Here are some of the storylines heading into the 48th edition of PBA’s signature tournament.
Pete Weber tries for his 10th major and second TOC title: PBA Hall of Famer Pete Weber’s last major title came in his memorable one-pin victory over Mike Fagan (215-214) for a record fifth PBA U.S. Open win in February 2012. Weber will be trying for his 10th major title which would put him in a tie with the late Earl Anthony for the most major titles won.
Jason Belmonte POY Chase: Belmo has one major under his belt (2013 USBC Masters) and is trying to make it two in a row in Indy. Nipped at the wire (2012 T of C) for Player of the Year last season, Belmonte hopes to settle the score against arch rival Sean Rash.
Sean Rash tries for rare TOC repeat: Reigning PBA Player of the Year Sean Rash hopes to become only the second player to defend a TOC title. Rash defeated Ryan Ciminelli in the championship match in 2012, 239-205, to win his fifth career title and second major. Only Hall of Famer Jason Couch has successfully defended a TOC title with an unprecedented three consecutive titles in 1999, 2000 and 2002.
Walter Ray Williams Jr. still trying for a TOC title: Walter Ray Williams Jr. has accomplished nearly everything there is to accomplish in professional bowling except winning the Tournament of Champions. A TOC title would make the all-time titles leader (47) the third player in history to complete the PBA “Grand Slam” (titles in the Tournament of Champions, U.S. Open, PBA World Championship and USBC Masters). Mike Aulby and Norm Duke are the only players who have completed the Grand Slam.
2010 Champion Kelly Kulick: Kelly Kulick of Union, N.J., made sports history in 2010 by becoming the first woman ever to win a PBA Tour event. Kulick defeated top qualifier Chris Barnes of Double Oak, Texas, 265-195, in the title match after defeating two-time PBA Player of the Year Mika Koivuniemi in the semifinal round, 227-223. Her best finish since her historic win has been seventh.
Third major of 2012-13 season: There have been two different winners in the two previous majors this season: Parker Bohn III in the PBA World Championship and Jason Belmonte in the USBC Masters. (The U.S. Open will be conducted in Columbus, Ohio, in July).
Indianapolis players George Branham III and Ronnie Russell will compete: In 1993, George Branham III of Indianapolis – the first African-American to win a PBA Tour title – also became the first African-American to win a "major" title at the 29th TOC at Riviera Lanes in Fairlawn, Ohio. After leading qualifying, Branham defeated third-seeded Parker Bohn III, 227-214.
After 10 years and 142 tournaments, Indianapolis area native Ronnie Russell captured his first PBA Tour title just days ago to earn his berth in the TOC. The 33-year-old right-hander defeated Sweden’s James Gruffman, 224-210, to win the Brunswick Euro Challenge at Dream Bowl Palace last Sunday. The tournament is part of the World Tenpin Bowling Association-PBA International Tour.
16 TOC past winners are entered: Past TOC champions entered are Sean Rash (2012), Mika Koivuniemi (2011) Kelly Kulick (2010), Patrick Allen (2009), Chris Barnes (2006), Johnny Petraglia (1971), George Branham III (1993), Jason Couch (1999, 2000 and 2002), Mark Williams (1985 and 1988), Wayne Webb (1980), Norm Duke (1994), Bryan Goebel (1998), Michael Haugen Jr. (2008), Steve Jaros (2005), Tommy Jones (2007), and Pete Weber (1987).
PBA Hall of Famers in TOC field: PBA Hall of Famers entered are Parker Bohn III, Norm Duke, Pete Weber, Walter Ray Williams Jr., Amleto Monacelli, Johnny Petraglia, Jason Couch, Wayne Webb, Mark Williams, Doug Kent and Danny Wiseman. Kent and Wiseman will be inducted during the 2013 PBA Hall of Fame dinner on Saturday night, March 30, at the Indianapolis Marriott North.
International field: Six countries are represented in the TOC field – Australia, Colombia, England, Finland, Venezuela and the U.S.
PBA Tournament of Champions originated in Indianapolis in 1962: 51 years later, the TOC returns to the city where it began. Established to showcase those Tour players who were PBA Tour champions, the first event was conducted at Play Bowl and offered an “unheard of” $50,000 prize fund. Joe Joseph won the inaugural event with a two-game 480 pinfall total, followed by Billy Golembiewski, 416, and Hall of Famer Carmen Salvino third with 409 in the two-game elimination final. Joseph won a $15,000 first prize.
Indianapolis has hosted all of PBA’s most prestigious events: The Tournament of Champions completes the “triple crown” for Woodland Bowl in Indianapolis as the home to PBA major championships. It hosted the U.S Open (2010, 1996, 1991, 1990) Denny’s PBA World Championship in (2008 and 2006) PBA Touring Players Championship (1992, 1993, 1994). Indianapolis also hosted the USBC Masters in the Indiana Convention Center (1974) in addition to the first Tournament of Champions.
PBA League Elias Cup finals to complete TOC week: The top four teams for the inaugural PBA League Elias Cup finals, to determine the winner of the historic first season of five-player team competition involving PBA Tour players, will conclude TOC Week at Woodland Bowl. The top four teams will bowl a Baker format stepladder final round on Sunday, March 31 at 6 p.m. to be taped by ESPN for airing on Sunday, April 7 at 1 p.m. ET.
(Segments courtesy: pba.com)