BATON ROUGE, La. - A benefit of having teammates is knowing there's always someone there to pick you up when you're down or keep you focused when things are going well.
That sentiment rang true at the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships as new leaders emerged in Regular and Classified Doubles at the Baton Rouge River Center on Sunday.
Danny Smith of Lawrenceville, Ga., and Darin Belsito of Oakwood, Ga., catapulted to the top of the Regular Division standings with a 1,343 total, while Tim Luken of Gettysburg, S.D., and Randy Tennant of Onida, S.D., found their way into the spotlight with a 1,231 effort.
Smith and Belsito regularly bowl early on at the USBC Open Championships and have left their marks on the leaderboard on a number of occasions. This time, they relied on experience, communication and strategy to find success again.
The two also capitalized on some late momentum and used a 514 final game to pass Chris Galovits of West Allis, Wis., and Ed Seliga of Kenosha, Wis., who previously held the lead with 1,284. Smith led the way with a 682 series, and Belsito contributed 661. Their teammate, Tim Maiseroulle of Buford, Ga., and Justin Gibbons, also from Lawrenceville, now are second in Regular Doubles with 1,294.
"We practiced upstairs, and that helped me, especially with my ball selection because I was able to eliminate three or four balls immediately," said Smith, a 63-year-old right-hander who made his 13th Open Championships appearance. "I knew after team I had to go with something weaker that would get down the lane. Plus, we were all going to be playing in the same area, so they were going to breakdown a lot quicker. Then, we just got a little momentum going, and that helped."
Smith added 609 in team and 601 in singles for a 1,892 all-events total, and Belsito, a 40-year-old right-hander, was close behind with 591 in team and 585 in singles for 1,837. The pair also helped Booost 2 of Auburn, Ga., into second place in Regular Team with 2,839 on Saturday. Seliga's Pro Shop leads with 3,042.
Luken and Tennant have bowled together for two decades and shared many bowling highs and lows, including a disappointing team event Saturday. But instead of writing off this year's trip to the Open Championships, they returned to the River Center focused on bowling better.
Luken paced the pair with a 616 series, and Tennant added a 615 set to help them into the Classified Doubles lead. Justin Montgomery and Ken Valenzuela of Brighton, Colo., previously held the lead with 1,080.
"After bowling so bad in team yesterday, I just wanted to settle down and bowl better today," said Tennant, who bowls league with Luken at Gettysburg's Liberty Lanes. "I'll admit, I looked up at the (Classified Doubles) banner about halfway through the last game and realized we had a chance. Then, I just had to stay calm. I'm sure we'll be checking the Internet leaderboard quite a bit."
Tennant's success continued in singles as he filled 29 of 30 frames on the way to games of 226, 195 and 184 for a Classified Singles-leading 605 series. His 414 team series gave him a 1,634 all-events total, which is fifth overall. Bridget Riley of Baton Rouge previously held the Classified Singles lead with 579, and Mike Raburn of Cleveland, Tenn., tops Classified All-Events with 1,676.
Despite being lifelong bowlers, Tennant, 55, and Luken, 52, didn't make their first trip to the Open Championships until 2010. They had such a good time they knew they wanted to bowl again, but they chose to wait until this year when they could travel to a new city.
"Our trip in 2010 was something we talked about doing as a one-time deal, but we enjoyed it so much we wanted to do it again," Tennant said. "Being here before really helped us to be more relaxed today, too. And after bowling so well, it looks like we're going to be bowling again next year."
Luken finished his second Open Championships appearance with 511 in singles and 494 in team and moved into seventh place in Classified All-Events with 1,621.
Sponsors for the 2012 USBC Open Championships include Circus Circus Reno, Eldorado Hotel Casino Reno and Silver Legacy Resort Casino Reno. Other sponsors include the Belle of Baton Rouge, official brackets sponsor; Kegel, official lane maintenance provider; Humana, official registration sponsor; Bud Light and Budweiser, official beer sponsors; The Advocate, official publication sponsor; Brunswick, official lane provider; Steltronic, official scoring system; Storm Bowling Products and Nationwide Insurance.