Chris Barnes of Denton, Texas, is in a familiar position after earning the No. 1 seed for the finals of the 2021 United States Bowling Senior Masters
LAS VEGAS – Chris Barnes of Denton, Texas, is in a familiar position after earning the No. 1 seed for the finals of the 2021 United States Bowling Senior Masters, but his perspective from the top rung of the stepladder is much different than the last time he was there.
The USBC and Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Famer is nearly a decade older than the last time he successfully navigated the double-elimination format, also used at the USBC Masters, without a loss. His sons are grown and away at college. His sister, Laura Sullivan, won’t get to hear how this one turns out.
Barnes already has won just about everything a bowler can win, but a victory Sunday would make a memorable finish to an emotional year, while also earning him redemption in a format where he has fallen short in the past.
“It has been a tough year with my sister passing from lung cancer, and I missed some tournaments during that time, but when something like that happens, the bowling part doesn’t even matter,” Barnes said. “It put some things in perspective. I do love being out here and competing, and she loved bowling, too. I have her initials on my shoes, so she’ll always be part of it.”
The stepladder finals of the 2021 USBC Senior Masters will be broadcast live on BowlTV on Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern, and the winner will take home a $20,000 top prize.
In the final Winners Bracket match Saturday at Sam’s Town, Barnes defeated two-time Masters champion Doug Kent of Newark, New York, 656-639, to lock up the top spot. Kent, also a USBC and PBA Hall of Famer, will enter the stepladder as the second seed.
The two will be joined on the show by No. 3 Pete Weber of St. Ann, Missouri, No. 4 Tom Hess of Granger, Iowa, and No. 5 Donnie Hogue of Akron, Ohio.
The three earned their way into the finals by battling through the Elimination Bracket and then surviving a four-bowler, three-game shootout Saturday night.
Weber opened the final game with nine consecutive strikes, before a 9 pin ended his run at the second perfect game of the week. He finished with the highest score of the round, a 727 series, to take the third spot.
The USBC and PBA Hall of Famer is looking to become the first three-time winner at the Senior Masters and take home the 2021 PBA50 Player of the Year award. He has two PBA50 wins this season, and his titles at the Senior Masters came in 2013 and 2016.
Hess and Hogue had 667 and 650, respectively. David Leverage of Peoria, Arizona, shot 644 and was eliminated, finishing sixth overall.
In the final frame, Hess delivered three strikes to claim his spot. Hogue struck on his first shot, as well, which forced Leverage to mark for the fifth spot in the stepladder. He left the 3-6-10 combination on his first offering and chopped off the 3 pin to fall short.
Hess advanced to the shootout by surviving a series of four one-ball roll-offs with Dan Knowlton of Dade City, Florida, who missed a 4 pin after a strike in his final frame to force a 679 tie. Hess struck four consecutive times in overtime, while Knowlton left a 2 pin on his last attempt.
Total pinfall for three games determined the winner of each match in the 64-player double-elimination match-play bracket and the final shootout, while the championship round will be single-game matches.
As the top seed in the double-elimination event, Barnes will have to be beaten twice to be denied his first PBA50 major title and the second win of his PBA50 rookie campaign. He won the PBA50 Cup in July for his first senior title. He also owns 19 PBA Tour wins.
The nuance of the format due to the finals being livestreamed, rather than on national TV, is something Barnes did not experience the three times he was the No. 1 seed for the championship round at the Masters.
He fell short in each opportunity, losing to Walter Ray Williams Jr. in 2004 and 2010 and Mike Fagan in 2012.
“I’ve led the regular Masters three times and wasn’t able to finish it off, but this time is a little different with the double-elimination,” Barnes said. “I’m actually pretty fortunate to be here. Dino (Castillo) had a chance to put me away and let me off the hook. Tom Hess and I had a battle after that. Then, I had really good ball reaction in the match before I bowled Doug, who I consider the most versatile guy in my era. I caught some pretty good fortune to come out ahead.”
Barnes qualified eighth for match play this week, averaging 219.27 for 15 games, then averaged more than 232 in his six victories. His 6-0 record included wins over Kent, Hess and Hogue.
The 2021 Senior Masters started with 223 competitors vying for one of the 63 open spots in the bracket with defending champion Amleto Monacelli of Venezuela, and matches took place throughout the day Friday and Saturday.
Monacelli lost his opening match to Tim Mack of Indianapolis (700-670) and then won twice in the Elimination Bracket, before bowing out against Brad Angelo of Lockport, New York, 729-652. Angelo entered the week as the front-runner for PBA50 Rookie of the Year and a contender for the 2021 PBA50 Player of the Year award.
Monacelli finished tied for 25th place in his title defense. Angelo finished tied for 13th.
In addition to the possibility of a major title to end the PBA50 Tour season, Barnes also has a chance at both awards, but those are things he’ll plan to put out of his mind. Hess is in the same position.
“I heard that Brad has all the numbers and scenarios listed out, so I know there’s some other implications, but all I can do is focus on what I can control and the game I have ahead of me,” Barnes said. “There certainly was a time when I got wrapped up in all those kinds of things and didn’t really focus on the task at hand. Those are all side benefits. There are bigger things at stake and more things on my mind, and I certainly wouldn’t be in this position without some great people, especially during such a tough year.”
The Senior Masters and the Super Senior Classic, won Monday by Monacelli, are taking place at the 56-lane Sam’s Town Bowling Center together for the fifth time, a routine that began in 2016.