PBA Spare Shots: It’s Early, But Bill O’Neill Grabs Early Lead in PBA Playoffs Points Race

by Bill Vint  |  Friday, January 11, 12:51 PM

PBA Spare Shots: It’s Early, But Bill O’Neill Grabs Early Lead in PBA Playoffs Points Race

It’s a small sample and there’s a long way to go, but after the opening event of the 2019 Go Bowling! PBA Tour season, PBA Hall of Fame Classic winner Bill O’Neill of Langhorne, Pa., is the leader in the race to the inaugural PBA Playoffs.

Why bring it up when there are still 12 events to be held between now and the USBC Masters – the final PBA Playoffs qualifying event that will conclude on April 1 in Las Vegas. Just to give fans an idea of how easy it will be to follow the points race as the season moves along. Right now, it’s as easy as clicking on this link on pba.com: https://www.pba.com/SeasonStats/PointsList/132?list=1.

In the very near future it’ll be even easier to find because a new PBA Playoffs link is under construction and will have a prominent presence on the pba.com home page. To recap the program: the top 24 in points will earn a trip to the Playoffs. The top 8 earn a first-round bye. The Playoffs is a 10-show series from Portland, Maine, including live final four and championship round telecasts on FOX June 1-2. The Playoffs will pay the highest first prize in bowling, $100,000.

After the PBA Hall of Fame Classic, O’Neill took the lead with 2,500 points for winning the event, which was ranked as a Tier 3 event in the PBA’s three-tier rating system because it was both a limited field and an abbreviated format tournament. Tier 2 tournaments are “standard” PBA events that award twice as many points as the Tier 3 base system; Tier 1 tournaments are PBA major championships that award three times the Tier 3 points. All players who bowl in every Go Bowling! PBA Tour event will earn points.

The other top 10 finishers and the points they earned in the HOF Classic are as follows:

2, Jakob Butturff, 1,500;

3, Jason Belmonte, 1,150;

4, Jesper Svensson, 950;

5, Rhino Page, 850;

6, Jason Sterner, 775;

7, EJ Tackett, 745;

8, Sam Cooley, 715;

9, DJ Archer, 685;

10, Kris Prather, 655.


Thanks to the support of the Bowl4Life Foundation, created by long-time Brunswick Tour Rep Chuck Gardner, there will be a new reward system for the 2019 season’s top PBA rookie, based in part on the same PBA point system that will qualify players for the PBA Playoffs, among other things.

PBA Spare Shots will include a regular “Bowl4Life PBA Rookie Watch” as the season progresses. At year end, the player who is elected 2019 Harry Golden PBA Rookie of the Year will earn $2,500 bonus from the Bowl4Life Foundation and the foundation will donate another $2,500 to a youth bowler scholarship in the Rookie of the Year’s name.

Some of the rookies who have made an early appearance in 2019 include Michael Coffey, Melbourne, Fla.; Michael Davidson, Versailles, Ohio; Patrick Hanrahan, Wichita, Kan.; Mykle Holliman, Collierville, Tenn.; AJ Rice, Salem, Ala.; Andrew Suscreba, Clifton, N.J.; and three-time Junior Team USA member Greg Young, Viera, Fla. Other first-year players may also join the fray.

The Bowl4Life Foundation is a non-profit formed by Gardner in 2013 with the intention of growing the sport by assisting bowlers of all ages in improving their skill levels and knowledge of the game. In addition, the Foundation has awarded over $52,000 in scholarships to youth bowlers.

Bowl4Life relies on sponsors, merchandise sales from its website, and fundraising activities. Through its fundraising efforts, the hope is to expand the #growbowling concept into an industry-leading revival. Fans can follow Bowl4Life on Facebook to stay abreast of its announcements.


PBA stars Chris Barnes and Mika Koivuniemi, and Kelly Kulick, the first woman to win a PBA Tour title, will be part of the 2019 United States Bowling Congress Hall of Fame class that will be inducted on May 1 during the annual USBC Convention at The Orleans in Las Vegas.

Barnes, 48, of Double Oak, Texas, was inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame in 2018. He owns 19 PBA Tour titles, including three majors. The 1998 PBA Rookie of the Year and the 2007-08 PBA Player of the Year is one of five bowlers to have won both awards and one of six to have won the PBA Triple Crown.

Koivuniemi, 51, is a Finland native who was inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame in January. Since joining the PBA Tour at age 32, he has 14 titles including three majors. The most successful European in PBA Tour history also is a two-time PBA Player of the Year (2003-04 and 2010-11).

Kulick, 41, of Union, N.J., made bowling history in 2010 when she won the PBA Tournament of Champions, defeating both Koivuniemi and Barnes in that show. She also was the first and only woman to earn an exemption to bowl full-time on the PBA Tour under the old PBA Tour Trials program. Kulick won PWBA Rookie of the Year honors in 2000, won six women’s major titles and won 22 gold medals as a 14-year member of Team USA.

The trio of superior performance honorees will join the late Kegel founder John Davis (Meritorious Service), journalist Bob Johnson (Meritorious Service) and another pair of PBA Hall of Famers – former Player Services Director Larry Lichstein (Pioneer) and the late Jim St. John (Veterans) – as inductees.


Hours after learning of her election to the USBC Hall of Fame, Kelly Kulick won the women’s title in the 2019 USBC Team USA Trials while fellow USBC Hall of Famer John Janawicz of Winter Haven, Fla., topped a sold-out field of 175 men to claim his second in the event.

At the conclusion of the annual tournament, all members of Team USA for the coming year as determined either by their performances in the event or by being selected by the National Selection Committee. PBA members who will be members of Team USA 2019 include Nick Pate of Inver Grove Heights, Minn.; Darren Tang of San Francisco; 2018 PBA Player of the Year Andrew Anderson of Holly, Mich.; EJ Tackett of Bluffton, Ind.; Kyle Troup of Taylorsville, N.C.; Jakob Butturff of Tempe, Ariz.; and Marshall Kent of Yakima, Wash.

Landing berths on women’s Team USA were PBA members Missy Parkin of Laguna Hills, Calif., and Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, N.Y.


PBA Regional competition resumes over the Jan. 11-13 weekend with the PBA50 Patton Amusement and Genesis Western Open presented by Ebonite at West Valley Bowl in Tracey, Calif.

● The PBA Central and Southwest Regions will hold their first events of 2019 over the Jan. 18-20 weekend. Legend Lanes in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, will host the PBA/PBA50 Don Vay Memorial Central Doubles while South Plains Lanes in Lubbock, Texas, hosts the Lubbock Sports Southwest Open presented by Ebonite.

● The only regional event on tap for the Jan. 26-27 weekend is the PBA Japan Region’s Roto Grip Cup and Shark Open at PBA Fuji Bowl in Iruma, Japan.

● For complete PBA Regional schedules, rules and entry information, visit pba.com, open the “schedules” tab and click on PBA Regional Tours to find the event(s) in your area…and remember, you can follow “live scoring” for all PBA Regional events on pba.com (easily accessible for Apple and Android device users using the PBA app).


Another addition to the roster for the upcoming CP3 PBA Celebrity Invitational, presented by Go Bowling!, will be Chris Paul’s Houston Rockets teammate PJ Tucker. Previously announced celebrities include NFL Hall of Famer Terrell Owens, Major League Baseball stars Mookie Betts and Alex Bregman, former NFL star and current FOX NFL analyst Michael Vick, NASCAR champion Aric Almirola and CBS’s Big Brother star Tyler Crispen. PBA stars who will compete are Hall of Famers Norm Duke, Pete Weber and Chris Barnes; Andrew Anderson, Jason Belmonte, Tommy Jones, Sean Rash, EJ Tackett and Kyle Troup. Tickets for the event, which begins at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 17, at Bowlero The Woodlands in Conroe, Texas, are available at www.pba.com/Tickets.

11th Frame blogger Jeff Richgels has reported that PBA member Jerry Marrs was at work in early October when he suffered his second heart attack in six years. Six days later the 40-year-old Marrs had quadruple bypass surgery. Fast forward three months to Sunday, Jan. 6 when Marrs won the ninth annual King Classic Ritchie Buss Memorial at Four Seasons Bowl in Freeport, Ill., over a field of PBA Midwest Region and top amateur competitors. Marrs made this post on Facebook after his win: “…This is unbelievable! I had one goal in this tournament being my first one back from my quadruple bypass surgery, and that was to cash. Never in the wildest dreams did I think I’d win!”