Friday, January 30, 2009

Aussies are just not built for the cold

The European tour takes you across some of the most beautiful countries through Europe. The only problem (for an Australian) is the Winters in Scandinavia are not quite like they are back home.
Orange, NSW, Australia, where I’m from does get cold but what I consider cold, my Scandinavian mates would consider shirt, shorts and thongs weather. (oh, in Australia thongs are flip flops, I have been in some interesting conversations before not realising the miscommunication, quite embarrassing)
Minus 15 degrees Celsius , sorry for those who read this and do not use the metric system, but to give you a clearer understanding how cold that is, if you spit into the air, the spit would freeze before it hit the ground….ok that might be an exaggeration but you get the point.
I was wearing everything I had, and I was still shivering. It always made me laugh when I saw a local Swede wearing just jeans and a small coat while riding a bike into town, smiling like it was perfect weather.
Anyway I arrived into Sweden, Stockholm to play in a Swedish Super 6. The first event of the year for me and I was excited to bowl in Sweden again. I had only bowled at this bowling centre once before, I made the TV show and lost in the semi finals to the eventual winner, so I had fond memories.
The Swedish Super 6’s have just started to use some PBA patterns for their events. This week was the Scorpion.
I must say I was a little confident to be bowling on this pattern, the last time I played this pattern I made the cut against the best on the PBA Tour, so I was ready.
The first squad I bowled I shot something like 80 over (for 6 games). That score looked to be safe, but like it usually happens, the cut score went up and I had to keep on bowling to beat it. My 2nd attempt was quite funny. I never missed in the 10 minute practice session and the guys on my pair gave me ‘the look’ that you would give when your implying someone was cheating ☺
Lights on – I think I had 53 in the 4th. Oh dear. Started with 163-178- 104. (Oh yeah, let me explain that score.)
When I started the 3rd game I changed balls to a ball I had left with some friends in Sweden 3 years ago. I couldn’t believe they still had it. Well after 3 years in a Swedish attic the ball was mentally disturbed and forgot how to react when it hit the lane, certainly was not like the way it was when I left it. I took 3 off the right, made a massive move and only just hit a couple more. 4 frames later and I was yet to hit more than 6 pins on my first shot and yet to make a spare and I decided this squad was done. With that in mind, I made a bet with a fellow bowler that I could shoot 99 with no gutter balls. With 2 frames to go I had to score 15. In the 9th frame I left a 4-9 , perfect, if I take 1 that will leave 6 pins left (which is easy to get, 3 off the right and then 3 off the left) I hit the 9 pin dead smack on and to my shock, the pin bounced out and made the 4-9. I never bounce pins out and the only time I never wanted to spare the 4-9 I did. After a wayward first ball in the 10th I shot 104.
The most amazing thing about that score was it was lit up on message boards all around the world, from Sweden, to Australia even on the PBA message boards. I thought that was kind of funny.
I made the cut on my 3rd and final squad and was ready to try and go a few places better than the last time I was in Stockholm.

I really didn’t bowl that bad in the first few games. I was 20 under and felt like I should have been about 30 over. The bowling centre layout is extremely weird. Actually I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned this yet. The scoring monitors are the lowest scoring monitors in the world. I’m only 176cm tall and the monitors on some pairs hit my shoulders. Considering the Swedes are known for their height, I thought that it was quite ironic that the scoring monitors were so low. Many times if you were not thinking you would bang your head on them or hear someone else do it. It was always funnier when some one else does it.
On top of all that the bowl is spilt into two. 14 lanes on each side. The lanes do play much different side to side but I still to this day I can’t tell you which side I like better.
So where was I? Right…… 30 under. Well it never got much better. I had 4 balls with me and I tried them all playing over the entire lane. Every time I managed to find something nice, I would throw 2 awful shots and shoot 190.
23rd in my first event for 2009. Not the start I wanted to begin the year off but the best thing about bowling is there is always another event just around the corner, in this case it was Finland, 3 days later.
If Sweden in the winter is cold, then Finland is even colder. I never actually saw the exact temperature but the snow was heavy and the ground was very slippery because of the ice.
Ballmaster is the European Tour’s first stop. It’s also probably the hardest event of the year to win. The thing about the Finns is many of the great Finish bowlers don’t travel. They only bowl the one stop…. To be honest I’m so happy about that.
Finland as a whole have the best bowlers in the world per capita. Tore Togorgsen was the last non Finish bowler to win the event and that was over 12 years ago, just goes to show you the depth that Finland has.
Tali Bowling Centre is one of the most amazing bowling centre in the world. Once an old ice hockey rink, the bowling centre is huge. With change rooms and showers in the locker rooms, massive grand stand like seating area to watch the bowling and 3 huge projector screens across the house displaying the game by game scores makes Tali one of the grandest bowling centres in Europe. I really love bowling there.
I bowled my first squad and bowled great. Over 1400 (for 6 games) and in this event placement for qualification is a huge advantage.
Basically I played quite hard and straight for the first few games. Once the lane calmed down a bit I jumped in deep and curved the lane.
The top 8 from qualification got seeded directly into the round of 16 match play. If you don’t make the top 8, you have to play 5 games, cut to 50%, 5 games cut to 8 players. It’s really hard so the bye to match play is huge.

My qualifying score held up for 3rd and after the morning 10 games were played Dom Barrett of England was my first match.
Dom is my Walter-Ray Williams to Pete Weber. No matter where I play this guy I seem to lose. I think we have played maybe 5 times and it’s 4-1. The one time I did win was at the High Roller when he was just a pup and still wet behind the ears, so does that really count?
I have always had troubles adjusting to how the lane breaks down when I bowl match play. I thought this time I would try and be a little smarter and make the move before it was too late. The format for this match play was best of 5.
266 my first game, a nice little start. I played very similar as I did in qualifying and felt like I was breaking the lane down nicely. Dom also is a high rev bowler and was a little slower on his ball speed meaning he was a little left of me. I was a bit worried about that but thought it would not affect me too badly. How wrong was I?
Between us both we chewed up the oil on the lane and spat out saw dust. Every move left the ball hooked more and with the massive OUT OF BOUNDS out to the right it was basically who could get far enough left with the best carry. The biggest problem for us was that the oil laid down was very thin, so with every roll, the ball just took all the oil off the lane.
Dom won the 2nd game and I had a chance to win the 3rd. I needed all 3 in the 10th and I left a solid 9. It wasn’t the best shot, I was hoping for a strike but after I saw the 9 pin it was as clear as day that I deserved it.
The 4th game was as bumpy as a Boeing 747 through a storm. In a nut shell we both struck a few times, spared a few times and opened a few times. By this time the lane was sparking it was so dry and we were both lobbing the left gutter.
After I spared the 9th frame and Dom doubled the 8th and 9th for a 30 pin lead, I felt it was over. He stepped up in the 10th and he left a split, leaving the door open for me to steal the win in game 4 and keep my hopes alive .
I left a 4 pin the last time on that lane so I moved a few boards left and bowled a little faster hoping to leave something sparable and win the match.
I thought I dead nutted it, but the ball reacted viciously (which I guess is proof I didn’t let it go that perfect) and I left a 4-6. Not the kind you normally leave, where the ball goes extremely high, but it was the kind where you think it should of left just the 4 pin.
I was beyond upset. Shook Dom’s hand, waved to the crowd, packed my gear up, changed my flight, went straight to the airport.
On the plane I had a good chance to think about what happened and how to fix it. A few things came to mind, but I think I’ll need to practice them a bunch first.

My next events are in the grand USA. I am bowling for 4 weeks (all of February), I can’t wait to get back in the deep end of the pool. With the current form of the PBA players though, in particular Bill O’Neill, Patrick Allen and Wes Mallot, these 4 events are going to be extremely tough to win…. But you’ve got to be in it to win it right!
Till next time…. Be good.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Who said long formats are not exciting!!

Doha, Qatar, The Qatar Open, the last event of the calender year where I played. The previous 2 events I played (the PBA events) did not go exactly as planned so I was hoping to bowl a little better here and make the 3 week tour not a complete disaster.
The format is one of the better formats that we play on the European Tour (a little side note, Qatar Open joined the European Tour as of last year and has the largest prize pool of them all. 30,000 Euro for 1st).
Anyway back to the format. 6 games, re-entry with top 6 getting 2 byes, 7-12th getting one bye, the rest of the cut field making the finals.
The first cut play 6 games cut to half the field. The next cut is then joined by those who placed 7-12th in qualifying, then cut half again after another 6 games, those remaining 10 are then joined by the top 6 from qualifying to form the top 16.
The top 16 then play another 6 games, with 8 going through, the pinfall is then carried over (just from the round of 16 scores) and then the top 8 play another 6 games then it cuts to the top 4 for the semi finals.
Its a fair bit of bowling, but thats the way I like it.
I qualfied early on but not enough for the byes. I tried a few more times, then on my last attempt I shot 1401 to qualify 3rd and get the all important 2 byes.
The pattern was not so easy on the fresh, but after a few games the lanes opened up a little and shooting 250 was considered a huge game.
The first 6 games I played I started off aweful. 340 something for 2 and was sitting last. I knew the number was going to be low so I dug my heels in and fought my way back to 55 over to be the number for the top 8.
I was pretty happy with myself to come back and knew that another 6 good games and I had a chance to win the event.
This is where the story becomes amazing.
The last 6 games was always going to be close. I was the number for the top 8 but only 30 pins out from 4th, so anyone had the potential to make the semi finals. I bowled some great games to shoot 690 for my first 3 to jump into 3rd. I shot 208 my 4th game and slipped to 4th, then 232 my 5th game to give myself some breathing space.
I had a quick glance at the scores and this is how it all sat.
Remy Ong from Singapore was out in front and couldn’t be caught. Nina Flack from Sweden was in 2nd, 40 pins in the number, Dom Barrett from England was also 40 pins inside the cut, then I was the number. I had a 35 pin buffer of Nick Froggatt of England and a 56 pin buffer from Wu Su Hong from Hong Kong.
At first I thought I was really the only one who was in trouble. Dom and Nina were well infront of me and that would make them WAY infront of the other 2 boys.
I started ok, strike, 2 spares then a double. Nina hit a wall as did Dom. Nick and Su Hong both had the front 6.
All of a sudden, only Remy was safe and at this point I’m in the biggest amount of trouble. I string another couple of strikes and then leave the most ridiculous ringing 10 of the trip. I could punch out for 247 and with a few frames left I didnt think it would be enough. I needed someone to miss.
Nick left a 7 pin and then threw some great shots to shoot 279. Su Hong left a 3-6-7-10, then made it, then struck out, leaving Dom, Nina and myself all to strike out.
Nina was up first, BANG BANG. Doubled like it was easy. Dom actually only need the first hit and he dead nutted it. Su Hong was now out. It was me Vs Nick for the final spot.
I needed a double in the 10th and count to beat him and secure my spot in the final 4.
First shot was perfect. Normally I get a little nervous but for some reason this time I had no nerves and just knew I could do it. I let it go perfect and carried all 10 into the pit.
Remy was 1st, Nina and I tied for 2nd and Dom was 4 pins behind us, with Nick just a whisker out by 6 pins.
It was the most amazing last few frames of bowling I have been a part of. The crowd would yell for every strike and for every open a gasp would be heard.
Nick was a true gentleman and came to congratulate me after I doubled and said great bowling. A sign of a great competitor.
I made the final 4 and now I had the chance to win the event.
Nina and I would play the semi finals against each other (format was 2 games total pinfall). This is where the wheels came off. I had played so well but for some reason I just forgot how to bowl. It’s never easy to play against a lady on the European tour. For a start they get 8 pins handicap a game and are just as good as the men.
Nina bowled a solid 480 and I had no reaction to compete. 3rd Place for me and to be honest I was happy with that. Some stages it looked like 16th was the more obvious place for me.
Nina went on to win and beat Dom for the title. 30,000 Euro’s (around $40,000 US). A huge pay check by anyones standards.
So I finished out the year with a smallish bang. Could have been better but it could of so easily been so much worse.
I just want to thank everyone for their support this year, it means a lot. Also have a safe and Merry Christmas and New Year.
Till next year
Cheers and be good

The PBA - A closer look

The PBA Tour is the last hurdle in any ones bowling career. It’s the place where legends of the game are made and it’s where I want to be.
Something that ‘rookies’ of the PBA must first except and then understand is that bowling on tour is unlike any thing else.
The transitions are so much different, the people you are crossing with are so much different and the most important aspect that is completely different is the talent levels.
In Europe and Asia, the talent I bowl against is of a very high standard but the depth of that talent pool is quite shallow compared to that on tour.
Everything you can do on the lane can be done by some one else out here and 9 out 10 times, that person can probably do it better than you
You are constantly fighting the lanes and are constantly thinking about your next moves. In Europe/Asia you do get a period of time to ‘just bowl’ and not worry about anything.
I have played in a few PBA events before, but they have all been majors, where the lanes transition more like ‘normal’ because of the large number of amateur participants.
I have had great success in these events but what i experienced the last 2 weeks taught me a quick and firm lesson about how the tour is really played.
The Scorpion Championship actually was an OK event. I bowled really well. The scoring pace was extremely high and it basically came down to who could knock over the pins the most based on carry. Normally this is something i would like, I mean, being a 2 handed player one of the biggest advantages is being able to strike more….. NOT THIS TIME.
I had just too much power. For the entire week I had 1 game where I had more than 5 strikes in a row. I did shoot 280, but 1 of those games just wasn’t enough.
I think i finished in 29th and to be honest was happy with that start.
The following week, the Cheetah Championship, showed me a thing or 2 about what happens when you play poorly.
It’s been a long time since I have bowled 14 games and could honestly say that I never bowled 14 full games where every shot was different.
I was a mess, missing left and right at my target and my speed control (which is something i pride myself on) was dis-graceful.
I was extremely upset with my performance but Kimberly (my wife) offered her wisdom and made me feel a little better about myself. Basically she told me that even the best have awful weeks, and the important thing is not to dwell about the past so much and work hard to improve the future.
Good advice right.
I watched the Pro’s make a difficult pattern look easy and how they did was amazing. It’s the little tricks (that a rookie needs to learn) that these guys have mastered. The ability to change a breakpoint (like from 40 ft to 36 ft) at will and the ability to generate angles into the pocket that amateurs can’t see is awesome to watch.
These are the tricks i need to learn and trust me when i say that I will learn them and i will be able to keep up.
The next time I ’shoe up’ will be in QATAR, next week to play in one of the biggest events (dollars wise) in the world. Hopefully i’ll be able to turn my form around and finish the 3 week tour off with a BANG.

Cheers and be good

Monday, October 27, 2008

The best and the worst days

The cashes round.

I was in a great position to remain in the top 8. Sitting 4th, with a 50 pin kicker from the top 8. The format for the cashes round is 9 games straight.
9 games against the best bowlers in the world meant if I didnt bowl great, i could easily fall out of the top 8 and if that happened, i would have to play 2 extra best of 7 matches.
I started the day with a huge break in the 10th frame for 234. That single break took all pressure off my shoulders and i felt like i could just relax and bowl.

Bowl I did. I made every single spare, almost every single spilt and threw the ball amazing. I was lofting the left gutter cap a fair bit and was in a part of the lane that noone else was, giving me the advantage of going pair to pair with a lot more confidence.
I shot 418 over for 9 games and ended up leading the field by 240 pins and securing the number 1 seed.

I was extremely excited at the prospect and now i just had to wait for 2 matches to see who I had to play.

Here comes the 'worst' part of the story.

I waited around and watched Chris Barnes come back from 3-0 down to win against Tom Baker.
I was really happy to bowl Barnes. If your going to win a major, you always want to knock out the best along the way.

I started the match GREAT. 236 and 247 to go to a 2-0 lead. Chris wasnt looking good and i was looking great. I felt like i had a great chance to win the match,
The something happened. I dont know what, but all i know is that what ever happened turned me into a nervous and un-focused player.
Chris got a little lucky in games 3 and 4, by going brooklyn 4 times over the 2 games to create 2 four baggers in both those games.
I didnt really get unlucky, i just did strike as much as i could of. The 5th game i gave away, missing spares left right and centre and then the 6th game was practically over by the 8th.

I was more upset with how i spared in the match then actually losing. I missed a bunch of spares, considering the only spare i missed in 27 games of qualifying was a single 3-6-9-10.
Chris was nice and apologized for some of his lucky breaks, but thats how the games goes. Its been there from the beginning and luck will be with bowling till the end of time.

The only positive i can take is over a many games i know i can compete with the i just need to learn how to break down a pair of lanes in the best of 7 matches.....Patience and practice and i know i will master it.

Cheers for everyones support over the past 7 days. Means a lot

Be good