If Jason Belmonte or Mike Fagan had won the PBA Tournament of Champions on Sunday, the 2011-12 PBA Player of the Year voting would have been a foregone conclusion.
It almost certainly wouldn't have been a unanimous vote, but the statistical advantage would have tilted dramatically to the winner.
Ryan Ciminelli beating both Belmonte and Fagan to advance to the title match complicated things, but if the powerful young lefty had beaten TOC top seed Sean Rash for the title, it would been an either/or vote — at least for me.
I would have been choosing between Fagan's amazing performance in the majors — only Pete Weber's historic U.S. Open performance kept Fagan from winning both the Open and the Masters, along with making the TOC TV finals — and title at the Brunswick Euro Challenge, and Belmonte's Tour-leading three titles and consistently strong performance throughout the season, including thirds in both the TOC and U.S. Open.
Truthfully, I might have tossed a coin.
Unfortunately, I don't know of any three-sided coins . . . and that's what I feel like I need thanks to Rash's TOC win.
I caught some of Sunday's TOC TV finals live while competing in a tournament and then watched the show by DVR Sunday evening.
I didn't write Sunday night because I felt like I needed to think and review some of what I knew would be numerous social media and message board posts. But even all that and 24 hours later, I still can't really say how I will vote when I get my Player of the Year ballot.
Fagan had a tough day Sunday, as he said later, allowing Ciminelli to survive their match. Belmonte bowled well, considering the reaction he appeared to have on the right lane, but Ciminelli's game against him was stellar.
Rash, though, was simply superb, conquering a lot of the demons that have plagued him in the 4-plus years and 14 fruitless TV finals since his last title, the 2007 USBC Masters in Milwaukee.
He started strong, kept his emotions in check, and never seemed to rush or get out of the moment.
He truly faltered just once — leaving a 3-6-9-10 in the ninth frame. I can't wait to chat with him about the straight ball at the spare — who shoots the 3-6-9-10 with a straight ball?! — as it brought back memories of that horrific whiff on TV a couple of years ago.
But his strike in the 10th to lock up the win was as pretty a shot as you will see in those circumstances: it was clean off his hand and posted as solidly as a shot can be posted.
Belmonte has become a dominant player by honing his game to where he posts almost every shot that solidly. If Rash gets to that point, watch out, because those TV disasters will suddenly become a whole lot of titles.
"The biggest thing is learning from your failures," Rash said in this PBA news release on the TOC. "I learned that a long time ago, and I’ve worked hard to overcome my mistakes. The great thing about winning a title like this is we’re all family out here. Every other player wants the other guy to succeed. It really feels good."
Here is a slide show of TOC pictures by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
But back to the topic at hand: what of 2011-12?
Rash won the TOC, led in earnings, points and average, and had three seconds and three thirds in a dominating World Series of Bowling performance that would have been unimaginable in advance: It's one thing to make a bunch of TV shows over several weeks; it's another thing to make them day after day after day.
It's interesting to consider how Rash's World Series TV finals might have gone had he won the first one and been able to build positive momentum instead of negative as they were filmed one after another in two days. He definitely looked less than fresh in the later ones.
I will post this blog to my Facebook page and will be interested to hear your opinions: Who would you vote for (or will you vote for, if you're a PBA member) for Player of the Year?
Rash and Ciminelli both bowl for Brunswick so the TOC belonged to "B," but 2011-12 was dominated by Storm and Roto Grip, with staffers and free agents using Storm and Roto Grip balls winning 13 titles in 17 events, with five seconds.
The PBA Summer Shootout again will be filmed over Memorial Day weekend in Chicago, with the first telecast on ESPN set for July 7.
PBA TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS
Red Rock Lanes, Las Vegas, Sunday
1, Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., one game, 239 pins, $80,000.
2, Ryan Ciminelli, Cheektowaga, N.Y., three games, 652 pins, $40,000.
3, Jason Belmonte, Australia, one game, 223 pins, $20,000.
4, Mike Fagan, Dallas, one game, 182 pins, $12,000.
Match One: Ciminelli def. Fagan, 190-182.
Semifinal Match: Ciminelli def. Belmonte, 257-223.
Championship: Rash def. Ciminelli, 239-205.