Fourteen years after Tom Smallwood won his first major championship, he sits on the precipice of another major victory at Wichita’s Bowlero Northrock. Smallwood averaged over 237 across 48 games to earn the top seed in the PBA Players Championship presented by Snickers.

When Smallwood won the 2009-10 PBA World Championship in Wichita, he defeated Bill O’Neill in the semifinal match. He also defeated O’Neill in the position round on Saturday afternoon to clinch the top seed for Monday’s championship round.

“One more win, I’ll have my third major and hopefully I’m on my way to the Hall of Fame,” Smallwood said. 

The championship round will air at 5 p.m. Eastern Monday, Jan. 15 on FOX.

O’Neill could have leapfrogged Smallwood for the top seed with a position round win, but the eastern Pennsylvania native struggled to finish with 190 on the high-scoring, 38-foot Wayne Webb oil pattern.

The 2020 PBA Players Championship winner will aim for his third career major title on Monday.

Nate Stubler, a finalist for the 2023 Harry Golden PBA Rookie of the Year award, earned the No. 3 seed and will make his PBA television debut.

Stubler, a former collegiate All-American at St. Ambrose, will be the lone left-hander in the championship round.

"It hasn't hit me yet," Stubler said after making his first PBA championship round. "This is something that obviously everybody dreams about and something I've dreamt about for a long time, but the fact that I'm actually here is unreal, man. I can't even put into words right now. I'm sure it'll hit me tomorrow or tonight or I don't know when. I'd like to think that the hard work is finally starting to pay off and I'm just going to keep trying to ride the ride the roller coaster."

Chris Via, who entered the position round in fourth place, held on to earn the No. 5 seed. The 2021 U.S. Open champion made five major finals across the 2020 and 2021 seasons and aims for his second career title.

While Smallwood and O’Neill battled it out for the top seed, all eyes in Bowlero Northrock were on lanes 19-20.

Ryan Barnes, the son of PBA Hall of Famer Chris Barnes, trailed BJ Moore by 43-pins for the final berth on the show. 

After both players started with a strike and three spares, a disastrous open frame from Moore opened the door for Barnes. Packy Hanrahan, who trailed the No. 5 seed by 84 pins, made a late charge as well.

Seemingly each and every time Ryan stood in a moment — like when he needed three strikes to clinch a win over Kris Prather in the day’s first match — he responded with the resilience of a Hall of Famer’s son.

“He got that from me,” said his mom Lynda, a USBC Hall of Famer.

Ryan stepped up in the 10th frame, delivered three strikes, and clinched his first career PBA championship round appearance.

 To add to the storybook scene, Ryan did it in his dad’s old stomping grounds.


Ryan is a current collegiate bowler at the lauded Wichita State University, the same school Chris made a name for himself more than 30 years ago. 

Along with teammates TJ Rock, Spencer Robarge and Brandon Bonta, Ryan earned a commissioner’s exemption to compete in the pre-tournament qualifier this week. All four advanced to the main field and Rock joined Barnes in match play.

Barnes will face Via in the opening match on Monday, Jan. 15 at 5 p.m. Eastern on FOX.

"I'm pretty sure I'm going to be the hometown favorite in this first match," Via joked.

Ryan has notes on every pair of Bowlero Northrock, where he practices and bowls league multiple times every week.

Don’t count on him sharing his notes about lanes 11-12 anytime soon though.

Championship Round Schedule

No. 4 Ryan Barnes vs. No. 5 Chris Via
Winner vs. No. 3 Nate Stubler
Winner vs. No. 2 Bill O’Neill
Winner vs. No. 1 Tom Smallwood

Match Play Standings

  1. Tom Smallwood, 11,926 (+2,326)
  2. Bill O’Neill, 11,819 (+2,219)
  3. Nate Stubler, 11,743 (+2,143)
  4. Ryan Barnes, 11,666 (+2,066)
  5. Chris Via, 11,651 (+2,051)
  6. Packy Hanrahan, 11,634 (+2,034)
  7. BJ Moore, 11,630 (+2,030)
  8. Cristian Azcona, 11,593 (+1,993)
  9. Tim Gruendler, 11,564 (+1,964)
  10. Justin Knowles, 11,563 (+1,963)
  11. Anthony Lavery-Spahr, 11,525 (+1,925)
  12. Zach Wilkins +11,506 (+1,906)
  13. Mitch Hupé, 11,466 (+1,866)
  14. Graham Fach, 11,450 (+1,850)
  15. David Krol, 11,443 (+1,843)
  16. Chris Barnes, 11,412 (+1,812)
  17. EJ Tackett, 11,381 (+1,781)
  18. Keven Williams, 11,329 (+1,729)
  19. David Northouse, 11,305 (+1,705)
  20. Frank Snodgrass, 11,297 (+1,697)
  21. TJ Rock, 11,234 (+1,634)
  22. DJ Archer, 11,219, (+1,619)
  23. Kris Prather, 11,191 (+1,591)
  24. Jason Belmonte, 11,179 (+1,579)

More information, including complete standings, are available here.