Hammer's Bill O'Neill defeated Sean Rash to advance to the PBA Playoffs Championship. He will be bowl Kris Prather for the title and $100,000 payday.
O’Neill and Rash, two future PBA Hall of Famers with very similar credentials, engaged in a strikefest that was much closer than the scores might indicate. O’Neill threw 10 strikes to win the first game, 258-214, but after throwing a 4-9 split and failing to convert in the first frame, Rash rallied behind a string of five strikes and had a chance to tie the match with another strike in the ninth frame. He left a 10 pin and missed, and O’Neill threw four more strikes to close the match and win by 44 pins.
“Sean’s shot in the ninth frame was probably his worst in the whole match, and it wasn’t that bad,” O’Neill said.
In the second game, neither player missed the pocket until the match was decided. The difference was an 8 pin Rash left on a perfect pocket hit in the fourth frame while O’Neill flirted with perfection, throwing the first 10 strikes before leaving a 10 pin on his 11th attempt.
“My mental approach for this event, and my past few times on TV, has really helped me out,” O’Neill said. “It keeps me grounded, keeps my tempo under control. It was especially important with as great as Sean was bowling.
“I almost feel bad for him, but I’ve been on the other side of it, too,” O’Neill said.
His bid for a nationally-televised 300 game wasn’t a factor until after he had thrown his first strike in the 10th frame to clinch the win.
“I wasn’t focusing on 300; I was focusing on the match,” O’Neill said. “I didn’t make that great of a shot in the 11th, but I knew I had the match won and then I got a little excited because I’ve never been in that situation before. At that moment, I wasn’t thinking about 300. I didn’t care.”
Sunday, Prather and O’Neill will bowl for the richest prize either of them has ever won.
For O’Neill, vastly more experienced and the winner of 10 Go Bowling! PBA Tour titles, Sunday’s match is going to be another day at the office.
“I’m looking forward to it,” O’Neill said, “but I’m going to try to do what I did today – not change a thing.”