Kevin Kullman switched balls during his final game, and that might have made the seven-pin difference in the men’s finals of the 55th Beat the Champions. In a day of high scores Sunday at Elk Grove Bowl, Kullman edged fellow scratch bowler Arthur Harris 1,018-1,011.

Kullman, who had games of 259, 222, 279 and 258, went from a Track Legion Solid to a Columbia 300 Swerve FX between the third and fourth frames in the fourth game.

“It gave me what I was looking for in keeping that confidence in making good shots,” said Kullman, who advanced from Centennial Lanes.

In the finals, bowlers roll four games and jump a pair of lanes after each game.

He needed to keep shooting because Harris closed with a 279.

“I was just trying to stay focused, keep my mind right,” said Harris, who advanced from Skyway Bowl. “I was really listening to music [Pandora].”

Kullman, who is a PBA card holder and made the finals three years ago, rolled his own 279 in the third game when he left the 10-pin in the 10th frame.

“I was more worried the second game,” he said. “I left a pocket 7-10 and was really worried, really worried about how to get through the rest of the game.”

He had earlier help.

“Last Sunday, I took a lesson from professional coach Bill Hall from Las Vegas,” Kullman said. “He opened my eyes up to the side of the game you don’t see. He really helped simplify my game for me.”

In BTC, bowlers who average below 210 receive the help of 90 percent of the difference as handicap. Bowlers with handicap filled out the top five: Marc Adkins (980,  including 136 pins of handicap), Raymond Gosha (975, 219) and Steven Paradowski (942, 115).

“This is by far my favorite tournament to bowl,” said Kullman, who works nights at Speedway and does double duty at Strike N’ Spare II. “The people you meet. My gosh, you can win a car.”

He did. All 32 finalists receive a prize, but the top prize is a Ford Focus from the Chicagoland Ford Dealers.

The big winning numbers are the more than $2.7 million raised for charity from more than 5.7 million entries in the first 54 years BTC was cosponsored by the Sun-Times and the Chicagoland Bowling Proprietors Association.

NOTES: Dave Malesky sparked the crowd when he opened with his first 300.

“It was so cool,” said winner Kullman, who was bowling next to Malesky. “You knew right away you would have to put up a big score.”

It is non-certified 300, but William Duff, executive director of the Chicagoland Bowling Proprietors Association, said the achievement will be commemorated.

Malesky, a Glen Ellyn man who works in shipping and receiving, was at his second finals and finished ninth.

υ It was a good day for scratch bowlers. Aside from Kullman and Harris, there were eight other scratch bowlers (210 or higher average): Ed Czlapinski (seventh), Anthony Arrington (eighth), Tony O’Donnell (15th), Jason Wojnar (16th), Adam Burns (21st), George Outman (25th), Michael Sargent (26th) and Billy Freeman (28th).

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