Bill O’Neill and Brian Valenta staged a spellbinding duel that wasn’t settled until the final frame.
The 32-year-old O’Neill entered the match with four PBA Tour titles. The 29-year-old Valenta had none.
It was difficult not to root for Valenta, the decided underdog who looked the part with a heavyset appearance and an unconventional and somewhat ragged delivery.
This was Valenta’s first PBA Tour television appearance and he had personality, sparkle and freshness.
Valenta, a two-handed bowler, lofted each of his strike balls at least 10 feet down the lane. He went with a straightforward, straight-line approach to his spare ball.
Valenta (shown in photo) was enthusiastic throughout the match, gesturing freely when the pin action was especially kind to him – which seemed most of the time.
Valenta’s style was in marked contrast to the smooth delivery of O’Neill, whose hooks were slight but laser-guided to the pocket.
And yet, the right-handed Valenta played O’Neill virtually even the entire way. Valenta “willed” two straight strikes and a nine count in the top of the 10th frame to force O’Neill to roll a double in the 10th to win the match.
Undaunted, O’Neill calmly collected his two straight strikes en route to claiming the $10,000 prize (winning 243-235).
But Valenta’s first foray into television was a huge hit and he’s likely going to win his share of PBA titles before he’s through.
Said Valenta afterwards to PBA reporter Bill Vint: “My ‘A’ game is lofting, and I did pretty well today . . . I had a great time. I got a little intense, but I didn’t go crazy.”
Valenta’s effort offered a lesson to league bowlers.
And it’s this:
It’s not always necessary to use textbook form and a sharp-breaking hook to produce great results.
Just be comfortable in your approach – whatever that may be – and bowl well.
Then go home and be happy.