Can Ringener get out of the gutter? Texan takes shot at Fair Lanes Open

March 09, 1993|By Dave Glassman | Dave Glassman,Contributing Writer

Two years ago, needing seven pins on his last ball to win the Fair Lanes Open, Del Ballard Jr. rolled the gutter ball seen by tens of millions on every sports highlight segment in the country. Two weeks later, he came back to win a PBA Tour tournament on Long Island.

Two weeks ago, another Texan, Phil Ringener, a nine-year full-time tour veteran from Big Spring, was making his 13th television appearance in the PBA National Championship in Toledo, Ohio. To reach the title match, and a chance at the $55,000 first prize, he entered the 10th frame needing a mark to win.

On his first ball, "I felt comfortable," he said. But as he swung through, the ball grazed the inside of his left ankle, not enough to hurt the ankle, but enough to hurt his wallet. "It went right in the gutter."

With a spare and a strike, Ringener still could have tied the game, but he didn't take the time to regain his composure. "I put my second ball right through the middle for seven," he said. "That's a $13,000 frame." That was the difference between his $15,000 third-place finish and second place.

Ringener and his wife, Jill, who works in the PBA Tour press room, drove out of town toward Nashville, Tenn., where they had plane reservations to take them home to Texas for a week off from the tour. "My, it's hard to go home when you're bowling good," he said to Jill. "Let's just go back and bowl." Ten miles outside of Toledo they turned around and drove to Erie, Pa., arriving after midnight.

"I didn't bowl so hot," he said. He didn't earn a paycheck. End of hot streak. Such are the tribulations of the PBA Tour, but every week, a different city offers another tournament and fresh opportunities. And

Ringener, who has never won a tour event, has bowled well here in the past, finishing fifth in 1989.

If, like Ballard, Ringener can rebound two weeks after a nationally televised flub to win this week's $135,000 Fair Lanes Open at Fair Lanes Woodlawn in Baltimore County, he would gain a shot at "King of the Hill" Walter Ray Williams, the 1986 winner here.

King of the Hill is a new feature of the tour this year. It's a one-game challenge match between the week's tournament winner and the current King of the Hill. The winner gets $5,000 and a chance to defend his title the next week. ABC, which has televised the PBA tour for 32 years, suggested the concept.

"The fans have loved it," said Ringener. "It's an extra way to make money. I bowl the junior pro-ams and the kids are asking if you've ever bowled the King of the Hill."

The concept made an instant star of Ron Williams, who isn't entered this week at the Woodlawn tournament. Williams won the first tournament of the year to set himself up as King, then won the challenge four straight weeks before losing to Bob Learn, Jr., the defending Fair Lanes Open champion. Ironically, Williams won the next tournament and knocked off Learn. He won the following week, too, before being toppled by Walter Ray Williams in Erie.

Now Ringener would like to earn a shot at Williams, to become King of the Hill, instead of king of the road.

Tournament facts

What: Fair Lanes Open

Where: Fair Lanes Woodlawn, 6410 Security Blvd.

When: Today through Saturday. Today: Pros qualifying, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Tomorrow: Pro autograph/practice session, 9 a.m.-noon; pro-ams, 1, 3, 7, 9 p.m., openings available; Wednesday: Pro qualifying, 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m., 4 p.m.-10:30 p.m. Thursday: Pro qualifying, 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.; match play, 7-10 p.m. Friday: Match play, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 6:15-10:15 p.m.; Saturday: Finals (chs. 13, 7), 3-4:30 p.m.

Tickets: $4-$15. Call (410) 944-6000 for information.

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