “gold”, three “silver”, three “bronze” and three “satellite” events, which will offer total prize fund of more than 560.000 Euro.

The top 50 men and the top 50 women in each event receive ranking points. Those points will be tabulated throughout the season to determine the top 8 men and top 8 women, who will be eligible to compete in the 12th EBT Masters July 8, 2019 at Bowling Chamartín in Madrid, Spain.

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2018 Brunswick Ballmaster Open – Qualifying Standings after Squad 4/16

Top 40 from the overall qualifying standings, the top 2 from a separate leaderboard of squads 9-10 and the top 3 of squads 1-8, plus the top 3 from the Desperado Squad will advance to the finals. The top 12 qualifiers will receive a first-round bye.

Herbert Bickel

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