Ronnie Russell Wins PBA Bear Open


By Bill Vint, June 10, 2014

After 11 years and 159 tournaments, Ronnie Russell of Marion, Ind., won his first Professional Bowlers Association Tour title on U.S. soil at the Grand Casino Resort Event Center, defeating top qualifier Tommy Jones of Simpsonville, S.C., 234-164, to win the PBA Bear Open.

The finals of the second of five Oklahoma’s Grand Casino Resort PBA Summer Swing events, contested on a demanding flat, 40-foot Bear lane condition, aired Tuesday on CBS Sports Network.

Russell, who said he discovered what it takes to win when he won the 2013 Brunswick Euro Challenge in Munich, earned $10,000 for winning the Bear Open.

He also claimed a spot in the Oklahoma’s Grand Resort Casino King of the Swing special event that will conclude the Summer Swing. Wolf Open winner Sean Rash of Montgomery, Ill., previously qualified for the King of the Swing.

Russell, a 34-year-old right-hander, said a high level of focus and excellent spare shooting led to his title, but in the title match, it was a string of four strikes and another double that made it look easy as Jones struggled the entire match.

“The biggest key is, I’ve bowled on TV quite a bit now and I’ve been through the worst imaginable things you can do to lose titles – I mean absolutely the worst – so now I just tell myself to focus on the shot and no matter what you do, you can’t do as bad as you did before,” Russell said. “I’ve been to the bottom, so I figured there has to be a top somewhere.

“Ever since I threw a strike to win in Germany, I’ve known I can do it again. My composure and everything has changed, and I actually have confidence now. It’s awesome.”

Russell advanced to his first title-match appearance in the U.S. since the 2009 Chameleon Open, where he lost to Bill O’Neill of Langhorne, Pa. He avenged that loss in the semifinal match when he took a 21-pin lead over O’Neill, the No. 2 qualifier, with a string of four strikes early in the game and held on for a 215-212 victory when O’Neill failed to double in the 10th frame.

In the first match, Dick Allen of Columbia, S.C., missed a 3 pin in the fifth frame to give Rhino Page of Dade City, Fla., the lead, but Allen followed the missed spare with a string of five strikes to pull away to a 234-213 victory.

In match two, Allen and Russell were never more than eight pins apart and Allen’s spectacular conversion of the 2-8-10 split in the ninth frame gave him a chance to win after Russell failed to double in the 10th frame. Needing a double to advance, Allen got the first strike but left a 10 pin on his second, handing Russell a 195-192 decision.

The finals capped a calm, steady qualifying performance by Russell in the preliminary rounds at nearby FireLake Bowling Center.

“I didn’t shoot under 200 the entire (first 12 games at FireLake),” he said. “My spare shooting was awesome. The only reason I didn’t lead the tournament was that every time I had a chance to shoot 240, I’d open in the 10th frame. I just stayed in that pace between 200 and 220 and ground it out.”