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Is this fair? Missy Parkin beats the field but finishes 7th at Team USA Trials


At last week’s Team USA Trials, professional bowler Missy Parkin put together a solid week of bowling. In fact, she beat everyone in the field by more than 100 pins after 30 games.

But when the final standings came out, Parkin finished in seventh place. Fortunately, being the talented star that she is, she was still selected to join Team USA in 2017 by the selection committee.

Pictured right is the author, Lucas Wiseman, who has covered bowling events around the world for more than a decade. You can follow him on Twitter at @Lucas_Wiseman.

So how can a bowler beat the field by that much and not win the tournament? It’s because the Team USA Trials uses a points system to decide its winner.

There are five rounds of competition, each consisting of six games on a different lane condition. Players are awarded points based on their finish in each round. You earn one point for first place, two points for second place, etc. The best-possible score would be five points (finishing first in every round).

Parkin finished the tournament with 71 points despite “winning” in Round 2 and Round 3. She finished 15th in Round 1, 20th in Round 4 and 34th in Round 5.

The real question is was it “fair” for Parkin to beat the field in pinfall and not win the tournament?

Traditionally in bowling, tournaments are decided by pinfall, oftentimes before heading to a stepladder finals.

The purpose of the Team USA Trials, however, is different. The format was created to reward consistency over five rounds on five different patterns. It also helps prevent a player from dominating on one or two of the patterns and crushing the field, which is essentially what happened with Parkin.

The thinking is by having versatile players it will help make Team USA even stronger when it represents the United States in international competition.

In reality, over 30 games the best players are often going to lead when the totals are based on pinfall. Plus, the Team USA coaches are able to select a certain number of players to join the team even if they don’t compete in the Team USA Trials.

Was what happened to Parkin “fair,” yes. It was the format set forth before the tournament began. Is it the right way for the Team USA Trials to decide its top players moving forward? Debatable.

The point system is confusing to follow and eliminates most drama at the end of qualifying because, quite honestly, nobody knows what’s happening.

When you add in the introduction last year the U.S. Amateur to the mix, the event becomes even more confusing.

From a fan’s perspective, the Team USA Trials would be better with an easy-to-follow format that has 30 games of qualifying based on pinfall with the top three, regardless of professional status, advancing to a stepladder finals to determine the winner. If you want to award a U.S. Amateur title to the top amateur finisher, fine.

But remember, the Team USA Trials is not designed for fans. It’s designed to create the best Team USA possible, which doesn’t always jive with what’s best for fans.

Bottom line: Don’t expect any changes to be made to this format anytime soon.

By Lucas Wiseman

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