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PBA Finals - The Ken Simard Story

Bowling, PBA Tour, Television

(All photos courtesy of www.anokijig.com

As many/most/all of you know by now, Wes Malott defeated Ken Simard 216 - 211 to win the $25,000 first prize and a pat on the back in the CLR Carmen Salvino Scorpion Championship this past Sunday at Brunswick Zone Hawthorne Lanes in Vernon Hills, IL (I still say that this would be easier to remember and say.  Or this.)

The day started off on a high note when the great Carmen Salvino threw out the ceremonial first ball....

In the first match of the day, Brad Angelo defeated Jason Couch 225 - 212.  Now begins "The Ken Simard Story"...

Simard had the highest 14-game qualifying total on Thanksgiving Day, averaging 250 for the day.  After the first round of match play on Friday, Simard slipped a little, going 4-4-1 and finishing in 13th place, which advanced him into Friday evening's match play block.  There, he went on a tear by averaging 268.14 for the last seven games.  That is the last seven out of a total of 32 games bowled in the span of 30 hours or so.

But that doesn't even tell the whole story.  In Game 7 of that match play block, Pete Weber had been bowling on the pair directly in front of me.  As Game 7 ended with Simard starting with the first nine strikes for a 279 game, Simard walked past and said to Weber "I must be the world's worst bowler with the front nine strikes".  I don't know if Simard was aware at the time, but his very next game was against Weber on a pair nearby.

Once again, Simard started with the first nine strikes again, and once again had a 9-count in the 10th frame.  Simard smiled and said to Weber "See, I told you".  After finishing for 276, he made the big jump into fourth place, which was important as the top four players made the TV broadcast.  The last game would be a position round, meaning that he would be bowling the player in third place, who was Brad Angelo.  A high score would be critical for Simard, as he had three bowlers within 48 pins of him, and with the 30 bonus pins awarded to a player winning the match, the mathematics means that at least one of those three bowlers would get those bonus pins. (Angelo himself would need a big game, as he was only 18 pins ahead of Simard, but also tied with Steve Jaros for second place.)

Simard started with a strike, and another, and kept on striking through (stop me if you've heard this) nine frames.  With a victory over Angelo already in hand, and therefore a lock on his place on TV, there was one little matter at hand... getting that 10th strike.  Not only did Simard get that 10th strike, he clobbered #s 11 and 12 for a 300 game.  That put Simard into second place, and a spot on TV.

After Angelo dispatched Jason Couch, it was Simard's turn to shine.  He strung the first nine strikes in a row (which was the FOURTH consecutive game in which he accomplished that) and stepped up in the tenth frame with a chance to be the 23rd professional bowler to shoot 300 on TV (18 previously during PBA telecasts, two in senior telecasts, and Michelle Feldman bowled one of the two in the now-defunct PWBA).

Would Ken "I must be the world's worst bowler with the front nine strikes" Simard get the elusive 10th strike?  Sure he would.  But he could not get the 11th one, and defeated Angelo 289 - 199.  Simard would face Malott in the final match.

Simard started the game with a strike, but disaster struck in the second frame as he left a 4 - 6 - 7 split.  In league play, when someone leaves a big, ugly split like this, the common refrain is "a good bowler gets two pins".  Unfortunately, Simard whiffed on all of the pins on the spare attempt, leaving him with a score of 24 after two frames.  Had he been able to get two pins on the spare attempt, he would have had a score of 28.  (It wouldn't be "The Ken Simard Story" if that wasn't going to come back to haunt him, would it?)

Malott and Simard battled the toughening lane conditions throughout the match, as neither bowler was able to get more than a couple of strikes in a row.  Bowling first in the 10th frame, Malott could shut out Simard with two strikes.  Malott got the first strike, then...

A ringing 10-pin.  This opened up the match for Simard, who - deja vooly - needed to strike twice in his 10th frame for the victory.  Simard deja voolied a strike and then a ringing 10-pin to give Malott the victory while sitting on the bench.  Although Simard didn't convert his spare and lost by five pins, it is clear that if Simard would have taken the two pins on his split attempt in the second frame, that spare would have been for the tie... and I am not so sure Simard that would have missed it.

After the match, I talked to Simard and asked him about that split.  He said "I thought about it the entire match.  Taking every pin is always important, and I just threw it away; aggrivated that I had left the split".  He went on to say that the way the lanes were breaking down during that final match, he knew that neither he nor Malott would be able to run away with the match, and it was clear while talking to him that he was disappointed with himself. 

This was only Simard's second appearance on TV, and as the old saying goes, whatever doesn't kill you will only make you stronger.  I am sure Simard doesn't want to hear it, but just the being on TV and throwing two huge shots (the ball for 300 and the ball for the win) will pay dividends in the future.

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