EULESS, Texas – East Region top seed Graham Fach of Urbana, Ohio, defeated Patrick Dombrowski of Parma, Ohio, while South Region top seed and Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Famer Tommy Jones of Simpsonville, South Carolina, knocked off fellow PBA Hall of Famer Norm Duke of Clermont, Florida, to earn the first two spots in the PBA Players Championship Finals.
The action took place at Bowlero Euless and was broadcast live on Fox Sports’ FS1 as part of a six-show series that will determine the first major champion of the 2022 PBA Tour season.
The first five shows are regional showdowns, featuring the five remaining players in each region, who have converged on the Dallas-Fort Worth area for a shot at the $100,000 top prize.
Fach and Jones will be joined by the winners of the Midwest, Southwest and West Region Finals, which have yet to be decided.
The Midwest and Southwest Region Finals will air live Sunday at 4 p.m. Eastern and 6 p.m. ET, respectively, also on FS1. The West Region Finals will wrap up the regional broadcasts and will air live Monday at 7 p.m. ET.
Fach, who won the 2016 PBA Players Championship, was making his fourth career television appearance, but first since 2017. The 30-year-old left-hander didn’t miss a beat and now is one step closer to his second career major title and second overall PBA Tour victory.
“The majors are the biggest tournaments we can bowl,” said Fach, who last appeared on television at the 2017 U.S. Open, also a major on the PBA Tour. “They’re so prestigious, and so important in our season because of how the points are weighted, so to be in contention for a major championship, and all that encompasses, is everything.”
Fach opened the final match with six strikes in his first seven frames to put pressure on Dombrowski, who found his first double in the sixth frame. He didn’t strike again until the ninth frame, however, while Fach continued his torrid pace on the way to a 259-192 victory.
Though Fach entered the night needing to win just one match to advance to the 2022 PBA Players Championship Finals, he knew he would have to toss a big game because of Dombrowski’s excellent start.
After sneaking by defending champion and 2021 PBA Player of the Year Kyle Troup, 177-171, Dombrowski averaged 261 en route to defeating 2018 PBA Players Championship winner Bill O’Neill of Langhorne, Pennsylvania (265-201), and Brandon Runk of Milton, Pennsylvania, who bowled in his first national event as a PBA member (257-243).
“I was watching both Pat and Brandon’s ball reactions very closely and trying to figure out which lane they were better on and which lane they struggled on,” said Fach, who originally hails from Ontario, Canada. “But, I couldn’t pick one for either of the bowlers because they bowled an incredible match. That strategy didn’t work, so I just had to play to my strengths.
“I decided to pick the right lane to start, which was the Chameleon pattern. I chose it because I had the better look, even though I didn’t miss on the left lane, but that’s how it goes sometimes.”
In the South Region Finals, the hall-of-fame clash between Jones and Duke lived up to the billing, when Jones opened his final match with five strikes in his first six frames. Duke trailed by 31 pins after an open frame and two splits on the books during that span.
Duke, who put the crowd into a frenzy by converting the 3-4-6-7-9-10 split in the sixth frame, closed with seven consecutive strikes, but Jones never wavered and finished with six strikes of his own for a 268-242 victory.
“I was pretty fortunate to use the same ball on both lanes, which none of the other competitors could do,” said Jones, whose last title came at the 2020 PBA Hall of Fame Classic. “I caught a couple good breaks there, and Norm paid the full penalty for both of his mistakes. But, that’s the way the breaks go, and I’m fortunate to come out on top.”
For Jones, his 268 game was a continuation of the momentum gained during a stellar South Region qualifying performance, which he led by nearly 300 pins. Even so, it’s never an easy task when you shoe up against a fellow hall of famer, especially one with the last name Duke.
“It’s not easy bowling a hall of famer who you know is going to give you everything he’s got,” Jones said. “He made the four-through-the-middle split, which most people would think he’s not going to make, but I knew he was going to make it. It was pretty stressful, actually.”
On the way to the meeting with Jones, Duke defeated DJ Archer of Simpsonville, South Carolina, 248-246. Duke stepped up in the 10th frame needing a nine spare and nine pins on the fill to win. Duke left a 4 pin on his first offering which he spared and then struck on the fill to advance. Archer, the No. 5 seed, advanced to face Duke after defeating No. 3 seed, David Stouffer of Fort Myers, Florida, 226-194, and No. 4 seed Toby Sambueno of Orlando, Florida, 223-203.
The 10 players on Saturday’s shows were the top performers in their respective regions last weekend.
Each regional qualifier included 28 games on two oil patterns – the 39-foot PBA Chameleon and 45-foot PBA Dragon (14 games each) – and total pinfall determined who advanced.
For the televised portion of the event, both lane conditions are being used. The left lane Saturday featured the Dragon pattern, and the right lane was Chameleon.
The PBA Players Championship Finals will air live on FS1 on Saturday, Jan. 29 at 8:30 p.m. Eastern.
East Region Stepladder Finals Results
Bowlero Euless – Euless, Texas
Graham Fach, Urbana, Ohio, advances to PBA Players Championship Finals
Patrick Dombrowski, Parma, Ohio, $15,000
Brandon Runk, Milton, Pa., $13,000
Bill O’Neill, Langhorne, Pa., $11,000
Kyle Troup, Taylorsville, N.C., $10,000
Match 1 – No. 5 Dombrowski def. No. 4 Troup, 177-171
Match 2 – No. 5 Dombrowski def. No. 3 O’Neill, 265-201
Match 3 – No. 5 Dombrowski def. No. 2 Runk, 257-243
Match 4 – No. 1 Fach def. No. 5 Dombrowski, 259-192
South Region Stepladder Finals Results
Bowlero Euless – Euless, Texas
Tommy Jones, Simpsonville, S.C., advances to PBA Players Championship Finals
Norm Duke, Clermont, Fla., $15,000
DJ Archer, Simpsonville, S.C., $13,000
David Stouffer, Fort Myers, Fla., $11,000
Toby Sambueno, Orlando, Fla., $10,000
Match 1 – No. 5 Archer def. No. 4 Sambueno, 223-203
Match 2 – No. 5 Archer def. No. 3 Stouffer, 226-194
Match 3 – No. 2 Duke def. No. 5 Archer, 248-246
Match 4 – No. 1 Jones def. No. 2 Duke, 268-242
Upcoming Players Championship Television Schedule
Bowlero Euless – Euless, Texas
All telecasts on FS1
January 23 at 4 p.m. ET – Midwest Region
January 23 at 6 p.m. ET – Southwest Region
January 24 at 7 p.m. ET – West Region
January 29 at 8:30 p.m. ET – PBA Players Championship Finals