LAS VEGAS – The first days of 2022 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships had a fair share of excitement, big scores, emotional performances and memorable milestones – everything attendees and bowling fans should expect from one of the greatest crowd-pleasing sporting events in the world.
Only a few hundred of the approximately 9,500 teams expected to compete this year have visited the South Point Bowling Plaza, so there will likely be many more notable accomplishments before the event ends on July 18.
As opening week drew to a close on Friday, five new leaders emerged in the 60-lane facility – classified doubles, classified team, regular doubles, all-event teams and a tie for the all-regular event lead.
Not to be confused with country music duo Dan + Shay, the Missouri duo of Tim and Shea (Timothy Behrendt and Shea Bittenbender of St. Charles) rocked and rolled during Friday morning doubles.
The two rose to the top of the standings, uh, standings with a total of 1,391, just two pins better than previous leaders Steve and Justin Studer of Rupert, Idaho (1,389).
Behrendt, a 39-year-old right-hander, hit on his filler ball to secure the lead and cap a 738 streak that included games of 235, 257 and 246. Bittenbender, who threw the strikes that locked the lead as a regular team for Strike It Rich Pro Shop 1 on Thursday, added a streak 653 to the doubles effort on plays of 214, 235, and 204.
The doubles performance was a continuation of the momentum the six-team group found during the tag team competition, and it also helped Strike It Rich Pro Shop 1 secure the first solid Team All-Events score for the incoming teams to pursue.
Team All-Events combines the totals from all five team members’ events and awards the winning team the Eagle trophies and the coveted Earl Anthony Trophy, based on their 45-game totals (nine games for each bowler).
Strike It Rich Pro Shop 1 finished with a total of 9,557.
Eddie Byrd, a newcomer to the group, led the way with a total of 2,021 all-round events and was followed by Bittenbender (2,007), Behrendt (1,895), Johnny Petraglia Jr. (1,820) and Todd Sigeti (1,814).
Competing at the nearby Bowlers Journal Championships earlier in the week gave the group a taste of the doubles and singles oil pattern they saw on Friday, and that certainly helped, although there was a few bumps as they went from doubles to singles.
The Bowlers Journal Championships are played at the South Point Bowling Center and run in conjunction with the Open Championships for the 75th time.
“We all ran into each other at Bowlers Journal, so we had a little game plan of how we wanted to play lanes today,” said Bittenbender, a 36-year-old right-hander. “The difference was that there were only three games, and this one was six, so they played a bit delicate during the transition. We fought as best we could, and we’re there.”
On the same pair of lanes as Behrendt and Bittenbender, Aaron O’Brien of Dupo, Illinois, and Michael Sapolis of St. Louis also found doubles success. They moved into third place with a total of 1,355.
O’Brien led the wave with a set 762, and Sapolis contributed a streak of 593.
The race didn’t stop there for O’Brien, who stepped up his final streak of singles with a chance to take the lead in the regular all-events. He needed to close with three straight strikes, but after a brace he left a 9 pin on his final offering.
The 35-year-old right-hander didn’t take the lead, but he will exit his eighth Open Championships campaign by sharing the top spot with Justin Studer at 2,057. O’Brien had 660 in singles and 635 in team.
“My goal was to come here and do a good number, and I finally got it,” O’Brien said. “I had a few decent years, but this one was pretty good. I didn’t know any of the numbers. I just wanted to put in a score that I could smile at at the end.”
O’Brien’s career-best performance (by 115 pins) helped Strike It Rich Pro Shop 2 take second place in Team All-Events with 9,431. He was joined by Christian Taylor (2,005), Sapolis (1,917), Jennifer Helferstay (1,826) and Eric Czmowski (1,626).
The lead change in classified doubles on Friday actually kicked off the exciting day.
While the Strike It Rich Pro Shop teams were on one side of the Bowling Plaza and garnering attention, James Weder of Winchester, Illinois, and Kurtis Weber of Carrollton, Illinois, were on the other side, quietly advancing through the ranking.
Weder, an 82-year-old right-hander making his 22nd Open Championship appearance, had a hot hand, rolling games of 231, 193 and 171 for a streak of 595. Weber, a 29-year-old right-hander, had 135, 224 and 159 for a total of 518, the first 500 of his four tournament appearances.
Larry and Nicole Flannigan of Kaneohe, Hawaii, previously held the lead in the doubles standings with 1,093.
The top ranked team was taken by Alamo City PINs of Helotes, Texas with a consistent performance.
Matches of 910, 917 and 970 helped the team reach a total of 2,788, a score that would have been enough to win the title in eight of the last 10 Open Championships.
Miguel Villarreal set the tone with a streak of 646, followed by Robert Rosas (587), Luis Ramirez (568), Ruben Rodriguez (526) and Frances Villarreal (461). Witt’s Classified Family Affair of Phoenix previously led with 2,681.
The Classified Division includes individual bowlers with entry averages of 155 and under, pairs of doubles with combined averages of 310 and under, and teams with combined averages of 775 and under.
The Regular Division at Open Championships is for individual bowlers with entering tournament averages of 176 and above, doubles teams with combined averages of 351 and above, and five-man teams with combined averages of 876 and above.
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