BATON ROUGE, La. - Chris Dunham of Indianapolis may not be one of the most recognizable bowlers in town for the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships this weekend, but he's now part of tournament history after rolling a perfect game at the Baton Rouge River Center on Friday night.
The 44-year-old right-hander closed his team event with 15 consecutive strikes for games of 223, 199 and 300 and a 722 series, helping DV8 Indianapolis to a 3,206 total, which is just outside the top 10 in Regular Team. Nicholas J's Pro Shop 2 of La Crosse, Wis., leads with 3,401.
Dunham's perfect game was the 14th of this year's USBC Open Championships and helped his team to a 1,261 finale, the highest team game of the 2012 event. It also is tied for the sixth-highest game in tournament history. USBC Hall of Famer Jeff Richgels and his Turbo 2-N-1 Grips 1 teammates top the list with 1,281, rolled last year on the way to the Regular Team title.
Chris Curry added a 256 effort for DV8 Indianapolis and was joined by Mike Bankert (245), Louis Franzetti (234) and Michael Lisch (226). Bankert finished the night with a 675 series and was followed by Franzetti (632), Lisch (593) and Curry (584).
"This feels pretty good," said Dunham, who made his fifth Open Championships appearance. "It really means a lot to me. It means more because of the guys I come with. They've taught me a lot, and I'm sure they will teach me more. They've been coming for more than 20 years. I am very proud of every single one of these guys. To shoot 1,261 is awesome. I'm speechless."
Dunham definitely does everything he can to be prepared for the Open Championships each year by competing in at least one USBC Sport league every year since 2008, but ironically, he wasn't feeling as confident as he would have liked before hitting the lanes at the River Center. In February, he underwent shoulder surgery, and since that time, he has been limited to one league and hasn't been able to practice as much.
"Since I started bowling on Sport patterns, I haven't shot 300 in about four or five years," said Dunham, who bowls league at Western Bowl in Indianapolis. "This means that much more to me. I had shoulder surgery in February, and I haven't been real confident in my game. I haven't been able to bowl a lot and haven't been bowling well, so this really means a great deal to me. I'm excited."
Dunham and his teammates weren't the only ones scorching the lanes in Baton Rouge on Friday.
On the same team squad, 2010 Regular All-Events champion Matt McNiel marched down Center Aisle with a new team and continued his domination of the championship lanes with games of 257, 279 and 256 for a 792 series. He helped Linds Lakers 1 of Minneapolis, the 2002 and 2006 Team All-Events winner, into fifth place in Regular Team with a 3,278 total.
Sam Lantto added a 681 series for Linds Lakers 1 and got help from USBC Hall of Famer Todd Savoy (612), John Eiss (602) and Luke Voaklander, who rolled a 300 game during the 2011 team event (591).
McNiel's tear began at the National Bowling Stadium in 2010 when he took home the all-events title with a record score of 2,326, which included a 299 game and 806 series in singles. He returned to the Stadium in 2011 and made a run at a second-consecutive win, rolling a 300 game and 822 series in doubles before eventually finishing third in Regular All-Events with 2,241. He is one of three bowlers in tournament history with two 800s in Open Championships competition and tops the two-year average list with 253.72.
Earlier in the evening, James Koss of Brighton, Mich., rolled the second 299 game of the year on the way to a 706 doubles series. He added 661 in singles and 569 in team for a 1,936 all-events total.
Across town at the Storm Bowlers Journal Championships presented by USBC, Bobby Walters Jr. of Sunrise, Fla., rolled the second 300 game of the 2012 event. The 25-year-old right-hander had games of 147, 300, 214 and 181 for an 842 total.
Walters struggled to begin his set, creeping to a 147 game, but after watching another competitor bowl on a different pair of lanes, he came up with a new plan for Game 2, which worked in his favor.
"It felt really good," said Walters, who won the $5,000 sweeper at the High Roller last July. "After starting left, I watched someone else play a little straighter, and I moved right. I ended up moving too far right, so in the second game, I played in between where I originally started and where I moved. I was proud to be able to have that success on such a tough pattern."
The Bowlers Journal Championships also is conducted on a Sport-certified lane condition, and competitors bowl four games on four different pairs. The Bowlers Journal Championships is being used as a tune-up for Open Championships bowlers for the 66th year.
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.