The tougher the field, the better bowler Zulmazran Zulkilfi loves it.
Zulmazran who will be making his third appearance in the 45th edition of the Qubica-AMF Bowling World Cup starting officially on Sunday at the Melaka International Bowling Centre, will certainly have his hands full of strong challenge from world renowned bowlers.
For company he will have early favourite to win the title in this edition USA’s Walter Ray Williams Jr, a pro bowler with a record 45 PBA titles to his name.
He has also been inducted into both the USBC and the PBA Hall of Fame. He is PBA Bowler of the Year six times (1986, '93, '96, '97, '98, and 2003) which is tied with Earl Anthony for the most Player of the Year awards.
He has won a leading eight bowling writers Bowler of the Year awards and is also the all-time leading money winner on the PBA Tour. He is tied with Earl Anthony with the most PBA money titles (six). He was the first bowler in history to surpass US$2 million in career earnings, achieving this in 1997. With his win in the 2003 U.S. Open, he also became the first $3 million career winner; and became the first $4 million career winner in 2008. Williams also has the highest monetary winnings in a single season, with $419,700 during his 2002–03 season.
He is also known for several PBA achievements:
- Record highest season spare percentage (88.16%, 655/743; 2004–05) and single-pin conversion percentage (100%, 475/475; 2005–06)
- Second-best strike (68.21) percentage and match play average (235.23).[
- Record number of career television appearances (172 through the 2008–09 season), most television appearances in a season (15 in 1993), most consecutive television appearances 5 (2x; 2000, 2001)
- Most final match appearances (89, through the 2008-09 season)
- Tied for most major titles in a season (two in 2002–03)
- Most games bowled in one season (1300 in 1993)
- Highest pinfall in a nine game series (2,367; Tucson, AZ, 2004)
- Most 300 games in one tournament (4; Mechanicsburg, PA, 1993)
- Seven-time winner of the George Young High Average Award and Harry Smith Points Leader Award (most all-time for each award)
- First and, so far, only PBA player to convert the 4-6-7-10 split on television. In the 2007–08 season, at age 48, Walter Ray established the second-highest average in PBA history for a single season — 228.34. Through the 2008–09 season, he has bowled 77 career 300 games in PBA competition
- In August 2008 Walter Ray joined Team USA to participate in that year's World Men's Championships in Thailand. For the first time professionals were allowed to compete in this international event with over 330 participants from 56 countries. Walter Ray was the most successful bowler, winning 4 medals - gold in Masters, gold in singles, gold in team and a bronze medal in trios
If that is not enough competition for Zulmazran to chew on, then there is Philippine’s seasoned bowler Paeng Nepomenco, who holds the record for being the youngest bowler to win the competition (at 19), has appeared in nine final stages and won the title four times.
Paeng comes to Melaka after losing his 81-year-old father Paeng Angel "Pappy" Nepomuceno on Oct 31, his mentor and former national coach.
Under Pappy's coaching, Paeng bagged six world titles in three different decades and 119 other tournament crowns and set three Guinness Book of World Records, which have remained unbroken.
Naturally, Paeng, will be going all out to win his fifth title in Melaka, as a tribute to his father
Other top bowlers Zulmazran will have for company from the 96 countries coming include Canada’s Michael Schmidt, the 2005 champion and Singapore’s Remy Ong, who is competing for the fifth time and finished second in 2002 and third in 2004.
Then there is Norway’s Peter Hansen, who finished runner-up in 2004, and Sweden’s Martin Larsen, last year’s runner-up.
Australia’s Paul Trotter, Michael Loos (Austria), Oliver Leroy (Belgium), Mark Kerr (Scotland), Hussain Suwaidi (the UAE), Ryan Leonard Laisang (Indonesia), Ryo Yamanaka (Japan), Ari Savola (Finland), Alan Bride (Ireland) and Gabriel Sanchez (Puerto Rico) will also pose a strong challenge.
Zulmazran in his debut appearance in the Bowling World Cup in 2002 in Riga, Latvia, finished among the top 24 and last year in Hermosillo, Mexico, he finished third.
Will he be able to finish better than last year? A tough question indeed considering the top class field he will have to contend against.
However, Zulmazran himself is looking forward to reaching the knockout stage by finishing top eight and then taking it from there onwards for his best possible finish.