The first PBA Tour event from the World Series of Bowling, the Cheetah Championship, became a big day for Bill O’Neill as he won his first title since 2010, and did so by winning three consecutive matches.
The Cheetah pattern is typically conducive to some of the highest scores on the PBA Tour, but O’Neill’s opponents didn’t seem to know that. O’Neill bowled three games in the 240s, while his closest opponent, Chris Loschetter in the first round, managed a 223. Nobody else broke 200.
Cheetah Championship Finalists
- Mike Wolfe, United States
- Jeff Roche, United States
- Chris Loschetter, United States
- Bill O’Neill, United States
The four men who made it to the stepladder finals of the Cheetah Championship had something in common: nobody had won in a while. In fact, only two had ever won: O’Neill’s last title came in 2010 and Wolfe’s last title was in 2008. Loschetter had never won, despite a number of television appearances, and this was Roche’s first career TV appearance.
Judging solely by the names, most people would predict O’Neill to win (as he did, obviously), but it’s tough to pick someone who has to win three matches to go all the way. As we saw, though, that’s just what O’Neill did. Although it was close with Loschetter for a while, once O’Neill found his shot, the entire tournament appeared to be his to lose.
Stepladder Match 1: Chris Loschetter vs. Bill O’Neill
Loschetter’s 142-event winless streak wasn’t heavily discussed, but it was mentioned. That’s the third longest streak in PBA history, and based on the way he came out throwing in this match, it looked like he was ready for the streak to end.
The first five strikes against O’Neill put Loschetter in a good position to win the match, however he couldn’t sustain the strikes. He left the 10 pin in each of the sixth, seventh and eighth frames, failing to pick it up in the sixth.
O’Neill, who spared the first frame and then racked up six strikes in a row, took the lead for good after Loschetter’s open frame. Despite a good start, Loschetter’s winless streak now stands at 143 events, as O’Neill moved on to face new-to-TV Jeff Roche.
Final scores: O’Neill 248, Loschetter 223
Stepladder Match 2: Jeff Roche vs. Bill O’Neill
The big story in this match, as it often is with someone making his first television appearance, was whether or not the nerves of TV would get to Roche. While no one aside from Roche could definitively say if that was the case, his score may lead credence to a little bit of nervousness.
Roche started slowly, and O’Neill, aside from a strike in the first, did the same. The match was close as late as the fourth frame, when O’Neill left it open and Roche threw his first strike. Then, O’Neill found his shot. He threw nothing but strikes from the fifth frame out (eight in a row).
While Roche did start to put together some strikes, it wasn’t enough to cover O’Neill’s back eight.
Final scores: O’Neill 246, Roche 177
Stepladder Championship Match: Mike Wolfe vs. Bill O’Neill
This match was O’Neill’s all the way. It was fairly evident to observers even as early as the first match that O’Neill was going to be tough to beat. But while Loschetter started strong and gave O’Neill a run, and Roche also hung with O’Neill for the first part of their match, O’Neill didn’t let Wolfe even imagine he had a chance.
Wolfe struggled to find a strike and didn’t roll his first one until the fifth frame. By then, O’Neill was already riding a front five (which he extended into a front seven) and had a virtually insurmountable lead.
With his third game in the 240s, O’Neill climbed the entire stepladder, defeated everyone and earned his fourth career PBA Tour title.
Final scores: O’Neill 243, Wolfe 192
- Bill O'Neill, $20,000
- Mike Wolfe, $10,000
- Jeff Roche, $7,000
- Chris Loschetter, $5,000