SUZHOU, China– Sean Rash, a 14-time Professional Bowlers Association Tour title winner, added another unique accomplishment to his portfolio when he swept fellow American PBA member AJ Johnson in a best-of-three-game title match to win the historic PBA China Tiger Cup at Suzhou Tiger Bowl, the first PBA event ever held in China.
(2019 PBA China Tiger Cup winner Sean Rash with, from left, Tiger Bowl General Manager Lian Jun, China Bowling Association Vice Chairman Guo Jiansheng, PBA Deputy Commissioner and tournament director Kirk von Krueger, and Longmarch Bowling president Frank Zhao)
Rash, from Montgomery, Illinois, defeated Johnson, from nearby Oswego, 211-194 and 227-207 for the title. Rash’s conversion of the 2-4-8-10 split in the ninth frame of the first game was the pivotal shot.
The two Illinois bowlers were part of a seven-player PBA delegation that bowled in a single-elimination match play event that also included nine PBA members from China and Chinese Hong Kong. Rash collected $20,000 for his win; Johnson received $10,000 as runner-up.
The finals were livestreamed Tuesday on FloBowling.com by the PBA’s online streaming partner (the finals also are archived on FloBowling).
The tournament was an out-growth of a movement that began early in the current decade when China expressed interest in developing bowlers as PBA-level competitors. The PBA invited a contingent of Chinese bowlers who had established bowling averages of 200 and higher to participate in the 2014 PBA World Series of Bowling in Las Vegas. That experience, along with continuing conversations between PBA Commissioner Tom Clark and China’s Frank Zhao, founder and president of Longmarch Bowling, eventually led to the inaugural China Tiger Cup tournament.
The American PBA players were invited based upon competition points earned during the 2019 FloBowling PBA Summer Tour. Joining Rash and Johnson were Kyle Sherman of O’Fallon, Missouri; Tommy Jones of Simpsonville, South Carolina; Bill O’Neill of Langhorne, Pennsylvania; Jason Sterner of Rochester, New York, and Kyle Troup of Taylorsville, North Carolina.
The American players were seeded into a 16-player match play elimination round against nine Chinese representatives who earned their berths in a preliminary qualifying event involving nearly 100 players from China, Chinese Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei, Malaysia and Korea.
The Chinese players demonstrated how far they have advanced in less than 10 years, winning five of the eight first-round matches and eliminating American stars Troup, Jones and Sterner in the process. Rash advanced to the title match by eliminating a pair of Chinese representatives in 2-0 sweeps while Johnson ousted fellow U.S. players O’Neill and Sherman, also winning both matches without losing a game.
The PBA China Tiger Cup was the final event of the 2019 Go Bowling! PBA Tour season. The PBA Tour will be idle until it kicks off its 2020 schedule with the PBA Hall of Fame Classic in Arlington, Texas, in January.
PBA CHINA TIGER CUP
Suzhou Bowling Center, Suzhou, China
Championship (best of three games)
Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill. ($20,000), def. AJ Johnson, Oswego, Ill. ($10,000), 2-0 (211-194, 227-207).
Semifinal Round (best of three games)
Rash def. Cheuk Yin Mak, Chinese Hong Kong ($8,000), 2-1 (210-174, 225-268, 258-191).
Johnson def. Jun Su, China ($6,000), 2-0 (227-181, 203-171).
Match Play Round Two (best of three games)
Mak def. WenBin Chen, China ($5,000), 2-1 (242-191, 187-213, 237-221).
Su def. HongBo Wang, China ($4,200), 2-0 (207-192, 234-194).
Johnson def. Kyle Sherman, O’Fallon, Mo. ($4,500), 2-0 (256-222, 256-211).
Rash def. Min Zhang, China ($2,650), 2-0 (256-234, 246-202).
Match Play Round One (best of three games)
Mak def. Kyle Troup, Taylorsville, N.C. ($3,850), 2-0 (256-244, 236-206).
Su def. Tommy Jones, Simpsonville, S.C. ($3,500), 2-0 (213-213, 217-212).
Johnson def. Bill O’Neill, Langhorne, Pa. ($3,300), 2-0 (279-174, 200-146).
Rash def. LiangXin Wang, China ($2,650), 2-0 (237-202, 220-168).
Zhang def. ShiZhen Wang, China ($3,850), 2-1 (202-215, 223-185, 206-193).
Sherman def. ZhongLi Mi, China ($2,900), 2-0 (226-201, 221-219).
HongBo Wang def. Jason Sterner, Rochester, N.Y. ($3,100), 2-0 (190-177, 196-183).
Chen def. Chun Hin Tse, Chinese Hong Kong ($2,500), 2-0 (194-168, 225-184).