Mika Koivuniemi shoots 835 at USBC Senior Masters; faces Chris Barnes next


LAS VEGAS – Mika Koivuniemi of Traverse City, Michigan, shot 835 during his second round of match play Friday and is one of 16 remaining undefeated players in the Winners Bracket of the United States Bowling Congress Senior Masters at Sam's Town Bowling Center.

Koivuniemi, a USBC and Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Famer originally from Finland, entered the double-elimination match play bracket as the No. 45 seed and first defeated No. 20 Paul Fleming of Fort Worth, Texas, 688-656, to advance in the Winners Bracket. Match play in the event features three-game total pinfall matches.

In his next match against No. 52 seed Anthony Crews of Sebring, Florida, Koivuniemi put together games of 279, 299 and 257, for an 835-688 win. Next up for Koivuniemi is fellow USBC and PBA Hall of Famer, and former tour roommate, No. 4 seed Chris Barnes of Denton, Texas, on Saturday morning.

“During qualifying, I was having a hard time knocking pins down and struggled a little bit,” said Koivuniemi, who owns 14 PBA Tour titles and one PBA50 Tour title. “But I found a way to make the cut, and we all know the tournament really starts with match play and the head-to-head matches. In the match where I shot 835, I used urethane and I thought I could stay in that ball for a while, but I couldn’t believe I was able to stay in it as long as I did. I just made the right shots with the right ball.”

Koivuniemi, a 57-year-old right-hander, is bowling well at the very event that led him to do some soul-searching last year.

“Last year I bowled horrible in match play at this event,” said Koivuniemi. “I gave away two matches. After that, I was really disappointed and didn’t bowl for like six months. I almost quit because I was so disappointed with how I bowled. I started to bowl again in early January, and here we are now.”

With Barnes, his friend and former tour roommate, up next, Koivuniemi knows that staying in the Winners Bracket won’t be easy.

“It’s always great to bowl against great bowlers,” Koivuniemi said. “But it’s also tough. You know you’re going to have to earn it. I retired from full-time bowling in 2015 and he’s been bowling for a living that entire time, so he might have a little bit of an edge there. It’s going to be an interesting match.”

Barnes, who owns 19 PBA Tour and five PBA50 Tour titles, had his own take on the match.

“He just shot 835, so I’ll be happy to stay within 100 pins of him,” Barnes quipped. “In this tournament, at this stage, you’re going to see guys that are really good. I’d prefer to see Mika about three rounds later, or preferably the stepladder, if I could choose. I did tell him that if he’s going to shoot 835 at me, let me know now and I can just sleep in.”

When the two faced each other on TV during their days on the PBA Tour, they had a “pants wager” where the loser would have to wear pants of the winner’s choosing the next time he bowled on TV. Koivuniemi quickly put to rest any ideas of such a wager for Saturday’s match.

“No bets, that was only for TV,” Koivuniemi said.

Although the Koivuniemi vs. Barnes match will be a highlight on Saturday, there were some high profile matches that took place in the Winners Bracket on Friday.

No. 1 seed and defending champion John Janawicz of Winter Haven, Florida, knocked USBC and PBA Hall of Famer Parker Bohn III of Jackson, New Jersey, into the Elimination Bracket with a 729-707 victory. Bohn entered match play as the No. 33 seed.

“That was a big win,” Janawicz said. “Obviously, you want to stay in the Winners Bracket, and you know Parker is never going to give you an inch. So, to be able to hang in there and come out on top, that was huge.”

Another battle of PBA champions saw No. 31 seed Andres Gomez of Davie, Florida, bump fellow Floridian and No. 2 seed Jason Couch into the Elimination Bracket with a 687-683 victory. Couch of Clermont, Florida, needed a strike on his first shot in the 10th frame of the final game to win the match, but only got nine. Gomez triumphed despite battling a sore Achilles on his right foot.

“I feel like I injured it while I was working out at the gym,” Gomez said. “I first noticed it when I was bowling the senior event at The Villlages (first week of May). I did some physical therapy and rested it, then tried to bowl in Fort Myers (second week of May), but it hurt too much, and I had to withdraw. I took about 12 days off and I wasn’t going to come here, but then it started to feel better, so I made the decision to bowl. It’s been pretty good this week, but when I have to push hard to get some speed or momentum, that’s when I feel it. At this point, I’m just going to keep going.”

Another notable match in the Winners Bracket on Friday was a clash between two former Senior Masters champions. No. 26 seed Tom Hess, the 2021 champion, took on 2018 champion and No. 7 seed Chris Warren. Hess of Granger, Iowa, defeated Warren of Plano, Texas, 712-646.

Bohn, Couch and Warren are still alive in the Elimination Bracket, with Couch and Warren set to face each other in the next round.

Another player still competing in the Elimination Bracket is PBA Tour titlist Andy Neuer of Milton, Pennsylvania. The left-hander had the other 800 series in match play on Friday as the No. 18 seed rolled games of 236, 300 and 279, for an 815 series that put No. 50 seed George Aboud of San Jose, California, out of the event.

Notable matches in the Elimination Bracket on Saturday morning include PBA and PBA50 Tour champion Jack Jurek of Lackawanna, New York, vs. PBA50 Tour champion Brian LeClair of Delmar, New York, and PBA Tour champion Ryan Shafer of Horseheads, New York, squaring off against former Major League Baseball All-Star pitcher and PBA50 Tour champion John Burkett of Fort Worth, Texas.

Notable names eliminated on Friday included PBA Tour champions Brad Angelo of Lockport, New York, Bryan Goebel of Shawnee, Kansas, and Robert Smith of Oxnard, California.

Bracket matches continue Saturday until the field is cut to the top five for the stepladder finals Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern. All competition in the USBC Senior Masters is live on BowlTV.

Since the stepladder will be broadcast on BowlTV, the top seed will have to be defeated twice in the true double-elimination format. The winner of the 2024 USBC Senior Masters will take home a major championship on the PBA50 schedule and the first-place prize of $20,000.

For scores and information about the 2024 USBC Senior Masters, visit BOWL.com/SeniorMasters.