Dave Wodka admitted it was not the most memorable game of his career, but the savvy veteran reeled off five consecutive strikes down the stretch to make up for a slow start, downing former Professional Bowling Association Player of the Year Tommy Jones 208-200 in the championship match of the PBA Kona West/Northwest Open at KBXtreme on Monday.
“I don’t really know what to say about that title match,” Wodka said. “Sometimes it’s just your day.”
Some of Wodka’s shots got away from him early on in the championship tilt, and he figured things were going so miserable that it could only get better.
“When you start that bad I think it takes the nerves away. You have nothing to lose at that point,” Wodka said. “I kept moving further and further left on the lane. Finally, I got far enough left for the ball to hit the pocket.”
The win is the 18th regional title of Wodka’s career, and second consecutive. The Henderson, Nevada native also won the PBA Earl Anthony West/Northwest Memorial Classic on April 13.
Jarrett Mizo, of Oahu, finished seventh as the top state finisher in the tourney. Defending champion, Hilo’s Tracey Nakashima, finished as the top Big Island finisher in 17th place.
Ian Shigemastsu and Jonathan Shimasaki earned complimentary spots in the tournament by being the top two bowlers with the highest five-game series score during KBXtreme’s qualifiers earlier this month.
Shigematsu finished 25th, while Shimasaki settled for 29th.
“It was fun bowling with the professionals and a real good experience,” Shigematsu said. “I didn’t have the results I wanted, but hopefully I get another shot the next time around.”
Shimasaki, a former Big Island Interscholastic Federation bowler with Waiakea, bowed out early, but was happy to be a part of an event that promotes the sport he has been partaking in since the age of seven.
“The atmosphere got me real pumped, and that is not good when it comes to bowling,” Shimasaki said. “Anything that promotes bowling is good in my book. This kind of stuff never really happens on the Big Island. It’s all on Oahu, and it gets expensive to travel over there to play. This tournament gives us Big Island guys a chance to compete.”
The event celebrated its second-consecutive year in Kailua-Kona after a 20-year hiatus. KBXtreme Marketing Coordinator Summer Carrick believes the event plays a huge part in stimulating new interest in bowling, while also showing the league’s current athletes the pinnacle of the sport.
“We have a good core league going on here. People come from Hilo and all over the island to bowl in the leagues, and all of those bowlers love seeing this event,” Carrick said. “If you want to build competitive bowling, you have to bring in the top dogs and show people what bowling can be. A lot of people who came by this weekend were excited to see some of the bowlers they see on TV bowling here live.”
Gary Mage oversees the entire Northwest and West regions of the PBA, and understands bowling in Hawaii has hurdles many places in the mainland do not have to overcome.
“The only negative about bowling in the Hawaiian Islands is that the weather is always so nice, so the kids are all involved in outdoor sports,” Mage said. “Where we are at in Washington, it rains all the time, so the youth look to the indoor sports, and bowling is a lot of the time what they turn to.”
The tournament featured a lengthy list of notable PBA professionals, among them, Missy Parkin, the first female member of the PBA.
“I absolutely love bowling, it’s what I knew I wanted to do since a young age. So, being able to bowl competitively in Hawaii is great. It’s the best of both worlds. The Big Island has so much to offer,” Parkin said. “I have to say, I love competing again the guys. Fortunately, they do have a lot of respect for me and I never get treated any differently than the other competitors. It has been a lot of fun, and it’s even more fun when I beat them.”
Parkin finished in 11th place Monday.
Wodka, who is also the west coast district sales manager for Ebonite International — a company that manufactures bowling balls and equipment — has a pulse on the game’s growth on a large scale, and sees community driven events as a way to rouse interest.
“Our sport is struggling a bit, so we need all the events like this we can get,” Wodka said. “Anytime we have a center that opens itself up to us to put on an event like this — and treats us as good as they do — it is really good for the growth of sport.”