By Chris Hester
Theodore Roosevelt once said that “nothing worth having comes easy.”
Mike Wolfe can attest to that after his path to the 2016 PBA WSOB Cheetah Championship.
After qualifying in 12th place, Wolfe breezed through the first two rounds of match play, sweeping both opponents, before finding himself in quite a predicament in the late stages of his round of eight match against Chris Barnes.
After winning the first two games in their best of five match, Wolfe needed just one more win to earn his place on the WSOB PBA Cheetah Championship telecast.
Games three and four, however, were anything but easy and in the midst of the back to back losses Mike also lost his ball reaction.
“I threw some pretty good shots that third game but just tapped a few times. Barnes made a great ball change and found a nice path to the pocket,” Wolfe said.
“Game four I started out with five good shots but only one strike. I continued to try and get the Track Paradox to work but it started to hook a bit early when I moved left but was too strong when I tried to stay right,” Mike told us. “After a discussion with PBA Tour rep Rob Gotchall we decided I would change to my Hammer Scandal which allowed me to move a little left and get around it more.”
That switch, along with some quality shot-making, propelled Mike to a 227-205 victory and secured a slot on his first telecast since the 2012-13 PBA season.
Things, however, did not get any easier in the opening match of that telecast.
Needing to fill 28 pins to shut out fellow competitor Anthony Simonsen and secure his spot in the title match, Mike stepped up and threw back to back fantastic shots, both resulting in strikes.
On the fill shot, Mike needed 8 pins to advance or 7 pins to force Simonsen to strike out in the 10th frame for a tie. He decided to play it safe and throw his last ball down the middle of the lane.
“The only thoughts going on in my head during that last shot were don’t fall down, don’ t throw it in the gutter and try to hit the one in the middle,” Wolfe told us.
On the PBA Cheetah pattern, players tend to play very close to the gutter, so the threat of getting zero was a valid concern. Unfortunately for Mike, the approaches on the pair they used for the telecast were a little slick and he slipped throwing his last shot and counted 7, giving Simonsen a chance to tie.
Anthony’s first shot was picture perfect, resulting in a strike, but the second was a little off and that miss was enough to send Wolfe on to the final round.
In the championship match Mike got off to as hot of a start as one could ask for, tossing the first six strikes while his opponent struggled with three splits in the first six frames.
“The lanes played a lot tighter than what we had seen during qualifying and match play this week,” Mike told us. “Mr. Gotchall and I decided that the Paradox was too strong and hooked too early so we decided to use the Scandal again on the telecast.”
Again, this decision turned out to be the correct one as Wolfe went on to bowl 279 and win his 5th PBA title, his first since the 2008 season.
“I’m obviously excited, but not just for me,” Mr. Wolfe explained. “Rob worked really hard this week with all of our staff players and it is nice to be able to share it with him. There is a lot of hard work, outside of the actual throwing of a shot that goes into every match. From anticipating what will happen with the pattern, to knowing which ball to go to when something goes wrong, Rob has been very instrumental in preparing us for the unknown. Before the title match he helped me keep it simple by just telling me to throw 10 good shots and we would see how it goes.”