Every fourth weekend in February one of the best run bowling centers in the country welcomes Canada’s elite players for what looks to the outsider to be very much like a Vegas extravaganza. The establishment sets the bar high regarding its service and attention to detail and for this particular weekend the show includes talented bowlers, glitz, glamour, money, and copious amounts of fire water.
In a short 5 year span The Coke Classic held in Regina holds the distinct pleasure of gaining the largest draw of participants. In a tournament where an individual may re-enter the qualifying round as many as 3 times entry totals quickly add up. Here is the deceptive part. Over the past 5 years 774 individual attempts have been taken in attempting to reach the top thirty –two championship spots. Of those 750 plus a scant eighty-six bowlers have advanced to match play. True to Vegas style those odds seem to favour the house, with Regina bowlers tapping into the bigger payday of the final, four of the past five years. Saskatchewan bowlers outside of Regina have also done alright for themselves, capturing with Regina on average just over half of the annual thirty-two qualifying spots.
Who has the stickiest fingers for the high stakes money bowling? Kevin Clark of Regina holds the distinction of being top qualifier two consecutive years with 2009 leading to a qualifying record average of 308. Clark has finished as high as second in 2008. Older brother Doug finished second in 2007 and currently carries Regina’s high average at 282. Geno Ziebarth is one of only 2 individuals to qualify each and every year. The other individual is Mark Johnstone. Both are from Alberta. Ziebarth has qualified in the top ten 3 times, and has become the eventual champion twice (2008, 2009). Adam Weber is a constant threat in virtually all tournaments he participates in. Weber has been a national singles champion, team champion and multiple champion on the Western Canadian tour. Manitoba’s lead representative has got to be Cordell Galbecka. Galbecka has qualified four of five times and been in the top eight twice, winning the main event in 2010. Other big fish include Regina’s Brad Moens. Moens is the current Master Bowler’s National Singles champion and has made the cut eighty percent of the time finishing in the top eight in 2010. Lonny Akers from Prince Albert has led qualifiers and finished top eight. Probably the oldest competitor in the group has been Saskatoon’s Don Rak. Rak has represented the old guard very well. He qualified three times and made the top 8 in 2010.
A cluster of eight women have made the top thirty-two over the past five years. The 2011 Championship featured the first 2 women to make the top 8. Crystal Orenchuk, the second seed in 2011 and Jennifer Clark. As a bonus both reside in Regina. In 2011 Karrie Kreutz stole most of the thunder coming up both A and B sides of the draw before dropping one spot at the eights. A scant nine games later Kreutz would move in for the kill shot defeating Regina’s Jeff Hiibner.
The 2012 edition will again dominate with a full slate of competitors. Qualifying begins Friday Feb. 24. Entries have always surpassed their expected payout which always leads to greater cash pay outs to its qualifying participants. In 2011 just over $44,000 was distributed during the event. Entry fee is $180. Shift times include Friday Feb. 24 at 1pm and Saturday Feb. 25 at 8:30am and 1:30pm.