By Kevin Albarez
BATON ROUGE, La. - A day after the opening ceremony of the 2012 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships, youth bowlers from across Louisiana converged on the Baton Rouge River Center for a taste of the championship experience.
More than 230 competitors, ages 8-19, started the day with a march down Center Aisle, a USBC Open Championships tradition since 1954.
"I liked marching out," said 18-year-old Kay Rawls of Central, La. "It was fun and exciting. It's a good experience for us to bowl on the kind of shots the adults bowl on."
The bowlers enjoyed the chance to be a part of the big-time event, even though most are quite a few years from their Open Championships debuts. The high ceilings, custom scoreboards and bleachers filled with hundreds of family members and friends made for a one-of-a-kind experience.
"I like that you're not in a regular bowling alley," said Angela Falgoust, a high school junior from Baton Rouge. "It makes it feel more professional. I liked the scoreboard being big and over all the lanes."
The day was not only remarkable for the youth bowlers, it also meant a lot for the coaches and parents to watch them bowl on the same lanes they will compete on at the 2012 Open Championships, which will run for 151 consecutive days from Feb. 11 to July 10.
"I love it," Louisiana USBC Youth Association Manager Cecilia Santangelo said. "I put in around 100 hours getting it all organized. It is all about the youth bowlers. I had kids who bowled for me in 1986 who have kids bowling today."
While many bowlers found the Open Championships lane condition challenging, they were still excited to bowl and hope to bowl in the USBC Open Championships in the future.
"Kids enjoy watching the adults bowl," Louisiana USBC Youth Association President Stuart Moss said. "They also enjoy bowling on the same pattern, even if it's difficult."
The tournament awarded $4,760 in scholarship money split into six age divisions, three for boys and three for girls. The final results from the youth event can be seen here.
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.