By Kevin Albarez
BATON ROUGE, La. - Brian Mason of Baldwin, Ga., didn't start his United States Bowling Congress Open Championships career as strongly as he would've liked, but his tournament debut ended with a memorable singles set at the Baton Rouge River Center on Tuesday.
The 35-year-old right-hander progressed with each set, shooting 487 in team, 555 in doubles and 642 singles. His singles effort included games of 194 and 211 and 237, which helped him into second place in Classified Singles. Joel Fee of Pella, Iowa, leads with a 655.
"I struggled in team and doubles," said Mason, who is the 2005 Georgia State Handicap All-Events Champion. "We had fresh oil for team, and I struggled. For doubles, we had fresh oil again because no one bowled on it prior to us. We finally got to a lane that was broken down for us, and I took advantage of it."
It didn't take Mason long to find his groove in singles, and minimizing open frames was one of his keys to success.
"Starting off, I didn't do so hot," said Mason, who bowls at Yonah Bowl and Skate in Cleveland, Ga. "I got a grasp of the lanes and got in a grove. I only had three opens, which were all splits. It felt good to finish strong. I didn't know how good I did until they came up and told me I am in second."
Mason finished his 2012 campaign with a 1,684 all-events total. Mark Knippers of Baker, La., leads Classified All-Events with 1,789.
Bowling on the same doubles and singles squad as Mason, Little Bears Pro Shop 1 of Rolling Meadows, Ill., made a run at the top spot in Team All-Events, but came up just short and settled into sixth place with a 9,781. S & B Pro Shop 1 of Clinton Township, Mich., leads Team All-Events with 9,954.
Derek Sapp, a 2003 Regular Doubles champion, led the way for Little Bears Pro Shop 1 with a 2,095 all-events total, which is good for ninth place in Regular All-Events. He was joined by Mark Clark (1,995), Jeff Colaianni (1,960), Jason Wojnar (1,948) and Matthew Barker (1,783). Matt McNiel of Prior Lake, Minn., leads Regular All-Events with 2,202.
Sapp and his teammates got off to a strong start with a 3,155 team score Monday night but knew they needed an even better performance in doubles and singles. As a past champion, Sapp would like nothing more than to be able to share the winning feeling with his team.
"I want these guys to win so bad," said Sapp, who rolled an 857 series and teamed with 2011-12 Professional Bowlers Association Player of the Year Sean Rash to claim the 2003 doubles title with a then-record 1,540 total. "I want them to come back every year and have their names announced as champions. I was pumped up that these guys were ready to bowl tonight. If we work together like we did these past two days, we can have a chance to win."
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.