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PBA Xtra


Series of Bowling becomes South Point, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.” Others may beg to differ. In a sport


WALTER RAY WILLIAMS JR.


that dearly loves its conspiracy theories, the South Point Bowling Center’s high- friction lane surface has yielded plenty of them. The surface tends to nudge players out of their part of the lane too quickly, with righties playing the sixth arrow a couple games into a block or hurling the ball past the arrows for games at a time. The lane patterns ultimately seem distinct from one another only by


WHAT’S NEW AT WSOB V


Tweaked Patterns and Formats Behind the scenes of any World Series of Bowling event is a seething cauldron of human drama: frustrated players questioning or criticizing formats, livid ball reps griping about South Point Bowling Center’s high-friction lane sur- face, the thud of bowling balls slammed to the ground. Tom Clark, no stranger to criticism, often finds himself on the receiving end of these frustrations. The changes he has implemented for WSOB V suggest he is listening. “I think we have a pretty good plan going into this


year,” Clark says. “The goal before the tournament starts is for the four animal patterns we use to be distinct. We want them to play differently. We want to bring out the versatility of players and have it be a different look each day. Sometimes we have struggled, and they’ve played a little too similarly. The other thing we want to work towards is making sure the players stay on their side of the lane for as long as possible. It’s not like we start each event saying, ‘You know, we hope the righties have to


move all the way left and loft the gutter cap.’ That is not a goal of ours. Sometimes it’s impossible to defend, but we’ll do our best to make things work that way. “We actually are bowling one less game in quali- fying each day. We’re bowling seven instead of eight this year. That could address part of that. We also took the Shark out of play due to the high friction surface there, which was really forcing righties as far left as possible by the end, and moved the Cheetah back in, which kind of makes people stay outside. So there are a lot of strategies we can use to address all that.”


Regional Players Invitational Finals PBA rolled out a new concept to promote its regional program this year by holding a Regional Players Invita- tional tournament in each of the six regions (the West and Northwest regions were combined into one). The top


48 players in each region bowled their respective RPIs, with the top 16 receiv- ing free entry. Winners in each region earned $6,000 and free entry into WSOB V. They also earned a spot on the inaugural RPI Finals, one of the ESPN shows to be taped at WSOB V.


The winner of that show earns another $6,000 as well as a berth into the Tournament of Champions. “They ended up bowling for a really good prize fund in each one of the regions, $6,000 for first,” Clark says. “And with the entire tournament being covered on Xtra frame, it gives fans a chance to watch these great bowlers on that level. And it’s an important title; it gives you a free entry into the World Series if you win and the chance to bowl the RPI Finals on ESPN, where the players will be bowling most importantly for a Tournament of Champi- ons berth. Though some of the guys who have won don’t need the Tournament of Champions berth, like Chris Barnes and Tom Daugherty.”


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name, playing very similarly after the players have broken them down for a game or two. Some insist the lane surface at South


Point paves the way for high-rev players like Jason Belmonte, Sean Rash and Osku Palermaa. Others say it locks out the lefties, that it favors particular ball companies, that straight players might do just as well for themselves by staying home.


Hogwash, says Clark. “The idea that South Point is a place


WSOB V


“IN GOLF, THE MASTERS CAN ONLY BE PLAYED AT AUGUSTA NATIONAL. IF FOR SOME REASON THE IDENTITY OF THE WORLD SERIES OF BOWLING BECOMES SOUTH POINT, I DON’T THINK THAT’S A BAD THING.”


— TOM CLARK


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