|PWPT Masters Champion, Rob Yowell|
Duckpin professional bowling got a shot in the arm on June 12th, as Parkville Lanes played "host house" in showcasing the talents of some of the brightest stars on the DPBA horizon, as well as reassuring us that the veterans of the game haven't lost a step yet either. The PWPT Masters event was appropriately named, as Robert Yowell, 22, put on a masterful performance during the Sunday semi-finals that elevated him to the role of 'champion' by the climax of the 2011 event.
In a stunning and eye-opening weekend of competition, Yowell won his first pro tour title in glorious fashion, defeating one of the stronger and long-lasting opponents from the Baltimore area, Butch Rupert, in the final. Rupert has been a top performer on the PWPT, and was looking for that elusive first title as well. He performed admirably, as usual, but it was just one of those situations in which it was unfortunate that there couldn't be two winners.
Yowell was unbeatable on this day, as his division was arguably the toughest of the 5 division winners. Rob, defeated Don Dove, Mike Weaver, Mark Nigh, Bernie Hipkins, and finally the 'pins over average' qualifier, Danny Campbell of Roetters, Virginia, who gave Rob his biggest scare of the head-to-head round in the 5th game. With an impressive 603 score after 4 games at the somewhat unforgiving Parkville Lanes, Yowell was jockeying for position on the stepladder. At 5-0, he would be guaranteed no worse than a 2nd seeding berth, and was in close competition with Rupert, who had made a dramatic comeback against Walkersville, Maryland's Eddie Holmes to secure division kudos at 4-0, with 615 pinfall.
With his back against the wall, down 15 pins after 8 frames against the determined Campbell, Yowell doubled in the 9th and 10th frames to eke out an 8-pin victory, and thus go 5-0. At this point, Yowell posted his score of 736 and had to wait it out, to see how Rupert would fare. Butch had no easy task at all shooting for the top seed position, with Baltimore's always tough, Chris Kruger, as an opponent in the 5th game of the divisional round. Rupert got off to a good start and was on the verge of building a cushion for a lead, but Kruger battled back and took a slim lead by the 7th frame, and things looked a little hairy for Rupert at this point. But Butch stayed on his "A" game throughout the entirety of the match, and regained the lead for good in the waning moments, posting a 5-0 record with a 746 score to acquire the top ladder seeding.
The 6-man ladder was a refreshing mixed bag of quality performers. Starting from the wildcard position, there was Greg Schriefer, along with seeds on the stepladder in the following order, bottom to top: Phil Dix, Kevin Burke, Mark Berends, Rob Yowell, and Butch Rupert.
In the opening contest, Schriefer faced off against Dix. Both bowlers are physically imposing players, and the ladder action soon got underway. Similar to the early rounds of a heavyweight boxing match, the contest was almost a feeling out process in which not a lot of offense was delivered by either man, although Dix had an 11-pin lead after 5 frames. But things picked by the mid to latter stages of the match, especially for Schriefer. Greg got his game in gear with 4 straight marks starting in the 6th box, while Phil could only manage 1 spare, and this ended up being the story for the contest, with Schriefer getting his first ladder win, 128-116.
In the 2nd match, Schriefer would face Baltimore's, Kevin Burke, who is a past winner on the DPBA pro tour circuit (AMF Eastpoint). Burke was seemingly a little stronger in the initial 4-frame block, but 3 splits led to the match being knotted at 56 after 4 boxes. In terms of 'bowler sharpness', the tide was beginning to turn, as Greg now began to smother the headpin as the game progressed. But like Kevin's earlier misfortune, a string of splits plagued Schriefer. Greg made the best of the situation along the way, and had eased ahead with a chance to put a serious hurting on Burke. Ahead by 3 pins and a count leading into his half of the 9th frame, Schriefer planted a solid 1-3 pocket ball, only to leave a clean 5-7 split. Unable to convert, he counted 9 for the frame, and it now came down to the 10th frame. Greg had 121 after 9 boxes, while Kevin had 101 in the 8th and a spare in the 9th, so the game was potentially deadlocked. Schriefer left the 2-5-7 baby split in the 10th, and made a quality shot that didn't go for a spare, leading to a 10 frame and a 131 score. Burke now had his opening. A good count and a mark would win the contest. Kevin was wide on his first ball, counting 4 and leaving a flock. Burke regrouped and made a tremendous 2nd shot, successfully converting the spare. Now Kevin needed 7 on the deciding count ball to win. Burke lined up and made an accurate delivery, but chopped 6 pins out of the middle to tie the match, forcing a 2-frame roll-off. Schriefer went on to win the roll-off, 28-18.
The next opponent for Schriefer was the 5-time PWPT champion, Mark Berends. This match was intriguing because it was a rematch of the 2009 PWPT Masters final, won by Berends in a thrilling finale. Mark opened Match #3 impressively, nailing a single pin for a spare, while Schriefer was 'snake-bit' for the 2nd time in the last 5 frames across stepladder matches on the 4-7-8 break, resulting in a 10 frame. In spite of his 'bad luck' on the spares, you could see Schriefer's game was at a premium now, and he attempted to take charge of the contest. But Berends, who held a 1-pin edge after 4 frames, wasn't about to back down. Frames 5 through 9 would prove to be one of the best battles in stepladder history for any pro tour. Greg took the lead with a strike-spare against Mark's two spares in the 5th and 6th boxes. The gritty Berends added another spare in the 7th, and it was at this point that Schriefer decided to 'make his own opening' in the match. Greg threw a crushing double in the 7th and 8th frames, and momentum looked like it definitely was swinging in Schriefer's favor, as his lead was at 14 pins. But Mark answered back with a mighty double of his own in the 8th and 9th, and the tide had swung back to Berends' side. The pressure was now back on Schriefer, and in what could prove to be a defining moment in Greg's young pro career, he answered the challenge with a 'near triple', but left a solid single pin and converted it for a spare in his half of the 9th frame. Schriefer then finished his end of the match decisively with another single pin spare conversion in the 10th, followed by a strike on the final count ball, leading to a superior 182 effort.
Amazingly, Berends was still well in the match. With a score of 110 in the 7th, and strikes in the 8th and 9th, Mark needed one more strike to win the war. But alas, Berends came up short on his bid, and ended up opening the 10th, leaving Schriefer with an impressive 182-161 victory.
The suspense of the Masters event was escalating, and now a contest had arisen between two of the duckpin sport's youngest lions—Greg Schriefer to face the 2nd seed, Robert Yowell.
It was an eagerly awaited match-up, as the advancing Schriefer was at the top of his game. Yowell, on the other hand, was at a career high note as well, after dramatically punching out the last of a "murderers row" of division opponents in his undefeated run in match play for the day. Yowell opened the match sharp, nailing a 5-pin single for a spare. Schriefer answered by converting the tricky 3-5 break to even the match in the opening frame. Greg left the difficult 3-9-10 split in the 2nd, and ended with a 10 frame. After seeing how Schriefer was dominating on the offensive boards, Yowell must have been figuring that he had to seize any opportunity, whenever it arose. Rob clobbered the headpin in the 2nd frame, but left a mess, the 2-6-7-10. Despite the difficulty of the split, the time was now for Yowell, and he rolled a perfect pitch to convert the unlikely spare in textbook fashion. Yowell then applied the maximum count by striking in the 3rd. Schriefer was unphased, as he converted a 7-pin single in the 3rd and then struck in the 4th, and was, on the surface, only trailing by 9 pins. But Yowell was not only bowling well on this day, but was also an opportunist, and he added 2 more strikes in the 4th and 5th to extend his lead to a healthy advantage at the halfway point in the match.
Incredibly, the fire was still in Schriefer's game, as he answered with a strike in the 5th to create a double-header on which to work. Yowell's lead was at 19 at the midway point, but with both bowlers at such a peak in their games, the match was indeed up for grabs. The 6th frame would give a hint to the final outcome, however, as Schriefer left the virtually unmakeable 7-10 split. Greg was able to score a 10, but Rob continued his offensive with a devastating strike to complete a mid-game '4-bagger'. The smoke was beginning to clear, and after Yowell and Schriefer both spared in the 7th and opened the 8th frame, Rob's lead had blossomed to a stout 35 pins. Yowell then added another strike in the 9th. Schriefer finished strong with a spare in the 9th and a double-header in the 10th, but Yowell's performance in the opening 9 frames had secured the lead he needed to come away with a victory in a whopping 195-174 contest.
|PWPT Masters Champion, Rob Yowell|
The championship would be another fabulous match, as it pitted the tournament's 2 undefeated combatants in match play, now facing each other—Rob Yowell vs. Butch Rupert. Rupert is an experienced veteran of both the DPBA and the PWPT pro circuit, and despite a lengthy wait to set foot on the lanes in the championship, came out fast with a strike to open the game. Yowell spared, but then opened the 2nd. Butch impressively added 2 more spares in the 2nd and 3rd, and had an early advantage, which would test his younger opponent's mental toughness. Rob stayed focused and converted a 7-pin single in his half of the 3rd, but a rare pitch off the headpin in which he chopped the 2-8, led to Yowell with a score of only 47 after 4 frames. Rupert was dogged in his pursuit of the PWPT Masters title, but an unfortunate string of consecutive splits on headpin hits, kept him within Yowell's sights in the middle segment of the contest. Rupert was ahead by 15 pins after 5 frames, and it was at this point that Yowell exhibited an extreme amount of resilience. Understandably suffering a letdown after the monumental 195 game previously, Yowell reached back for one last onslaught in the 2nd half of the championship. In frames 6-9, Rob converted a 5-pin for a spare, then struck, then converted another 5-pin, then struck again in the 9th to surge ahead in the match, while Rupert continued to struggle with splits in the game's 2nd half. By the 10th frame, the match was decided, and Robert Yowell, in a 144-115 climax had completed an incredible undefeated run against a collection of Duckpins' most formidable competitors.
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