Sean Rash, who ruled Anchorage's bowling alleys as a kid before making it big as a pro, was crowned king of the bowling world Monday.
Rash, 29, was named the Professional Bowlers Association's Chris Schenkel Player of the Year, an honor that capped a brilliant season for the 2000 Dimond High graduate.
Rash earned $140,250 in prize money and posted an average of 228.13 to earn Player of the Year honors. In the big leagues of bowling, in other words, he is the MVP. Rash joins legends like Dick Weber, Earl Anthony and Walter Ray Williams Jr., as winners of an award first bestowed in 1963.
The young bowler beat out rivals Jason Belmonte of Australia and Mike Fagan of Dallas in what the PBA described as one of the most hotly contested battles in years. The award was presented Monday in Chicago, an announcement that came about a month after Rash's win in the season-ending Tournament of Champions.
"I felt a big sigh of relief. It meant a lot to have the waiting finally over," Rash said in a press release from the PBA.
"Jason and Mike and I have bowled in 15 different countries during the past year. We travel around the world to stay sharp. You take a lot of satisfaction after all of the travel, the practice, the sacrifices you make. We've made each other better."
Rash garnered 29.04 percent of the vote from PBA Tour competitors and veteran members of the bowling news media. Belmonte took 26.61 percent and Fagan 18.32 percent.
Rash, a righthander, finished the season as the No. 1 bowler in three major statistical categories -- average, points and earnings. He qualified for six championship-round finals, placed third in the PBA World Championship and topped an all-star field in the Tournament of Champions.
"We all had great seasons, but I think winning the TOC put a stamp on it," Rash said. "I'm a stats guy. When I voted in the past, I voted by the numbers. They don't lie. If one of those guys had won the TOC, he would have got my vote."
Rash lives in Montgomery, Ill., but his ties to Alaska remain strong. His family is here and every winter he hosts a youth tournament in Anchorage that awards scholarship money.
Growing up, Rash shined in the city's youth leagues, earning national attention and spots on U.S. junior teams. He attended Wichita State on a bowling scholarship and was a two-time All-American.
He joined the PBA Tour in 2005 and has been a top competitor ever since. He is one of nearly 4,000 bowlers from 13 countries who compete on the tour and is the only Alaskan who has carved out a career on the PBA Tour.
Rash's selection as Player of the Year gives Alaska the PBA's two reigning champions. Ron Mohr of Eagle River won the PBA Senior Player of the Year last summer and is currently competing on that tour.
Call Beth Bragg at 257-4335 or email him at email@example.com.
By BETH BRAGG
Anchorage Daily News