Cherrie Summers bowls perfect game, wins March Madness Match Play tourney
The nerves were gone. Go figure. In the finals of the Big O Tires March Madness Match Play Bowling Tournament, when the pressure should have been the highest, Cherrie Summers was immersed in tranquility.
She was nervous earlier in the two-day tournament, even earlier Sunday when she needed a one-ball roll-off to defeat Richie Staats in their quarterfinal. But come the finals at Freeway Bowl, there was no pressure. None.
And the result was impressive, especially in Game 2 of the tourney final against Chris Foster. Strike after strike after strike. Twelve in a row. Perfect game. Soon to be champion.
Summers bowled a 751 series, and with her 42 handicap finished with a 793. Foster, who authored an excellent tournament himself, couldn’t do much more than sit back and watch the brilliance that was Summers. He finished the final with a 568 scratch score, adjusted to 658 with his 90 handicap. Summers’ title came with $750; Foster pocketed $500 for second.
“She was phenomenal,” Foster said. “Shot 751 scratch, 300, perfect game. It doesn’t feel so bad losing when they do that.”
Winning, Summers said, felt great. Bowling a perfect game, she added, “I was ecstatic.”
Two moments of tension were all she felt during the perfect game, as Summers said she was in a groove and felt “nothing, actually. I wasn’t thinking a lot. I was just throwing the same line every time.
“There was only one ball I was worried about, and that was the 11th one.”
Summers, a right-hander, said she pulled the 11th ball, so instead of settling into the normal pocket, it was heavy on the head pin. All 10 pins still fell. Sigh of relief. One more ball.
Ball 12 was back to normal, her 15-pound Storm Lucid was on line, but the result came with a second of doubt and drama as the 7 pin wobbled, looked like it might keep its balance, then dropped with a nudge from another pin. Strike 12.
Summers turned back to the small gathering of people watching, walked to her father, Scott Summers, and gave him a big hug. It was the second perfect game for the 31-year-old, who began bowling regularly at age 16.
Leading by more than 100 points, Game 3 was mere formality for Summers’ championship. Afterward, a friend commented to her that he could see in her face how relaxed she was.
To that, she said, “I was so relaxed it was ridiculous.”
That was the difference in her semifinal and final, where she cruised to wins after barely getting out of the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. Summers’ 42 handicap allowed her to defeat scratch bowler Jeff Satterfield 610-608 in the round of 16.
Satterfield was one of four No. 1 seeds in the 40-person tournament. None of them reached the quarterfinals this year, the third year of the tournament, leading tourney director Jerry Lockwood, to say it really was March Madness.
“It was a year of bracket busters,” said Lockwood, another scratch bowler and No. 1 seed who bowed out in the round of 32 to Kimmy Black, an eighth seed.
Lockwood said no one seeded higher than third had reached the Final Four in the first two years of Big O Tires March Madness Match Play.
This year, Summers, a fifth seed, was the highest seed left in the semifinals, followed by seventh seed Gary Foss, who bowed to Foster in their semifinal, 739-729.
Summers, who reached the Elite Eight a year ago, needed every pin she picked up in her quarterfinal against Staats (48 handicap) as the two tied at 762. Summers threw a strike in the roll-off; Staats knocked down eight pins.
“My first round this morning, I worried a lot,” Summers said of her quarterfinal. “My second round, I settled down a little, actually a lot. And the final one, I didn’t worry at all. I already knew I was going to be first or second.”
Finishing second would have been fine, Summers said. She already had surpassed her goal of reaching the semifinals, where she defeated Black 740-592.
Foster, an eighth seed, blew away his expectations. In the spirit of March Madness, the bowlers filled out brackets, and Foster put himself in the Elite Eight, where he predicted a loss to Cory Bennett. Instead, he triumphed 758-753, aided greatly by his 90-6 handicap advantage.
“That was extremely tough,” Foster said of that win. “He’s definitely a better bowler than me.”
Foster also took out a No. 1 seed, scratch bowler Mark Kellerby, in the round of 32, winning 676-600.
“I just came to bowl and have a good time,” said Foster, who competed in the tourney for the first time. “I really didn’t think I’d get this deep. I didn’t think I’d get to the finals, for sure.”