This season is the first that Wayne Garber has bowled more than one tournament on the PBA Tour. This week at the Red, White and Blue Open, Garber is finding that one tournament is all it takes for a breakthrough.
Garber qualified second among the six bowlers who will appear in Sunday's finals. He'll earn a first-round bye, giving him at worst a fourth-place finish. A bowling center manager from Modesto, Calif., Garber called his first TV finals appearance "surreal."
"I'm 42 years old, been bowling all my life," Garber said. "It's crazy stuff. Unbelievable."
Garber hasn't finished better than 35th in his previous eight tournaments. He earned an exemption by finishing 10th in a Regional Players Invitational event last year. In 2007, he fell down stairs after a tournament and tore tendons in both knees. It took three surgeries to fix and he didn't bowl for five months.
The recovery appears complete. Garber led the tournament during Friday's blue pattern match play before Patrick Allen's 300 in the final game gave Allen the No. 1 seed for TV. They join Michael Machuga, Mike Scorggins, Mike Fagan and Walter Ray Williams, Jr. as TV qualifiers.
"I've always done pretty good to start a block (of games)," Garber said. "The first three of the red pattern (qualifying) I shot 800. The first three of the white I shoot 800. The first three of the blue today I shoot 250, 250. I'm better at the beginning than I am at the end, so hopefully I can do that (Sunday)."
Garber's first six events this season produced well below desired results, so he sought out a lesson from a friend, Curtis Woods.
For a professional, asking for advice can be a humbling experience, but Woods helped Garber by lengthening his swing and encouraging him to start his stance from further behind the foul line.
"I try to be a student of the game and I always try to learn," Garber said. "I'm a bowling center manager and I filter a lot of information. I try to be as humble as I can and try to learn and not be above taking advice."
Garber is showing plenty of humility as he reaches his highest level of success on the PBA tour, giving partial credit to the house oil patterns that have raised scores throughout the field.
"I've made sure to strike," Garber said. "Scores are just outrageous this week and I knew I had to strike to keep up or get out of the way."
Machuga wasn't as happy with his Friday night outing, which saw him drop from the lead to third, giving him a match with Williams, owner of 46 career titles, on Sunday.
Machuga hadn't bowled a sub-200 game in the tournament, but bowled three during blue pattern match play Friday night, allowing Garber and Allen to pass him.
"It's great to make the show," Machuga said. "But I had the lead in this tournament for a pretty good portion of it and I choked. I'm pretty upset that I have to bowl an extra game on TV."
The tournament takes today off for the Chris Barnes Challenge, where he'll bowl against Newman University bowler Derek Hartnell in a three-game total pinfall match for $1,600. The Red, White and Blue Open and PBA World Championships finals will happen Sunday afternoon.
The World Championships, the tour's first major of the season, began in August in Michigan and will conclude with semifinals and finals matches featuring Wes Malott, Rhino Page, Bill O'Neill and Thomas Smallwood.
Sixth Round Qualifying
(After 48 games, including match play bonus pins, top six advance to finals).
1, Patrick Allen, Wesley Chapel, Fla., 14-10, 12,308. 2, Wayne Garber, Modesto, Calif., 16-7-1, 12,306. 3, Michael Machuga, Erie, Pa., 14-9-1, 12,279. 4, Mike Scroggins, Amarillo, Texas, 12-11-1, 12,257. 5, Mike Fagan, Patchogue, N.Y., 15-9, 12,253. 6, Walter Ray Williams Jr., Ocala, Fla., 15-9, 12,138. 7, Wes Malott, Pflugerville, Texas, 16-7-1, 12,124, $4,500. 8, Ritchie Allen, Columbia, S.C., 16-8, 12,070, $4,000. 9, Jason Couch, Clermont, Fla., 10-12-2, 12,030, $3,800. 10, Brad Angelo, Lockport, N.Y., 13-9-2, 11,996, $3,600. 11, Parker Bohn III, Jackson, N.J., 15-8-1, 11,972, $3,400. 12, Jeff Carter, Springfield, Ill., 14-9-1, 11,938, $3,200. 13, Cassidy Schaub, Ashland, Ohio, 10-14, 11,917, $3,100. 14, Tommy Jones, Simpsonville, S.C., 12-12, 11,898, $3,000. 15, Jason Sterner, McDonough, Ga., 13-10-1, 11,861, $2,900. 16, Ryan Ciminelli, Cheektowaga, N.Y., 13-11, 11,842, $2,800. 17, Billy Oatman, Chicago, 8-16-0, 11,772, $2,750. 18, Todd Book, Wapakoneta, Ohio, 8-16, 11,643, $2,700. 19, David Ruder, Edmond, Okla., 9-15, 11,458, $2,650. 20, Cory Simmons, Wichita, 8-15-1, 11,436, $2,600. 21, Gilbert Sanchez, Mulvane, 9-15, 11,393, $2,550. 22, Mitch Beasley, Puyallup, Wash., 10-13-1, 11,390, $2,500. 23, Liz Johnson, Cheektowaga, N.Y., 5-19, 11,372, $2,450. 24, Andrew Mortensen, Tulsa, 6-17-1, 11,294, $2,400.