Future Hall of Famer runs stepladder, defeats No. 1 seed EJ Tackett to win PBA Go Bowling! Cheetah Championship
Centreville, Va. – Finally. Sean Rash is a PBA World Series of Bowling champion.
Rash of Montgomery, Ill., defeated fellow future Hall-of-Famer EJ Tackett of Bluffton, Ind., 229-215, to win the Go Bowling! PBA Cheetah Championship at Bowlero Centreville, one of four title events at the Storm WSOB XI. The finals aired Sunday on FS1.
It was Rash’s 16th Go Bowling PBA Tour title overall, moving him into a tie for 24th all-time, but the 38-year-old’s first WSOB title after many close calls in World Series competition.
“This one felt good,” said Rash, originally from Anchorage, Alaska. “Getting to check off that (WSOB) box on my career, to beat the best of the best in the world. That is one I have wanted for a long time.”
Rash, the 2011-12 PBA Player of the Year, has been one of the World Series’ most prominent star players throughout the 11-year history of the PBA’s annual international showcase. He previously qualified for 15 WSOB TV finals without a win, finishing runner-up four times in different events.
“The depth of the field at the World Series, with the best from so many countries taking part, is why winning means so much,” said Rash, who advanced to six finals telecasts at WSOB III.
The triumph in the Cheetah Championship was Rash’s second title of the PBA Tour 2020 season, following his PBA Oklahoma Open win in January. The 2,500 competition points he earned with the Cheetah victory also solidified the important 8th place position in the 2020 PBA Playoffs, which assures Rash a first-round bye in the upcoming season culminating event for the top 24 in 2020 points.
Rash also won the non-title PBA Summer Clash event in June and reigned for a time as PBA King of the Lanes in July.
His elusive first WSOB title did not come easy. He went the extreme long way in capturing the trophy during these unprecedented times in sports.
First, the event’s qualifying round began when originally scheduled in March, across the country at South Point Bowling Plaza in Las Vegas. Rash barely made the cut there on the Cheetah 33-foot oil pattern, finishing in a tie for the 16th and final spot with Ryan Ciminelli. Rash advanced to match play in in a one-game roll-off.
Then the WSOB was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic that halted sports around the world.
The PBA picked up World Series animal pattern elimination best-of-5 match play this week in Virginia, and again Rash pushed things to the limit. He needed all five games to edge Matt McNiel in the round of 16. Next, to earn his spot in the TV finals, Rash defeated Kyle Troup in the round of 8 again in the fifth and deciding game.
“This is the longest event we have ever had,” Rash said of the seven-month gap between the qualifying and match play. “I was just trying to survive round-by-round. I was supposed to be wiped out by now but found a way to stay alive.”
On the Cheetah finals telecast, Rash joined a final four that included Tackett, who has 13 PBA titles in his young career, and two players looking for their first win, Darren Tang of San Francisco, and Packy Hanrahan of Greenwich, Conn.
The four faced off in a seeding round match to decide the stepladder, with Tackett emerging No.1 after a 247, Hanrahan earning the second seed with 225, Rash third with 207 and Tang, 202. Which again meant Rash would have to do it the hard way, by running the stepladder to win.
In the opening match, Rash disposed of Tang, 268-189. In the semifinals, Rash survived a gutter ball in the third frame to advance past fellow Wichita State alum Hanrahan, 218-191.
“I was living on the edge,” Rash said of his extreme outside line to the pocket. “I had to trust it, but that one went in (the channel). Fortunately, I made the spare.”
In the title match with Tackett, Rash fell behind early before a four-bagger that included a ball change in the sixth frame gave him the lead. Meanwhile, Tackett thrilled the TV audience with two big impressive spare conversions, first on a washout 1-2-4-10 in the fourth frame and then the 2-4-10 in the 8th.
“You expect him to make those spares,” Rash said.
Rash said he used a full arsenal of six different bowling balls through the finals, battling the differences in lanes and the transition. “First time I’ve ever done that,” he said.
Finally, after Tackett left an 8-pin in the 10th frame, Rash struck on his first ball in the 10th to clinch the victory. And so, in his 57th WSOB event in 11 years, Rash had another trophy and accomplishment to add to his storied career.
“This is the first time I have won a tournament stateside without a family member present,” Rash said. “It’s tough. I was emotional and it was hard to not be able to look in the stands and see Sara, or my mom and dad or my kids and share that moment with them.”
Rash will now make a quick trip home to Illinois to celebrate with Sara and his three daughters before returning to Virginia for the Playoffs.
The Storm WSOB XI rolls on with the finals of the Chameleon Championship and Scorpion Championship Sunday and Monday on FS1.
PBA Go Bowling! CHEETAH CHAMPIONSHIP
Storm WSOB XI
1, Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., $25,000
2, EJ Tackett, Bluffton, Ind., $13,000
3, Packy Hanrahan, Greenwich, Conn., $7,000
4, Darren Tang, San Francisco, $6,000
Seeding Round – Tackett, 247; Hanrahan, 225; Rash, 207; Tang, 205
Match 1 – Rash def. Tang, 268-189
Semifinal – Rash def. Hanrahan, 218-191
Championship – Rash def. Tackett, 229-215
About the PBA
The Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) is the world’s preeminent organization dedicated to the sport of bowling and its professional competition, with thousands of members and millions of fans throughout the world. The PBA plays host to bowling’s biggest tournaments from the Go Bowling! PBA Tour, PBA Regional Tour, and PBA50 Tour. In 2019, the PBA was acquired by Bowlero Corporation, the world’s largest owner and operator of bowling entertainment centers with more than 300 locations throughout North America. For more information, please visit PBA.com.