North American Bowling News

Generating New Interest: Bracket Elimination Tournaments

The DPBA adopted a new format for the Sunday finals of the Hagerstown World Classic this year. The head-to-head divisional play was combined with elimination style bracket competition instead of the traditional stepladder finals. Of the 169 tourney entrants, 48 qualifiers prevailed from the Friday and Saturday preliminary shifts, and were divided into 8 divisions of 6 bowlers in each group.

Traditional won/lost records were achieved in 5 games of head-to-head competition, and the top 2 in each division at the round's conclusion would advance to the 16-man bracket finals. The new tournament format provided a non-stop interest for spectators, who could view several scenarios going on at the same time.

While the elimination format was new to the DPBA, it's not a new concept for duckpin bowling. Back in the Fall of 1995, one of the higher profile competitive leagues in the Washington Metro area due to its weekly 'booklet' publications and Internet exposure, the Maryland Suburban Traveling League, introduced elimination- style tournaments which took place during the course of weekly league play. At the time there were 110 bowlers in the league, and initially this new tournament idea and how it worked basically had to be explained to each person individually. But after the majority of the bowlers understood the new concept, the idea from a bowling standpoint of relating themselves to the NCAA March Madness brackets, or the NFL playoffs, was intriguing, and people were anxiously enthused to enter the league event as a side interest to league play. After the qualifying round was played and the first 16 player bracket was established and completed over the course of weeks, the bowlers clamored to have more of these style tournaments. The Travel League Open, as it was called, ended up running 4 times during the course of the season, with an eventual increase to a 32-man field occurring. After the 2nd tournament, word seemed to spread in the duckpin community and in the spring of 1996, the widespread "Duckpin Classic" tournament, sponsored by the Duckpin Bowling Proprietors Association, adopted this bracket style elimination for its event, which was a drastic change from the conventional format used in the 5 years prior in the tourney's existence. The first year of the changeover for the Duckpin Classic produced champions, Coleen Mahoney (Crofton, MD) on the women's side, and Rhode Island's Jason Smith for the men. (Coleen and Jason are current members of the WNDA and DPBA, respectively in 2011.) The following year, Mahoney repeated as champion for the ladies, while Robbie Cline (Walkersville, MD) won for the men. The event continued for years to come, and eventually would be sponsored by the Mendes Company, a bowling equipment outfit based in Canada. So successful was the bracket style concept, that it remained in effect throughout the course of years after its inception.

Without question, judging by the success of the 'playoff style' elimination format used in professional team sports, the bracket style tournament is a sure-fire interest generator for participants and spectators in bowling and lends itself well to the DPBA. To additionally point out the formula for success for 'bowling bracketing', the aforementioned Traveling League further incorporated this idea into the league's final week of the year, in which a bracket tournament became traditionally played on the league's 'payoff night', and ran for the years to follow.

Currently, the other Internet-ready major league in the Washington area, the White Oak Majors, uses this concept for its year-end climax. This year's 2011 White Oak tournament, which occurred 3 days before the Hagerstown World Duckpin Classic finals, involved 5 current DPBA members, including the World Classic runner-up, Chuck Paris. The 'Majors' league event was won this year by Columbia, MD's Marc Klein in a tight contest over Bryce Kasalonis. Klein carries a 138 average. One of Marc's bowling resume credentials is that he rolled the high game in the Washington Metropolitan area in the 1987-1988 season with a 245 effort.

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