|Colombia's Andres Gomez, alongside Hall of Famer and honoree of the Salvino Classic, Carmen Salvino (Edited photo courtesy PBA LLC)|
LAS VEGAS - Colombian native Andres Gomez became the fourth player to win his first Professional Bowlers Association Tour title during the 2011-12 season when he defeated Wes Malott of Pflugerville, Texas, 246-207, to win the Carmen Salvino Classic.
Gomez, who began pursuing his dream of winning a PBA title 30 years ago as an 8-year-old living in Bogota, watching PBA Tour videotapes given to the family by American friends, finally added his coveted title after nearly 20 years of success in the international arena, individually and as a member of Colombia's national bowling team.
"I had the experience in international tournaments, I had the experience in open tournaments, but I needed the experience with the PBA in order to win," Gomez said. "It was going to take time."
Gomez, who joined England's Stuart Williams and Dom Barrett, and Scott Newell of Deland, Fla., on the current season's first-time winners list, joined the PBA in 2005. He bowled full-time for one season but then left touring life for three years before returning for the 2009-10 season. During the 2010 PBA World Series, he made his first PBA television appearance, finishing second in the Pepsi Viper Championship. Later in the season, he finished fourth in the PBA Tournament of Champions.
Winning the Salvino Classic title "means everything to me," he said. "Since I was 8 years old, I watched tapes of Mike Aulby, Walter Ray (Williams Jr.), (Norm) Duke, Pete Weber…and then I'd go practice for six hours (at a four-lane bowling center in a Bogota country club managed by his father). To be able to come here and bowl with these same guys, most of whom are still bowling, means the world to me."
Gomez came out firing, winning the first "eliminator" round with a 253 game. Malott posted a 250, Australia's Jason Belmonte was third with a 247 and Ronnie Russell of Marion, Ind., was "low man out" with a 215 game.
As the lane conditions changed in round two, Malott rose to the top with a 227. Gomez struggled to a 189, but Belmonte ran into split problems, exiting the finals after a 162 game.
Gomez put his recently-found experience to good use in the title game, changing to a more aggressive ball and moving farther left on the lane. After converting a 10 pin for a spare in the first frame, he ran off a string of six strikes to build a 31-pin lead that Malott couldn't overcome.
With his victory, Gomez became the first Colombian to win a PBA Tour title and he became the 6th inter- national winner in seven PBA World Series of Bowling events. Although he has lived in Florida for nearly 15 years, where he attended Central Florida University and got a degree in business admini- stration, Gomez remains the pride of his homeland.
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