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Ryan Ciminelli loses bowling title to first Canadian winner

Ryan Ciminelli found himself on the wrong side of history Sunday in the finals of the Barbasol PBA Players Championship at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl in Columbus, Ohio.

The 29-year-old left-hander from Cheektowaga shot a 244 in the championship match, but it’s hard to beat a 279 and that’s just what Graham Fach shot to win it.

Fach, a 24-year-old left-hander from Guelph, Ont., became the first Canadian to win a PBA Tour event and he did it in near-perfect style. The only pin Fach left standing was a 10-pin in the seventh frame. He started the championship game with the front six strikes and finished it with five more.

Ciminelli left only three 7-pins in his game until his last ball. By then, though, Fach had closed out the match by striking out in the 10th. Ciminelli and Fach matched strikes until Ciminelli left a corner pin in the fourth frame. Bowling again on the right lane, he left another 7-pin in the sixth and it happened again in the seventh. After that he struck out until his meaningless final ball but Fach wouldn’t crack.

It was only the second PBA Tour event and first TV finals for Fach, who claimed the $40,000 first prize. Ciminelli won $20,000. Fach bowled at Urbana University in Ohio, and many of his friends and former teammates from that college were there to root him on.

Until Sunday, the closest a Canadian had come to winning a Tour title was Dan MacLelland’s runner-up finish in the 2010 GEICO Shark Championship. MacClelland, who bowled in college at Saginaw Valley State (Mich.), did win the International Mini Eliminator in Las Vegas in 2012 but that was not a PBA event.

“It’s a great feeling to win against players of this caliber,” Fach (pronounced “faw”) said. “They want to win, but obviously I want to win, too. I wasn’t sure I would be able to compete out here, but the only way to find out is come out and try. Now at least the PBA staff knows who I am.”

Fach almost didn’t make it to the final. He advanced with a narrow 247-244 win over Sam Cooley of Australia in the semifinal match. Cooley left three pins on his last ball, otherwise there would have been a rolloff to decide the game.

Cooley defeated Jesper Svensson of Sweden, 246-206, after Svensson had topped Norm Duke of Clermont, Fla., 274-258.

“One of these days someone is going to shoot 210 against me on TV and give me a chance,” Ciminelli said. “It’s frustrating but there’s not much more I could do about it.”

It was a bit of exaggeration but Ciminelli has had some big numbers against him in television matches. In 2010 he lost finals to Duke (258-205), and Rhino Page (268-246). He was eliminated in this year’s Tournament of Champions by a 300-game thrown by Sean Rash. Ciminelli shot 214.

On the other hand, Ciminelli himself has bowled 237, 258, 269, 236 and 237 in winning his titles.

Ciminelli gained the No. 1 seed for the tournament by shooting a 300 game to defeat Fach in their No. 1 vs. No. 2 position-round match on Friday.