BATON ROUGE, La. - Steve Harms of West Valley City, Utah, rolled one of a near-record 52 perfect games at the 2011 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships and now is part of an even more elite list after repeating the feat at the 2012 event at the Baton Rouge River Center on Thursday.
The 46-year-old left-hander was able to refocus after a close encounter with perfection in his second game of doubles and rallied back with 12 consecutive strikes in the finale for the 11th 300 game of the year. When the last pin fell, he became the 23rd bowler in 109 years of USBC Open Championships competition with two perfect games on the tournament lanes. He is the fifth to accomplish the feat in consecutive years.
Harms finished with games of 190, 259 and 300 for a 749 series and teamed with Thomas E. Lightcap of Roy, Utah, for a 1,315 doubles total. Hugh Miller of Mercer Island, Wash., and Adam Barta of Girard, Ohio, lead Regular Doubles with 1,429.
"Last year's was really special because in the state of Utah, shooting 300 at Nationals solidifies you a little more as a competitive bowler," said Harms, who made his 16th Open Championships appearance. "This one was special because of the convention-center setting. It's not an established bowling center like the Stadium, so it's a little bit tougher. It's definitely a great feeling."
When Harms started his second game Thursday with seven consecutive strikes, he thought back to last year's performance at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nev., but the feeling was different than when the scoreboard changed colors and all eyes suddenly were on him. This time, he was calm and determined, but a stubborn 7 pin ended his first attempt at repeating history.
"I was trying to focus on keeping my hand behind the ball, but I didn't do that on the eighth shot," said Harms, who hones his skills at Salt Lake City's Bonwood Bowl. "My release was off and the ball squirted on me and didn't finish, so I left a 7 pin. I did it again in the 10th frame, so I really concentrated on staying behind it the last game, and it worked."
Harms rolled one of 14 perfect games during the team event last year, and that momentum helped him to a career-best nine-game total and 12th-place finish in Regular All-Events with 2,174. The 52 300s in 2011 was the second-most behind the 2002 tournament in Billings, Mont., where there were 64.
This year's team event didn't go as well as Harms struggled to games of 181, 202 and 182 for a 565 series, but that motivated him to spend a little extra time preparing for doubles and singles.
"I thought really hard last night and tried to analyze what happened in the team event, and then I had to come early today to see who was bowling on those pairs before us," Harms said. "When I saw there weren't any lefties on our doubles pair, I knew it would be up to me to break it down the way I wanted to and find a way to score."
Harms closed things out with a 583 series in singles for a 1,897 all-events total. Although it was short of last year's success, he simply appreciates the opportunity to compete on bowling's biggest stage.
"I feel great about the honor score, and 1,897 probably will get me a nice paycheck," Harms said. "I just love this tournament. I love coming to bowl every year, and I'll be here as long as I'm physically able to compete. Financially, I couldn't bowl in it as much in my younger days, but now, it's something I really look forward to. And I really want that eagle."
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.