By Emil Williams Jr. and Kevin Albarez
BATON ROUGE, La. - T.J. Schmidt of Osceola, Ind., has only made three appearances at the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships, but that's all he's needed to leave a significant mark on the tournament record books.
Just hours after David Morgan of Rutland, Vt., rolled the fifth perfect game of the 2012 tournament, Schmidt added a 300 of his own in his opening game of doubles at the Baton Rouge River Center on Wednesday morning. It was his second perfect game in as many years, making him just the 22nd bowler in history to record multiple 300 games at the USBC Open Championships.
Schmidt became an instant celebrity last year at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nev., when he shot 300 en route to an 855 series during doubles. He is one of 31 bowlers who have achieved perfection and rolled an 800 series in their careers on the championship lanes.
"It feels good," said Schmidt, who was the 2011 Bowling Writers Association of America Collegiate Player of the Year. "We were really frustrated after the team event last night when we shot 2,970. We felt we were really close. Today, Steven and I just wanted to stay loose and have a good time. But, being able to shoot 300 again is a pretty cool feeling. To be able to do what I did, with my friends there, was great."
Schmidt added games of 168 and 222 for a 690 total. Steven Zimmer of Louisville, Ky., contributed games of 235, 235 and 237 for a 707 set, and the duo moved into fourth place in Regular Doubles with a 1,397 total. Hugh Miller of Mercer Island, Wash., and Adam Barta of Girard, Ohio, lead with 1,429.
Since graduating from Purdue University in December, Schmidt has not been able to practice as much as he normally would. That lack of practice may have been a contributing factor in some untimely miscues this week in Baton Rouge.
"I was a little disappointed," said Schmidt, who added 705 in singles and 595 in team for a 1,990 all-events total. "It's frustrating. I got lost in the transition during the second game and just wasn't aggressive enough to make the big move in. I wasn't as solid as I would have liked with spare shooting either, and it showed. I missed a single pin and had two costly splits in the second game. In the last game, I missed two single pins for 222. It's rough, but I'm happy with the way we bowled."
Although he's young, the 23-year-old right-hander is very aware and proud of his impact on the Open Championships history books, and he has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.
"It's pretty special," said Schmidt, who was a first team All-American at Purdue. "I'm 23 years old and already on a list with 21 other people. That's pretty cool. If anything, it just keeps lighting a fire under me. This is why I should keep doing it, why I should keep working and why I should keep practicing. I want to come out and compete every year and keep building on the success I've had."
Schmidt also helped his team, Young and Reckless of Shepherdsville, Ky., into third place in Team All-Events with a 9,507 total, while Zimmer, a current Morehead State University standout, moved into fifth place in Regular All-Events with 2,079.
Zimmer and Schmidt were joined by former Saginaw Valley State University star Jeremy Dixson (1,906), former Morehead State All-American Adam Voth (1,850) and current Newman University competitor Jacob Hollis (1,682). Legend of Dung Ho of Cerritos, Calif., leads Team All-Events with 9,666, while Ryan Whitney of Lewisville, Texas, tops the Regular All-Events standings with 2,170.
Morgan, who made his Open Championships debut, struggled to get comfortable for most of doubles, but found his groove near the end of the set. He stormed out the gate in singles with 12 consecutive strikes for the fifth 300 of the year and added games of 174 and 145 for a 619 series. Andrew Kleutgen of Wild Rose, Wis., leads Regular Singles with 785.
Even as a first-time participant, Morgan knew the conditions on bowling's biggest stage would be challenging, but the biggest obstacle the 53-year-old left-hander faced was the unfamiliar approaches at the River Center.
"I had trouble sliding on the approaches," said Morgan, who bowls at Rutland Bowlerama. "It threw my timing off. In the last game of doubles, I started feeling comfortable. I told myself I needed to get more aggressive. I made a move right off the bat, and everything was there."
Morgan was asked to bowl last year when the event made its unprecedented 10th trip to Reno, but he couldn't make it, delaying his first march down Center Aisle. He decided to make the trip this year and was able to meet new people, while enjoying the excitement of the Open Championships.
"Naturally, I had a great time," Morgan said. "I came here with a crew of people who have been here many times in the past. They told me all about it. They asked me to go even though I didn't know them that well before the tournament, and I'm very happy they did. I was told about the way the teams are announced and walking down Center Aisle. Overall, it was a great experience."
Morgan rounded out his Open Championships debut with 560 in doubles and 537 in team for a 1,716 all-events total.
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.