A determined Ryan Ciminelli found a comfort zone and stayed in it to win his first Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour title Sunday.
The 24-year-old from Cheektowaga, the top seed, defeated Patrick Allen of Wesley Chapel, Fla., 237-215, to win the Earl Anthony Memorial Classic and the top prize of $20,000 at Earl Anthony's Dublin Bowl in Dublin, Calif.
"I was not about to take anything for granted," said Ciminelli, who got the pin count he needed in the 10th frame -- a strike -- to close out Allen.
Ciminelli joined PBA Hall of Famer Tom Baker, Jack Jurek and Brad Angelo among winners of PBA Tour events from Western New York. None did it at a younger age than Ciminelli, who will turn 25 on March 17. Baker won his first tour title in 1980 at age 25.
In a duel of left-handers, Ciminelli was bowling against one of his best friends on the tour in the 40-year-old Allen.
"He is a good friend so I wasn't intimidated by him, but honestly I don't think it would have mattered who I bowled against," Ciminelli said. "I was in a zone all week. I was seeing the pattern [the Earl Anthony oil pattern] better than anyone else."
A collegiate All-American at Erie Community College, Ciminelli was bowling for the first time as the top seed in a stepladder final, meaning he had to stand by and await the results of two matches before bowling the championship match. Sometimes the wait can be unsettling, especially to lesser experienced pros.
"I wasn't going to let it get to me," Ciminelli said.
Allen, who owns 13 titles and is originally from Tarrytown, defeated Tommy Jones, 226-223, in the first match of the stepladder. Allen defeated No. 2 seed Pete Weber, 212-206, in the semifinal match to set up the meeting with Ciminelli.
Ciminelli opened with three strikes while Allen had a strike and two spares, for a 20-pin lead. It was still a 20-pin edge before Ciminelli strung together three strikes in frames 6-7-8 while Allen was converting three single-pin spares. Ciminelli converted the 6-pin for a spare in the ninth while Allen nailed the first of three strikes but it was too little, too late.
All Ciminelli needed was nine pins on his spare to wrap it up. He struck and thrust both arms toward the sky and looked toward the heavens.
"I probably only got four or five hours of sleep last night," said Ciminelli, the 2010 Obenauer Masters champion. "Every time I closed my eyes I visualized a lot of scenarios and hoped this would be the outcome so I'm extremely relieved."
Ciminelli was in 10th place after the qualifying rounds, then climbed to sixth as he averaged 225 through the first nine games of match play. By the completion of match play late Friday, he had taken the lead, defeating Allen, 247-196, in his final match.
During Friday's Round of 16 match play, Ciminelli lost consecutive matches by a single pin to Ryan Shafer and Mika Koivuniemi. Ciminelli refused to buckle, however, coming from behind with eight strikes in a row to defeat Ronnie Russell, 268-264, in his next match. Three more wins followed to clinch the top seed.
By winning, Ciminelli nearly doubled his tour earnings this season. He's now at $40,500. He will return home today and get ready for the USBC Masters, which starts Feb. 7 in Reno, Nev. He was fourth in last year's Masters.