BATON ROUGE, La. - Mike Larsen of Arlington, Texas, rolled the fourth perfect game of the 2012 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships and now will join his doubles partner, Gary Brown, in the tournament record books.
Brown shot 300 at the 1996 event in Salt Lake City, and although a few years have passed, it's a moment he'll never forget. He drew on that experience to help keep Larsen calm and focused during his run at perfection at the Baton Rouge River Center on Monday.
"Gary was phenomenal today," said Larsen, who made his sixth USBC Open Championships appearance. "I was actually working with him because he was having trouble carrying, and the whole time, he was incredibly helpful and supportive. It was definitely a team effort."
Larsen struggled through the first game of doubles, failing to get more than seven pins on his first four strike shots on the right lane, but after Brown suggested a small change in hand position, things quickly fell into place.
Larsen finished doubles with games of 185, 300 and 194 for a 679 series, and Brown contributed 211, 204 and 181 for a 1,275 total. Hugh Miller of Mercer Island, Wash., and Adam Barta of Girard, Ohio, lead Regular Doubles with 1,429.
"My 300 at the Open Championships was the first one I'd ever shot, so that was pretty neat, and to see my doubles partner do it was special for both of us," said Brown, who is USBC's Director of Collegiate and Youth Tournaments. "He got so close last year, so this is redemption for him. He made the adjustments and made great shots, and it was really cool to be a part of it."
Last year at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nev., Larsen started his second game of doubles with nine consecutive strikes before a 4 pin ended his run. He definitely had that in the back of his mind this time and took advantage of a rare second chance.
"When you have the front eight or nine and you know you're close, you start thinking about it," said Larsen, whose 300 was the 755th in 109 years of tournament history. "The scoreboard changes colors (in Reno) and people start gathering behind you, so there's a lot going on. This year, I just tried to stay focused on each shot. I struggled early on the right lane and even went Brooklyn in the eighth frame. I put myself in position to do it, and I knew I needed to throw the three best shots I could. This is an amazing feeling."
The 28-year-old right-hander has stepped up under pressure before and became the first person to roll a perfect game at the International Training and Research Center on Arlington's International Bowling Campus in October 2010.
Despite the pressures of his new role as USBC's Director of Association Development and his responsibilities as a youth bowling coach, Larsen made sure to set aside some time to spend at the ITRC working on his own game before heading to Baton Rouge this weekend. And, since his Open Championships career began at the River Center in 2005, it meant a lot to find improvement and success in his return trip.
"It's been a goal of mine to shoot a Sport-certified 300, and to do it at the Open Championships makes it even better," said Larsen, who posted a 1,671 all-events total at the 2005 event. "And to come back to Baton Rouge, where I bowled my first tournament, and bowl more than 300 pins better was really neat."
The pins continued to fall for the former University of Central Florida standout in singles as he added games of 235, 225 and 256 for a 716 series. His 598 effort in team gave him a career-best 1,993 all-events total, which is just shy of the top 10. Ryan Whitney of Lewisville, Texas, who also rolled a 300 game at this year's tournament, leads Regular All-Events with 2,170.
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.