Yanel is Perfect - Twice - En Route to 'Champs' Title

The name of the game is "Beat The Champions," and Ryan Yanel took it literally.

Yanel's winning four-game series of 1143 - 289-300-300-254, with no handicap - in the men's finals of the 53rd Annual Chicago Sun-Times/BPA Beat The Champions contest March 9 not only set a "Champs" record, it even toppled the best effort of any pro on the target score show that kicks off the tournament each year.

The 28-year-old's two perfect games and 889 series for the first three games made mincemeat of the record 299 single and 815 series Robert Lawrence rolled on TV in 1992.

Yanel (highlighted in the Feb. 16, 2014 Chicago Sun-Times, right) also obliterated the three-game house record at host center River Rand Bowl in Des Plaines, 814.

And to think he did it all on an empty stomach.

"I only had a diet Cherry Coke for breakfast this morning," said Yanel, a former PBA card holder who owns the "Get A Grip Pro Shop" atRaymond's Bowl in Johnsburg. "I just came in with a clear mind, had the right ball in my hand - a Hammer Black Widow Assassin - and went through the motions.

"I saw during practice that a lot of people were playing in, and I didn't like what I was seeing," Yanel said. "I saw a lot of 2-10s and 2-8-10s, so I moved right. I started moving in as things went on, though; every six shots or so, I moved my feet two boards and my target one board."

The 250-average bowler opened the finals with a 289 game on lanes 3 and 4, stringing 10 strikes before leaving a 2-pin on his first ball in the 10th. He converted the spare, then closed with a strike - the first of what would be 25 in a row for the two 300 games. (The final strike in his first 300 game is shown left).

"It's pretty cool having back-to-back 300s," said Yanel, who now has 47 perfectos to his credit. "I've never done that before, even though I've had two 300s in a [three-game] set. Even in my high series before today - 864 - I had only one 300."

Yanel had just one open frame all day. That came in the 10th frame of game 4, when he left the 4-10 split and failed to convert it.

By that time, the 2014 Ford Focus that goes to the champion had his name on the owner's title, and the rest of the field was fighting it out for second place. (Click here for the complete game-by-game results and price payout.)

D'Andrey Fields (shown left), who averages 163 at Dolton Bowl, outlasted Classic Bowl's Graham Welch for runner-up honors, 990-986. Fields settled for a 40-inch Samsung LED flat panel HDTV for his prize.

"I really wanted that car; I need a new car," Fields mourned. All four of his games were consistently above average - 192-204-215-210 - but no match for the Yanel buzzsaw, even when 169 pins of handicap were added.

"I split a couple times but picked up most of them," Fields said. "I tried to move up on the approach and throw the ball down and into the pocket. A lucky strike that drove through the head pin gave me the edge [over Welch] - thank God for handicap!"

Welch thought he had dropped from the Top 5 altogether after closing with a 182 game.

"I really thought I was out of it," said Welch, who averages 198 at Classic Bowl. His earlier games of 205-267-289, plus 43 pins of handicap, proved enough to secure third place and a 32" Proscan HDTV-DVD combo.

Tim Allen, representing Diversey River Bowl, seemed a little in awe to finish fourth.

"There were so many good bowlers here today," he said. Allen, a 150-average bowler, had games of 187-193-215-165. to which he added 216 handicap pins for a 976 series.

Charles Cleghorn (shown left), a 209-average bowler from Willowbrook Lanes, finished fifth. His 965 series contained games of 267-205-267-223, and he received three pins of handicap. Cleghorn and Allen were also rewarded with televisions for their efforts.

"Ryan's Express" overshadowed Michael Watkins' own perfect game, which on any other day would have made him a cause celebre. The scratch bowler from Burr Oak Bowl put the finishing touches on his own 300 a few minutes after Yanel's in the third game. Watkins (shown left in photo on right) placed 23rd with an 844 series (216-173-300-155-0 hdcp).

Yanel, who said he entered "Champs" as a lark - "Just $3 to maybe win a car sounded pretty good" - received the keys from Steve Ursin of Arlington Heights Ford, representing the Chicagoland Ford Dealers (shown right in photo below), and Rebecca Meyer, Sr. Manager of Audience Sales and Retention for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Nearly 23,000 bowlers - 22,592 - entered "Champs" this year. That raised the total participation since the tournament begain in 1961 to 5,703,726. Through 2013, $2,776,374.70 had been raised for Chicago-area charities (a complete total through 2014 will be available after tournament auditing is completed).

(Top five for the 2014 Sun-Times/BPA Beat The Champions men's finals in opening photo, l-r: Ryan Yanel, Raymond's Bowl; D'Andrey Fields, Dolton Bowl; Graham Welch, Classic Bowl; Tim Allen,Diversey River Bowl; Charles Cleghorn,Willowbrook Lanes.)

- Lydia Rypcinski, ISBPA News