PORTLAND, Maine – Before our very eyes, Kris Prather is morphing from just a regular PBA Tour player into one of the game’s biggest stars.
After knocking on the door so many times in 2018, Prather finally found his way to the top in 2019. His quick rise continued Sunday as he captured the championship at the inaugural PBA Playoffs at Bayside Bowl.
Prather swept Bill O’Neill, 2-0, in the final match to claim $100,000, the biggest first-place prize in more than eight years on the PBA Tour.
For a special non-title event, the PBA Playoffs delivered even more than the feeling of a major.
It transcended any other PBA event in nearly a decade dating back to Mika Koivuniemi’s $250,000 victory at the 2011 PBA Tournament of Champions, the last time a six-figure prize was awarded on the PBA Tour.
“This is a dream come true,” said Prather, who won his first title earlier this season at the PBA Scorpion Championship. “I’ve always wanted to make bowling a career, and now, I have. I believe I have proven myself.”
In the best-of-three final, Prather looked calm, cool and collected from the start, while the opposite seemed true for O’Neill.
Prather started off leaving a light two pin in the first frame of the first game but then rattled off four consecutive strikes as he looked extremely comfortable in building a 32-pin lead.
But by the time the final frame came around, Prather made what could have been a disastrous error. Needing a strike and six pins to lock up the first game, he yanked the ball high and left the 3-4-6-7-10 split. He converted it and struck but it still gave O’Neill a chance to take the game.
O’Neill needed all three strikes in the final frame to win by one pin. He got the first one but then came up light on the second shot, leaving the 2-8 and looking confused as to why the ball didn’t hook. Prather escaped with a 226-215 victory.
In the second game, O’Neill got off to a shaky start, leaving the 4-9 split in the opening frame and never led as he lost 216-185.
With no pressure applied by O’Neill, Prather was able to coast to the victory by just converting spares from the seventh frame onward.
The victory awarded Prather the biggest first-place prize of the season but it did not award a PBA Tour title. The PBA Players Committee recommended to PBA Commissioner and CEO Tom Clark that the event not count as a title.
Clark told FloBowling that decision will be evaluated for 2020, and the 2019 win could retroactively be counted as a title if that’s what is decided.
During Sunday’s broadcast, Clark also announced that the 2020 PBA Playoffs will be spread out across the country as part of a partnership with Bowlero Corp.
The first round will take place April 6 in Norco, California, while the Round of 16 will be held April 20-21 in Westminster, Colorado. For the Round of 8, the event will shift to Euless, Texas, and it will culminate on May 16-17 in North Brunswick, New Jersey.