Professional bowling tournaments can sometimes be too much too handle. Traveling, bowling for four or five straight days, then being displayed on live television is a tough lifestyle. Added to that is the fact that prize money is scarce and most bowlers are putting their careers on the line every week they compete. This being said, please enjoy this list of single shot chokes, tournament blunders, and general buffoonery that cost people thousands of dollars!
10. Holman double gutter
Although occurring early in the match, this inexcusable blunder basically costs Marshall Holman the game. Such an embarrassing moment for a dominant PBA star and Hall of Famer…
9. Bryan Goebel goes for 300
This was a tough entry to make the list because Goebel did manage to get the first two strikes in the tenth frame just to clinch the match (Norm Duke put up a 280) and win the $42,000 top prize. However, all he needed was one more strike to add a whopping $200,000 more. The difficulty of rolling a perfect game on television keeps this moment from being higher on the list, but you must agree, Goebel fails pretty badly.
8. Don Genalo vs. Jimmie Pritts
This classic gem ranks low on this list mainly because there is no cute Youtube clip of it right now. But here’s the story: In the 1983 Southern California Open, Don Genalo struck on his first ball in the tenth frame, leaving him in need of 7 total pins on his next two fill balls. As ABC displayed its winner graphic and the announcers declared him champion and went to commercial, Genalo proceeded to leave the 4-6-7-9-10 Greek church split. Inexplicably, Genalo then miscalculated his score and although he only needed two pins to tie and three to win, he ran up and dumped his ball in the gutter, thinking he couldn’t win. As a result, Pritts won 214-212 and the announcers had to rush back to correct themselves.
7. Rhino Page vs. Patrick Allen
Major tournament gaffes have been plentiful in recent years. In this battle between two lefties at the 2009 Tournament of Champions, Rhino Page struck on his first ball in the tenth frame and needs just a 9-spare or strike on his next ball. Major tournaments are known for having the toughest oil patterns, so even hitting nine pins can be a tall order. Not only does Page fail to get nine, but what he actually leaves baffles the mind. Patrick Allen’s reaction at 4:46 describes it perfectly.
6. Mark Fahy vs. Ron Palombi Jr.
Seemingly a relative of Chris Farley, Mark Fahy entertained the masses on the bowling stage. In 1984, Fahy simply needed seven pins to clinch the match or six pins to at least guarantee a tie. We cannot consider this a top 5 choke simply because Fahy was trying to clinch the match while his opponent, Ron Palombi Jr., had yet to bowl the tenth frame. Of course after Fahy fails, Palombi goes on to throw three strikes to win, cementing Fahy into PBA lore.
5. Phil Ringener vs. Eugene McCune
Phil Ringener had a history of failing in the clutch. In fact, earlier in this 1993 broadcast (0:15 in the video), he bumbles incoherently about why he should not have any more problems in the final match. Nevertheless, simply needing any type of mark in the final frame, Ringener goes down in spectacular fashion. Many a bowler has lost needing just a mark, but this one takes the cake.
4. Del Ballard vs. Pete Weber
This classic moment from 1991 comes in at #4. This dump is slightly better than Ringener’s gutter because Ballard only needs 7 pins to win after throwing the first two strikes in the tenth frame. He also has a much more entertaining reaction. The cameraman just catches him exiting the building with ball in hand at the end.
3. Joe Ciccone & Ronnie Russell vs. Danny Wiseman & Mike Fagan
In 2008, the PBA held a doubles competition, pairing up players based on their qualifying scores in the early rounds. Anyone who has ever bowled on a team knows the pressure of letting down your teammates, making this tournament extremely nerve-racking. Joe Ciccone and Ronnie Russell, two players who had never won, were teamed up and rallied to the championship match. On the line were the usual prize money as well as tour exemptions for both players, something both Ciccone and Russell needed as they were in danger of being kicked off the tour. In the tenth frame, Ciccone bowled while Russell watched, striking on his first shot and needing just a 9 spare to win, 8 spare to tie. Both bowlers are still winless and Ciccone hasn’t been on TV since.
2. Chris Barnes vs. Mike Haugen Jr.
Chris Barnes has grown to become the modern day television choke artist. Barnes has a knack for dominating qualifying and leading tournaments for days up until the televised finals. While he wins often and is a future Hall of Famer, he has also developed a hater fan-base because of his ability to choke away leads. The 2008 Tournament of Champions was the most satisfying event for the Barnes haters, as Barnes jumped out to a 52 pin lead by the 7th frame. As the broadcasters repeat that he only needs to spare his remaining frames, you can feel him get tenser with every shot. This clip picks up in the 9th frame after Barnes leaves a 10 pin, having not missed a spare the entire tournament. What follows is the tenth frame that everybody saw coming. The forlorn expression on Barnes’s face is priceless throughout.
1. Mika Koivuniemi vs. Norm Duke
The U.S. Open is the epitome of bowling tournaments. Bowlers compete for 50 games on the most grueling oil pattern against hundreds of other bowlers. In 2011, Mika Koivuniemi met Norm Duke in the final match after previously disposing of Tom Daughtery 299-100. Needing a mark to win in the tenth frame, Mika threw a perfect flush ball only to leave a ten pin. This ten pin, a bowler’s single worst enemy, separated Mika from $80,000 and the U.S. Open title..
Josh Blanchard’s terrible game punctuated by his fall into the gutter.
The eagle falling off of Pete Weber’s trophy.