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Koivuniemi, Dorin-Ballard Win Inaugural World Bowling Tour T
Koivuniemi, Dorin-Ballard Win Inaugural World Bowling Tour Titles
by Jerry Schneider December 4, 2011 07:01
LAS VEGAS – Mika Koivuniemi reinforced his position as an international bowling star, defeating Sean Rash of Montgomery, Ill., 237-224, to win the inaugural GEICO World Bowling Tour Finals title at South Point Casino and Hotel. American women’s star Carolyn Dorin-Ballard of Keller, Texas, won the WBT women’s title, 207-162, over Sweden’s Sandra Andersson.
Koivuniemi, a native of Finland who now resides in Hartland, Mich., completed a 10-month international quest to win the World Tenpin Bowling Association’s inaugural WBT title, presented by the Professional Bowlers Association, by reeling off a string of six strikes to erase Rash’s early 11-pin lead and taking advantage of Rash's missed 10 pin in the ninth frame.
Both finals, conducted as part of the third annual PBA World Series of Bowling, aired Sunday on ESPN.
Koivuniemi, a 44-year-old two-time PBA Player of the Year, has won titles in 15 different countries during his career and easily won the WBT qualifying points title over Rash. World Bowling Tour points were awarded in eight tournaments held in Finland, the United States, France, Kuwait, Thailand, Korea and Australia.
“It has been a good year for me,” Koivuniemi, the reigning PBA Player of the Year, said. “I really feel like I bowled well and I deserved to win. It all started in Helsinki last January when I won the Brunswick Ballmaster Open. I’ve been battling for 10 months to get here, and it came full circle back in Las Vegas.”
The opening men’s match between Rash and Australian two-handed player Jason Belmonte had been highly anticipated after the two rivals had exchanged heated words during a summer GEICO PBA Team Shootout confrontation when Rash accused Belmonte of deliberately making distracting noises with his plastic water bottle. Their rivalry had intensified during WBT meetings since the June episode. But in their first televised showdown since that episode, Rash took advantage of a pair of open frames by Belmonte for a 214-204 victory. Belmonte had a chance to win, but needing two strikes in the 10th frame, he left a solid 10 pin on his first try.
“Belmo and I are fierce competitors. We don’t think we can lose at any time when we’re on the lanes,” Rash said of the rivalry. “I hope the fans enjoyed the match. Jason threw a great shot in the 10th frame, but he left a ringing 10 pin which was good for me, bad for him.
“That bottlegate thing happened months ago. People need to move on," Rash continued. "Things happen. Jason and I are going to bowl against each other for many years to come. But when I’m on the lanes, no one is my friend. The only people cheering for me are my wife and my parents and Team Brunswick, and that’s all that matters to me.”
In the women’s finals, Dorin-Ballard, a PBA Women's Series champion and 20-time Professional Women's Bowling Association titlist, cruised to a 207-162 victory over Andersson after the 20-year-old Swedish player missed single-pin spares in her first two frames and failed to strike until the seventh frame. Andersson advanced to the title match by defeating her Swedish national teammate, Nina Flack, 190-160, in the opening match after Flack started her game with back-to-back splits.
Koivuniemi and Dorin-Ballard each won $10,000. Rash and Andersson won $6,000 as runners-up, and Belmonte and Flack earned $4,000 each.
The WTBA has announced the World Bowling Tour will return in 2012 with an expanded 14-event schedule.
Next Sunday the 2011-12 PBA Tour season officially gets underway with the first of four elimination rounds leading up to the Jan. 15 PBA World Championship finals. The Don Carter Division finals will air Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN. Carter Division finalists are England’s Stuart Williams and Dom Barrett, Finland’s Osku Palermaa and Jack Jurek of Lackawanna, N.Y.
GEICO WORLD BOWLING TOUR FINALS
presented by the PBA
South Point Exhibition Hall, Las Vegas
Men’s Final Standings
1, Mika Koivuniemi, Hartland, Mich., $10,000.
2, Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., $6,000.
3, Jason Belmonte, Australia, $4,000.
Semifinal Match – Rash def. Belmonte, 214-204.
Championship – Koivuniemi def. Rash, 237-224.
Women’s Final Standings
1, Carolyn Dorin-Ballard, Keller, Texas, $10,000.
2, Sandra Andersson, Sweden, $6,000.
3, Nina Flack, Sweden, $4,000.
Semifinal Match – Andersson def. Flack, 190-160.
Championship – Dorin-Ballard def. Andersson, 207-162.