Francois Lavoie first Canadian to win PBA Tour rookie of the year honours

Canadian bowler named PBA Tour top rookie

TORONTO — Quebec City’s Francois Lavoie has been named PBA Tour rookie of the year, adding another chapter to a historic season.

The 23-year-old Lavoie, who beat out Graham Fach of Guelph, Ont., for the award, is the first Canadian to win the Harry Golden Rookie of the Year award. 

Lavoie was crowned U.S. Open champion in November, joining Finland’s Mika Koivuniemi (2001) as the only foreign-born players to win the event. And he did it in style, becoming the first bowler in U.S. Open history to roll a perfect game during the tournament stepladder finals.

Lavoie, who makes his home in Wichita where he bowled collegiately for Wichita State, is the first international player and only the 26th player to bowl a televised perfect game.

In December, he beat veteran Walter Ray Williams Jr. to win the PBA Shark Championship. In all, he made four television finals during his rookie season, finishing fifth among the PBA’s average leaders (222.79 for 330 games) and seventh in earnings (US$79,920).

The 25-year-old Fach (which rhymes with raw) made his own mark last February when he claimed the Barbasol Players Championship, becoming the first Canadian to win since the PBA Tour began in 1959.

“Usually there aren’t multiple rookies who win titles, but I was fortunate to have a strong finish and that’s kind of what sealed the deal,” Lavoie said in a PBA Tour release. “I’m sure Graham had the same goal, but only one of us can win. To finally have it official is great.”

“It’s been a great year for Canadian bowling,” he added. 

American E.J. Tackett was named the 2016 GEICO Chris Schenkel Professional Bowlers Association Player of the Year.

The 24-year-old is the second-youngest player to claim PBA’s top annual individual honour. The late Billy Hardwick was 22 when he won in 1963.

Tackett, the only four-time winner on tour in 2016, led the Tour in earnings ($154,900) and finished third in scoring average (224.49 for 490 games).

He has already won the PBA Tour’s first event of 2017, the DHC PBA Japan Invitational in Osaka, Japan.

The 2016 Steve Nagy Sportsmanship Award, selected by PBA Tour players, went to Tom Smallwood while the 2016 Tony Reyes Community Service Award winner for exceptional community or charitable activities was Rhino Page.

Smallwood joined the PBA Tour after losing his job with General Motors.

Voting for the awards was done by PBA members and international bowling media.

 

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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press