TERRE HAUTE —
Throwing strikes are sexy and glamorous, but converting spares (ho-hum) is still the difference between winning and losing — at all levels of bowling.
Case in point? Mika Koivuniemi, the high average bowler for the Professional Bowler’s Association this season and a leading contender for PBA Player of the Year.
Koivuniemi missed a 10-pin spare in the 10th frame in the nationally-televised championship match of the U.S. Open on Feb. 27, costing him almost a sure victory, allowing Norm Duke to win 225-216.
With his unfortunate turn of events, Koivuniemi also proved the old bowling adage “you strike for show, but spare for dough.” Duke earned $80,000 with the victory, while Koivuniemi received $40,000 for the runner-up finish. That’s a $40,000 mistake.
Duke can speak from experience as to the importance of spares too. His first U.S. Open title in 2008 was the direct result of his converting the always-tough “bucket” spare (2-4-5-8) in the 10th frame.
• Coincidentally, ESPN the Magazine recently completed a three-month research assignment, reviewing the outcome of every frame of PBA televised matches from the 2005-06 season through the 2009-10 season.
Their findings showed PBA bowlers threw strikes at a 61.13 percent clip (4,374 of 7,155 first-ball attempts) — leaving 2,781 spare attempts.
The 10-pin spare was converted at 95.9 percent of the time (710 attempts). The highest conversion rate was 98.9 percent (88 attempts) for the 9-pin. The 7-pin (333 attempts) was made 95.5 percent of the time.
Splits are tough for the pros too.
Only three bowlers have converted the 7-10 split in PBA history, the last two back in 1991. Walter Ray Williams Jr. is the only PBA bowler to convert the “Big Four” (4-6-7-10 in 2005) split. Even baby splits are tough, the 3-10 converted just 48.6 percent of the time (17-of-35 attempts).
• The Dick Weber PBA Playoffs has been at Woodland Bowl in Indianapolis all this week, but the champion won’t be crowned until April 17.
Three survivors in each “Region” will advance to two Regional Championships and one Conference Championship television shows to be taped today. Those three shows will air on ESPN on March 27 (2:30 p.m.), April 3 (1 p.m.) and April 10 (1 p.m.), respectively.
The three remaining bowlers return to Indianapolis on April 17 (1 p.m. on ESPN) for the final LIVE telecast of the 2010-11 PBA Tour season. The winner will receive $50,000.
• On the lanes locally — Terre Haute South bested Terre Haute North two games to one in the championship match of the Wabash Valley High School Travel League at Vigo Bowl on March 2.
South won the first game 1,162-1,084, North winning the second game 1,146-1,118 before South claimed the third and decisive game 1,073-1,032. Total pinfall went South’s way at 3,353-3,262.
South had to win a three-way roll-off to claim the South Division second-half title, then defeat another South team (first-half champion) just to reach the championship round.
South team members were Blake Rebeck (captain), Nathan Pugh, Travis Pugh, Evan Fulk and Matt Higham. North team members were Anthony Guenzel, Zack Thomas, Allison Drake, Brittany Wence and Tanner Tuberosa.
Schools represented in the South Division are Terre Haute South, West Vigo, Sullivan and North Central. North Division schools are Terre Haute North, South Vermillion, Northview, Riverton Parke and Rockville.
• The team of Ryan Nichols, Jason John, Bryan “Big Kitchen” Kauffman and Mark Davis claimed first place in the Darrell Jennings Shootout at Imperial Lanes recently. Second-place team honors went to Jeff Saleh, Chris Doti, Dave Alumbaugh and Jared Bowman.
Proceeds from the event raised $550 for the Darrell Jennings charity.
• Defending champion Vincennes University finished third in the National Junior College Athletic Association Bowling Championship in Williamsville, N.Y., last weekend.
Erie Community College won with a score of 13,638, followed by Hudson Valley Community College (13,575) and Vincennes (13,560).
Two VU bowlers were named All-Americans. Kyle Geurtsen (average 211) was second overall, while Ryne Smith (199 average) was fifth.
Dennis Clark can be reached at dennis.clark@ tribstar.com