After being beaten by Jason Mahr in the semifinals of the 19th annual Spring Hill PBA Southern Regional, Ken Simard looked over at the victor, then looked about three lanes over.
The other semifinal had yet to end and Mahr did not know which of the remaining competitors he would face for the title - as if it mattered.
"There's over 50 national titles on that other set of lanes compared to none over here," Simard said.
Well, 51 to be exact. The all-time PBA national wins record holder, Walter Ray Williams Jr., happened to be facing the second-most prestigious name in the field, Patrick Allen and his nine titles, for a spot in the final.
"You'd have to be a fool to not be a little intimidated by seeing those two on the lanes waiting for you," Mahr said. "Still, there's no better way to win your first title."
Mahr had never won a PBA crown before last weekend and had gone through Simard, the 2006 regional points champion and three-time tour winner this season, and entered the 16-man playoff seeded first in the field. After a small adjustment early Sunday, no one had been more consistently on target than the Spring Hill resident.
PBA South tour director Harry O'Neale said before the final he never had seen anyone throw a ball that hard with that much consistency - and "all 10 pins go down most of the time."
Allen survived his one-game match with Williams. Arguably the best pure lefty bowler in the nation, Allen was ringing strike after strike by the time he finished off the Hall of Famer.
It all boiled down to that for Mahr, 26, who threw his first ball in the same center at the age of 7.
"The old me would have found a way to implode at some point," Mahr said. "I am known for having a little bit of a short fuse."
Against Allen, Mahr's ball never left the pocket, but he might have lost it on more than one occasion after throwing two hard-luck 7-10 splits. But only one other shot was not a strike. The 222-202 victory earned him $3,000 and the respect of the 126 entrants.
"Everything about this day has been perfect," Mahr said after receiving his trophy. "The oil pattern, the house, the opponents - it all just came together."