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Published: Wednesday, 3/24/2004

Taber cuts back on tournaments, but not on wins

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Local legend Kevin Taber doesn t bowl as much as he used to, but when he does he sure makes it count.

Taber, a familiar name on the local bowling scene for two decades, bowls less frequently in order to spend more time with his wife and four kids. But he has won both of the tournaments he has bowled in this year.

Most recently, Taber beat out 56 of the area s best bowlers when he won the Greater Toledo Bowling Association Masters Tournament at Ottawa Lanes on Feb. 29.

“It s a nice accomplishment, especially since I m not bowling as much, Taber said. “The kids are getting older and they re involved in sports. But I ve bowled in two tournaments this season and I won both. So I still have that competitiveness.

Taber also won the Varsity Lanes Open in Bowling Green last November.

Taber, a Sylvania Township resident, recently became the youngest bowler ever to go into the GTBA hall of fame. The 39-year-old was inducted into the local hall last fall. He has won eight PBA titles and a total of 40 tournaments.

But lately Taber has spent less time at the bowling centers and more time with his wife, Kathy, and children Ryan, 12, Brett, 17, and twins Bryan and Jordyn, 14.

“I ve just taken a break to spend more time with them, he said. “I ve been bowling very well this season even though I haven t bowled much.

Taber faced a familiar foe in the finals of the Masters Tournament. Taber beat teammate Jeff Kruzel in the championship match of the stepladder finals 234-185. Kruzel, who bowls with Taber on the Loma Linda s/ Ventura s team in the men s traveling classic, won the Master s tournament last year.

“It was bittersweet, I guess, said Taber, who earned $1,000 for the victory.

The total prize fund for perhaps the area s most prestigious tournament was $4,500. Fifty-seven bowlers participated, which was the most in six years.

Kruzel, who won $600 for finishing second, beat Aaron Hawkins in the semifinals of the five-man stepladder finals.

In the first round, Andrew Ruetz beat Steve Kosier, but he then lost to Kruzel.

Taber, who is sponsored by Storm Bowling Products, said he looks forward to the Masters Tournament every year. He said he has won it three or four times with the last coming in 2000.

“It s a big singles tournament, he said. “The lanes were a little tricky and the scores were a little low. I struggled early, but then the shot kind of came to me. I got into a nice rhythm and I took advantage of it.

wToledoan Troy Wollenbecker is currently among the top 20 bowlers in the country after his performance at the ABC Tournament which is being held in Reno this year.

Wollenbecker is 16th in the singles category with a 721 series. He is ranked 26th in the all-events category.

The ABC tournament, which is the nation s largest, began in February and continues through June.

wVeteran Tom Baker won the PBA World Championship last Sunday at Eastern Michigan University s Convocation Center to barely make it onto the tour s all-exemption list for next season.

Baker, a tour member since 1976, started last week ranked 67th on the PBA World Point Rankings. Only the top 50 on the point rankings are granted exemptions for the 2004-2005 all-exempt, 64-man PBA Tour.

Exemptions also have been given to tour title winners and eight more exemptions will be given to the top eight at the inaugural PBA Tour Trials in June.

That means despite being a pro for almost two decades with 10 career titles, Baker would have had to “qualify to bowl on next year s tour. That s like telling Greg Norman that he has to go to “Q school to compete on the PGA tour.

A few notable names are among the victims of the strange rule change, including Sandusky s Jeff Lizzi. Roger Bowker and Randy Pedersen, two longtime pros who have both earned more than $700,000 in their careers, also did not make the list. Jess Stayrook and Ricky Ward have both won multiple titles, but will join regional pros in attempting to qualify to compete on the tour along with pro Rudy Kasimakis.

Even PBA Hall of Fame member Mike Aulby must qualify to compete next year.

To be fair, the sport s top names including Pete Weber, Walter Ray Williams Jr., and Parker Bohn III made the all-exemption list.

Contact Mark Monroe at: mmonroe@theblade.com or 419-724-6110.



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