|DPBA Champ Kenny Herrell, with Southside Bowl proprietor, Frank Turner|
The 2011 Duckpin World Classic, another jewel in the crown of Hagerstown proprietor Frank Turner, was nothing short of a masterpiece for bowling drama and top notch performances. The landmark event, hosted at Southside Bowl in Hagerstown, Maryland was a defining moment in time for the sport of bowling as a whole, in that the field of qualifiers included such a wide variety of great performers. There was something for everyone in the star-studded cast that made up the 48-man finals, as there were veterans from years past, as well as up and coming stars, not to mention Canadians from afar amongst the out-of-towners, and the locals from Hagerstown.
Kenny Herrell of Germantown, Maryland—long time participant in the DPBA—broke through the ice for his first tour win and in doing so joined a list of bowlers in an elite club—those who have won a pro tour stop worth $10,000 or better. Herrell defeated Severn, MD's Chuck Paris in the final, 174-123 in what was a close match in the early to middle stages of the contest. For those few who may not have been aware of Herrell's prowess as a bowler, it all came to the forefront during the epic of the World Classic weekend
Kenny bowled on the grueling final shift of the preliminary round. The Saturday evening, 6:30 pm squad was particularly taxing on the bowlers due to the outside heat and humidity that made its way into Southside Bowl by evening. But Herrell, a 30-year veteran of the pro tour who always keeps himself in tip-top physical shape, endured the conditions and dealt out an impressive 1133 score for his 8-game block. With the cut ending up being 1110, Kenny made it comfortably into the Sunday finals
In the 169-man field, 48 players were to advance from the preliminary rounds into the Sunday finals. The cut for the top 48 was a bit on the low side at 1110, but in a tournament carrying duckpin bowling's largest purse, it's only fitting that the bowlers should have to work for the big payout.
There was something different—and also something extremely special—upon this editor's arrival and entrance into Southside Bowl on the day of the finals that just gave a person a refreshing feeling of impending intrigue and quality entertainment on its way.
The DPBA implemented a new format for the Sunday finals, different from that of the traditional stepladder method of determining a champion. Divisional play remained the same, with the expanded count of 48 players being divided into 8 divisions of 6 competitors. But the difference in this event is that the top 2 players in each division would advance into a 'Round of 16' bracket elimination format. The new format sent one of the division qualifiers into the upper half of the 'Sweet 16' tournament bracket, and the other division qualifier was put in the lower half. So it was possible that the 2 advancers from a division could end up meeting in the championship game.
Among the 48 qualifiers was an impressive number of Canadian fivepin stars, including some new faces to the duckpin tour this year. The Canadians who made it to the Round of 16 were Jason Medhurst and Peter Brown. Other qualifiers from Canada included Martin Talbot, Jason Procher, Scott Dumoulin, and Mitch Davies, who made his 2nd consecutive cut for 2011.
Two bowlers tallied perfect 5-0 records at the end of the match play round—Buddy Turner and Chris Kruger. But the best pinfall efforts amongst division qualifiers were Erik Loteczka and hometown favorite, Jimmy Burns, both rolling 787 scores for their 5-game blocks.
Advancing from the Round of 16 to the 8-man Quarter-Finals: Kenny Herrell def. Brian Vest, Cecil Saroopchand def. Winnie Shriver, Erik Loteczka def. Jimmy Burns, Peter Brown def. Steve Iavarone, Chuck Paris def. Scott Wolgamuth, Tom Grohs def. Jason Medhurst, Mark Nigh def. Buddy Turner, and Chris Kruger def. Joe Ruthvin.
With the inaugural round of the new 16-man elimination format out of the way, thoughts of the 'stepladder method' were now non-existent, as all in attendance had made the quick adjustment to the new 'modis operandi'. Things became increasingly interesting, as the 'Elite Eight' round got underway. Kenny Herrell began to gain steam as he defeated Cecil Saroopchand, 163-118. The match 'next door' was probably the most gut-wrenching of the round, as Erik Loteczka faced Canada's Peter Brown. Brown had finished first, posting a 135 game, and Loteczka needed a mark to win. Erik rolled a solid first ball and left the 4-7 spare break. Needing a spare to pretty much ice the game, Loteczka was on-target, but too much so, as he chopped off the 4-pin, and thus Pete Brown had sweated out a tough 135-131 victory. Chuck Paris took care of business, 142-129 over Tom Grohs, but it wasn't without a fight from Grohs. Tom had an outside chance to win at the end, needing a double-header in the 10th, but couldn't come up with the big finish. And to close out the Round of 8, Mark Nigh was extremely strong from start to finish, as he defeated Chris Kruger, 180-136.
The Final Four was now established and the matchups were most compelling. Would Kenny Herrell advance one step closer to his long-awaited first pro tour win? Or would Peter Brown match Mike Herbert's feat from 2010 when he made it to the final of the Duckpin Olympics? And would Mark Nigh continue his devastating march to try to bring the title home to Hagerstown? Or would Chuck Paris add another notch to his young legacy, and head toward his first DPBA victory?
In the match between Kenny Herrell and Peter Brown, it was a match of two tough warriors, with spares being a big part of each one's game, and the two meeting on neutral ground in Hagerstown. Kenny started the match, and after 3 frames, 5 spares were converted in the 6 boxes rolled, with Herrell's chopping of the middle in frame 2 being the early 14-pin advantage for Brown. A rare miss by Peter in the 4th, coupled with spares by Kenny in frames 4 and 5 turned a slim lead back over to Herrell after 6 frames. The two combatants matched each other with strikes in the 7th and open frames in the 8th, and at that point, the score was dead even, 114-114. The critical 9th frame was the difference-maker in the match, as Kenny struck, while Peter chopped the 2-8 but cleaned up the wood for a 10 frame. Brown was to finish first, and he knew he had to make a great shot to put the pressure back on Herrell. But Pete was too much on the mark, as he chopped out the 1-5-8 in the 10th. Brown valiantly went for the spare, but chopped again, and could only muster a 7 in the final box. Herrell needed only to avoid a disaster frame at this point, and although he did cut the 2-8 on his first ball, he was able to count more than enough on his strike to come away with a 142-131 win.
In the other Final Four matchup, if there ever was a case of 'The Irresistible Force' against 'The Immovable Object', this was it, as Chuck Paris stepped in to face the crowd favorite, Mark Nigh. There was an interesting parallel to this match which occurred about a month prior. On the last night of Nigh's Commercial "A" major league at Dual Lanes in Hagerstown, Mark rolled a phenomenal 258 game to close out a thunderous 597 set. Amazingly, about 65 miles away, Paris bowled a stunning 232 effort in his 3rd game on the same night at White Oak Lanes in Silver Spring, MD as part of a 535 set. Tension was in the air so thick you could 'cut it with a knife'. Chuck opened the match by sparing, and Mark matched him with a spare in his half of the first. But lady luck would rear its head early, as Nigh punched the front pin off of the 1-3 spare break in the 2nd frame, leading to a 9 box. Paris took immediate advantage by breaking 9, and then nailing the 7-pin for a spare. In a pivotal moment, Chuck's 3rd frame left him with the 4-5-7 split, and he converted the spare off the wall perfectly. This seemed to give Paris a cushion which he maintained throughout the middle stages of the contest, as both bowlers marked in frames 3-5, followed by opens by both men in the 6th. The pressure was starting to mount on the two giants, with Chuck going by a 6-pin single conversion in the 7th, and then Mark taking the back pin off of the 2-4 spare break in the 8th. In Paris' half of the 8th, he breathed new life and struck, and his lead grew to 14, but a 2-4-6 split slowed him down again in the 9th. This time, Nigh was revitalized, as he struck convincingly in his half of the 9th, and finally had a chance to take the lead in the final frame. Chuck was sitting at 136 after 9, and Mark had 113 in the 8th, with a foundation strike on which to count. Nigh then rolled his 10th frame, and his first ball looked like a carbon copy of his 9th frame strike, but this time he left a lone 5 pin. The situation was simple. Mark needed to convert the spare and apply a good count to force Chuck to mark in the 10th to win the match. Nigh had performed well in the clutch all day, but this time it wasn't meant to be, as he slid by the single on his spare attempt. Paris' job had just turned easy, as he only needed a 7 frame to win. Chuck finished the job with a 9 frame to capture a 145-142 victory against one of the kings of Southside Bowl. It was a game that added a few gray hairs to both bowlers.
The Final Four had now produced the finalists—Kenny Herrell vs. Chuck Paris. The winner would attain his first DPBA pro tour 'star'. The championship contest opened on a high note, with both bowlers sparing in the first frame. Paris added another spare, and in Herrell's 2nd frame, he left the dreaded 6-7-10 split. The Germantown resident made a typical 'Kenny Herrell' heroic attempt at the spare, in which he made such a perfect effort at sliding the shot, that he slid the 6 pin in front of the 7. This led to a 9-frame, and a subsequent 5-6 split in the 3rd, put Kenny's score at 36. Paris had a chance to add to his lead, but an open frame in his half of the 3rd left him with a 9-pin edge over Herrell. Chuck then ripped the middle in the 4th, and Kenny had a chance to even the match again. It was at this point in time that all the hard work during Kenny's bowling career that had made him so dominant in the past seemed to surface. Herrell put together an impressive stretch of frames from the 4th box on, which included spare breaks—a 9-pin, then a spare, then a 7-pin…spare, then a double-header strike, followed by a solid 4-pin, and another spare to distance himself from Chuck, who became plagued with splits at the wrong times in which he couldn't put together back-to-back marks. By the 8th frame, Herrell was really rolling, and ultimately added two more spares to complete his run and corral his first tour win with a 174-123 triumph.
|The Duckpin World Classic Final Four: Chuck Paris, Kenny Herrell (champion), Frank Turner (proprietor), Peter Brown, and Mark Nigh|
Kenny Herrell--a true sportsman of the game, is also probably the most animated player in bowling. PBA Hall of Famer, Carmen Salvino had the reputation as a performer on the lanes, but in all due respect, he doesn't have anything on Kenny Herrell. Like Salvino, Kenny's 'antics' are thoroughly entertaining and completely non-offensive.
One of the noteworthy bowling stories involving Herrell that this editor witnessed first-hand was back in 1985. At the old Wheaton Triangle Lanes in its major triples league, Kenny pulled off one of the greatest comebacks—or maybe the more accurate term would be 'run-downs'—in the history of bowling. Scott Wolgamuth ended the league with a 152.677 average for the season. But in the last 3 weeks of the league, Herrell rolled sets of 545, 575, and 520 to finish with a 152.717 average, stealing the 'high average' title from Wolgamuth by a mere 3 pins or so in total pinfall (Herrell bowled 99 games, while Wolgamuth had 93).
Herrell is one of the few bowlers who would scarcely be considered an underdog in any head-to-head matchup. Kenny Herrell has done some amazing things in bowling, but for whatever the reason, the brass ring has seemed to elude him—that is, until now.
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