BATON ROUGE, La. - Four members of K&K Bowling Services 5, the defending Team All-Events champion at the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships, were in town this week to put their title on the line at the Baton Rouge River Center.
After being introduced as the reigning champions, the quartet got off to a strong start in the team event but was unable to re-capture the magic of last year's title run. They finished this year's marathon with a Team All-Events total of 9,115 on Tuesday. S&B Pro Shop 1 of Clinton Township, Mich., leads with 9,954.
The 2012 version of K&K Bowling Services 5 included USBC President Andrew Cain, Adam Ishman and former Junior Team USA members Chris Klerk and Kyle King. They were joined by Antonio Medina, who bowled in place of Les Shirwindt, who recently underwent eye surgery and was unable to fly in from Las Vegas.
"It means everything to have the opportunity to defend," said Cain, who won the 2001 USBC Team USA Trials. "I think we're all pretty aware that very few people even get the opportunity to win a title, let alone come back with most of their team and defend it. So, whether we bowled well or not this week, just having the chance to defend is one of the best feelings you can have at this tournament."
The group started its 2012 USBC Open Championships campaign with games of 1,046 and 1,091 before faltering in the finale for 964 and a 3,101 team total Monday night. Nicholas J's Pro Shop 2 of La Crosse, Wis., leads Regular Team with 3,401.
Despite the disappointing finish to the team event, K&K Bowling Services 5 found itself in familiar territory before taking the lanes for doubles and singles.
Last year at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nev., they turned in a 3,163 team score, well behind the tournament leaders, but quietly battled back in doubles and singles. Ishman led the way, and King, a first-timer, wasn't far behind as they averaged more than 237 as a team in doubles and singles to take home the Team All-Events crown with a 10,283 total.
Although the hill wasn't quite as steep this year in Baton Rouge, there was the added pressure of trying to become the first team to win back-to-back Team All-Events titles since Lodge Lanes of Belleville, Mich., achieved the feat in 1998.
Hundreds of bowling fans tuned in live to see the action unfold on BowlTV, and Ishman even provided some late excitement as he started his final game of singles with 10 consecutive strikes before a split left him with 285.
"This year has been different," said Ishman, who made his 10th Open Championships appearance. "I don't consider myself a phenomenal talent or bowler at all. I just bowl because I love it, and it's part of my job. To be recognized for it is pretty special, and to be a national champion is very, very cool."
Medina led the way for the team this year with a 1,944 all-events total and was followed by King (1,825), Ishman (1,793), Klerk (1,780) and Cain (1,773).
Prior to taking the lanes at the River Center, Cain and Klerk found success down the road at Metro Bowl at the Storm Bowlers Journal Championships presented by USBC, where they grabbed the top spot in Open Doubles with a 1,850 total.
Klerk led the way with games of 241, 208, 279 and 222 for a 950 set, while Cain added games of 204, 234, 203 and 259 for 900. Pete Thomas of Oklahoma City and Paul Fleming of Fort Worth, Texas, previously held the lead with 1,836.
For more information on the Open Championships, visit BOWL.com/openchamp.
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.