Kris Prather, Anthony Simonsen Ready to Kick Off PBA Playoffs Semifinal Round Live on FOX Saturday at Noon

by Bill Vint  |  Wednesday, May 29, 2:07 PM

Kris Prather, Anthony Simonsen Ready to Kick Off PBA Playoffs Semifinal Round Live on FOX Saturday at Noon

PORTLAND, Maine – After 13 tournaments and nearly six months of competition, Kris Prather and Anthony Simonsen are ready to do battle at Bayside Bowl Saturday at noon EDT, live on FOX, as the inaugural Professional Bowlers Association Playoffs heads into Sunday’s finale at 12:30 p.m. EDT, also live on FOX.

The PBA Playoffs began with the PBA Hall of Fame Classic in January in Arlington, Texas. After 13 Go Bowling! PBA Tour events, the elite field of 24 qualifiers is now down to four contenders for the $100,000 first prize that will be decided in Sunday’s “race to 2 points” match. The contestants will be the winners of Saturday’s semifinal round matches, beginning with the showdown between Prather, a 27-year-old right-hander from Plainfield, Illinois, and Simonsen, a 22-year-old two-hander who resides in Little Elm, Texas. Whomever wins will bowl for the championship against the winner of the Bill O’Neill-Sean Rash semifinal match that follows.

Prather, the dark horse in the final four, qualified for the Playoffs as the lowest remaining seed – No. 9. Simonsen is the highest surviving seed, qualifying No. 4. Prather enters the semifinal round after winning all three preliminary matches without losing a single game. Simonsen, who was exempt from the Round of 24, had to win two-frame roll-offs in both of his preliminary matches in order to advance.

But both are ready for Saturday’s showdown.

“I feel like I’m as prepared as I can be,” Prather said. “I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. I think it’s important not to over emphasize the job at hand and get over-hyped.

“It will be an opportunity to put a stamp on the year and it will set the tone for the second half of the season,” he continued. “Obviously, it’s been very satisfying to get to this point, but I don’t want to be overwhelmed by the thought of the possibility of being the first Playoffs champion. Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to reflect on that when it’s over.”

Prather has had plenty of opportunities to bowl in “pressure” matches, both as a collegiate star at Wichita State University and in five years of PBA competition.

“There were a lot of close matches that went into the roll-off (in Portland), and with the quality of players who made the finals, I anticipate that happening again,” Prather added. “Beating Belmo (top seed Jason Belmonte of Australia) was a big confidence booster and showed that if I I’m ever in that position again, I have the potential of doing it again. I know if I get into that position again where I need a clutch performance in the 10th frame or in a roll-off, I’ll feel more relaxed because I’ve been there before.”

Advancing to the PBA Playoffs also has given Prather his first chance to bowl in front of the always loud, always enthusiastic crowd inside Portland’s Bayside Bowl.

“It may sound strange, but having the crowd behind you is much more of a stress-reliever than it is a distraction,” Prather said. “There’s actually more pressure feeling that if I don’t win, I’ll let them down, so I want to be sure that I channel their support and energy in a way that enhances my performance on the lanes.”

Prather and Simonsen have bowled against each other only one previous time on television, and that win went to Simonsen, 247-203, in the stepladder finals of the Go Bowling! Greater Jonesboro Open earlier in the 2019 season.

Simonsen also is ready to go, but he isn’t heading to Portland with any more emotion than any other tournament.

Simonsen“I’ve been following my normal routine,” he said. “I’m really looking at it like it’s another event. I tend to not practice a lot, except for the past couple of weeks because we haven’t been bowling in competition lately. I took a couple of weeks off just to refresh myself and then I got back at it.”

Simonsen admits he isn’t much for practice under any circumstances.

“I’m more of a feel type of bowler,” he said. “For me it’s a matter of getting comfortable on the lanes. I’ll practice if we haven’t bowled on tour in a while. Otherwise I don’t practice too much.”

And he hasn’t given the $100,000 first prize much thought either.

“There’s a whole lot of bowling left before you get to the title. I haven’t given it too much thought,” he said. “The money’s there, of course, but I’m trying to keep it as simple as possible. You have to win first before you can worry about the rest of it.”

What about Bayside’s fans?

“I love ‘em,” Simonsen said. “There’s probably only one other place that has fans like that. The Swedish League is pretty incredible, from videos I’ve seen. I’m not involved with it, but I’d like to go, just to experience it.

“One of the things I tell people about experiencing Portland is that it’s indescribable. You can’t know what it’s like until you make a trip out there.”

Prather and Simonsen both expect the Bayside Bowl fans to be at their best this weekend.