History made as 2015 USBC Open concludes

History made as 2015 USBC Open concludes

Matt Cannizzaro and Aaron Smith
USBC Communications
Published: July 11, 2015 | Bowl.com


EL PASO, Texas – The 2015 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships will be remembered as much for its impact on the tournament’s record book as it will for its top scores and on-lane excitement.

A handful of bowlers added to their legacies on the championship lanes, while others realized lifelong goals by winning for the first time.

050315MattMcNiel_465x262Matt McNiel of Prior Lake, Minnesota, made history this year at the El Paso Convention Center by becoming the first bowler in 112 years of USBC Open Championships competition to win three Regular All-Events titles. Only four other bowlers, all USBC Hall of Famers, have won the crown multiple times.

The 30-year-old left-hander has averaged more than 243 at the Open Championships since his breakout performance in 2010, and that streak includes four wins, 13 top-10 finishes, three 800 series and two perfect games.

This year, McNiel rolled sets of 765 in singles, 734 in doubles and 727 in team to claim the title with a 2,226 total. He also finished second in Regular Doubles with Charles Vashaw of Deephaven, Minnesota (1,403), third in Regular Team as part of Linds Lakers 1 of Minneapolis (3,297) and tied for ninth in Regular Singles.

“This is very overwhelming right now, but it means so much to me,” said McNiel, who also won Regular All-Events in 2010 and 2012 as well as Regular Doubles in 2012. “I just want to stand out and prove I can compete. I want to earn the respect of my peers, ultimately, and I hope this is another step toward that. This tournament is so special, and this is an absolute dream come true.”

040315JuniorTeamUSASupport_465x262Anthony LaCaze of Hoffman Estates, Illinois, earned his spot in tournament history by becoming the second bowler to win titles in three consecutive years, helping Junior Team USA Support 1 of Las Vegas to the Team All-Events title with a 10,064 total.

The 32-year-old right-hander helped the same group to the Team All-Events win in 2013 and returned to the National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nevada, a year later to win Regular All-Events. He’ll share a spot in tournament lore with USBC Hall of Famer Les Zikes of Palatine, Illinois, who won in 1962, 1963 and 1964. Zikes is a member of the 60-Year and 100,000-Pin Clubs at the Open Championships and owns six titles overall.

This year in El Paso, LaCaze contributed a 1,988 all-events total to the winning score, and he was joined by Erik Vermilyea (2,083), Matthew Tuckfield (2,048), Steve Novak (1,982) and Jeffrey Mersch (1,963). The group also finished second in Regular Team with a 3,359 total.

“This is an honor and an unbelievable feeling,” LaCaze said. “It’s hard to find the words to describe it. If it weren’t for my teammates – my team and our companion team – I wouldn’t be in this position, and to be able to share it with them as the Team All-Events champions makes it even better.”

042015TeamNABR_465x262In the team event, Adam Barta, Brian Waliczek and former Team USA members Rob Gotchall and Scott Pohl found their way to the winner’s circle on the biggest stage in bowling for the first time, while Mike Rose Jr., the 2007 Regular All-Events champion, added a second win to his resume.

The five came together as Team NABR of West Henrietta, New York, and an exciting finish live on BowlTV lifted them to the Regular Team win with a 3,368 total. They had games of 1,057, 1,123 and 1,188.

Gotchall led the way for Team NABR with a 783 series and was followed by Rose (697), Waliczek (659), Barta (636) and Pohl (593).

“I told the guys last night that it has hit me, but it hasn’t really hit me,” said Gotchall, who finished second in Regular All-Events with a 2,181 total and led Team NABR to a second-place finish in Team All-Events (9,886). “This is something we’ve always dreamed of, but what we achieved and accomplished together really won’t sink in until we get there next year and see the eagles next to our names on the scoreboard.”

SleeperSimonsen2015OC465x262The Regular Doubles title went to Mark Sleeper Jr. of Kaufman, Texas, and 18-year-old two-hander Anthony Simonsen of Princeton, Texas, who earned the win in just his third Open Championships appearance with a 1,409 total.

Sleeper, a 31-year-old right-hander, led the way with games of 247, 262 and 235 for a 744 series, while Simonsen, who attacks the lanes from the right side, added 204, 236 and 225 for a 665 set.

“I’ve never been in this position before, so I wasn’t sure what to think or feel,” said Sleeper, who rolled a perfect game at the 2014 Open Championships. “Right now, there is a combination of disbelief and relief because the wait is finally over. It’s such an incredible feeling. It’s also pretty neat to be able to get together with someone as talented as Anthony and win it.”

SparksJrRonnie2015OC465x262Ronnie Sparks Jr. of Redford, Michigan, was able to continue his success in The Sun City, this time claiming the Regular Singles title at the El Paso Convention Center.

The 27-year-old right-hander put together games of 278, 246 and 269 for a 793 series, outdistancing more than 35,000 bowlers.

“This is right next to the national championship with Wichita, but that’s a little different because so much work goes into that over nine or 10 months, and you get to share it with others,” said Sparks, a former Team USA member and collegiate standout who helped Wichita State to the men’s title at the 2010 XBowling Intercollegiate Team Championships, also at the El Paso Convention Center. “This win is very special, and it’s ironic that it happened in the same place. It could’ve been anyone on any squad who changed the outcome for me, but I’m very blessed to have held on. I’m also fortunate to have the time and support to be able to bowl and chase my dreams.”

Scottys3at2015OC465x262In the Classified Division, the team trophy will head to Alexandria, Minnesota, for the second consecutive year, this time to Scotty’s 3, which earned the win with a 2,676 total.

The group put together games of 849, 922 and 905 and added its name to the record book beside Scotty’s 1, which claimed the title in 2014.

Tyler Grabow led the charge for Scotty’s 3 with a 587 series and was followed by Marshal Lagred (586), Brady Erdmann (539), Jed Lye (509) and Alan Iverson (455).

LagredMarshal2015OC465x262Lagred continued his momentum in doubles and singles and found individual success, earning the Classified All-Events title with a 1,734 total. He added 512 in doubles and 636 in singles, which was third overall.

The Classified Doubles title went to Vicky and Jamie Pollard of Versailles, Indiana, who added to their family legacy at the Open Championships.

PollardVickyJamie2015OC465x262Vicky, a 54-year-old right-hander, led the effort with games of 165, 243 and 204 for a 612 series, while Jamie, a 26-year-old right-hander, added 137, 201 and 212 for 550, giving the pair a 1,162 total.

Pollard’s Bowl, which claimed the 1996 Team All-Events crown with a record score of 10,425, included brothers and USBC Hall of Famers Rick and Ron Pollard.

“It has been a really long wait, but it has been pretty exciting, too,” Vicky Pollard said. “We’re really looking forward to seeing the banner hanging in our little eight-lane bowling center after it comes down next year.”

Finally, for the first time since the introduction of the Classified Division in 1999, there was a tie for first place in Classified Singles.

ClassifiedSinglesDaveBerkyandPattyTurnerDave Berky of Ely, Nevada, and Patty Turner of Oak Lawn, Illinois, shared the top spot with 642.

Berky, a 49-year-old right-hander bounced back from a disappointing doubles effort with games of 223, 234 and 185. Turner, a 39-year-old right-hander who throws a back-up ball, shot 228, 236 and 178. The two also tied for fourth place in Classified All-Events with 1,706.

Individuals in the Classified Division have entering averages of 180 and below, doubles teams have combined entering averages of 360 and below and teams must have entering averages of 900 and below.

Some of the most memorable moments at the 2015 Open Championships did not translate to the leaderboard.

SylAwards2015at465x262On March 18, 92-year-old Sylvester Thiel of Lake City, Minnesota, became the third bowler in history to celebrate 70 appearances on the championship lanes. He joined late USBC Hall of Famers Bill Doehrman of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Joe Norris of San Diego in the event’s elite 70-Year Club and plans to tie their participation record of 71 years next March in Reno.

Less than two weeks after Thiel’s memorable march down Center Aisle, USBC Hall of Famer and eight-time Open Championships titlist Bill Lillard Sr. of Houston became the tournament’s all-time pinfall leader.

Lillard-Trophy_300Knee and hip injuries forced the 87-year-old right-hander to use an abbreviated approach this year in El Paso, but he reached the record with a strike during his first game of singles. He finished his 68th consecutive tournament appearance with a career pinfall total of 124,087 after surpassing the previous mark of 123,770 set by Norris.

During the 2015 event, the tournament’s first visit to El Paso, two bowlers competed for the 65th time, one reached 60 years, two eclipsed 100,000 pins and 12 bowlers became members of the 50-Year Club.

On the lanes, there were six perfect games, six 299s and three 298s. There were 10 other bowlers to log 11 consecutive strikes, while no one rolled an 800 series at the El Paso Convention Center.

The 2015 tournament kicked off March 7 and ran from 9 a.m. until approximately 1 a.m. for 127 consecutive days. More than 7,300 five-player teams competed in El Paso this year.

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