BATON ROUGE, La. - Many competitors each year step onto bowling's biggest stage for the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships and everything just clicks, leading the way to memorable performances.
Adam Atherton of Independence, Ky., now finds himself in that category after tossing games of 220, 197 and 229 for a 646 series at the Baton Rouge River Center on Saturday night. It was the highest set of his 12-year USBC Open Championships career and helped him into second place in Classified Singles. Joel Fee of Pella, Iowa, leads with 655.
"I didn't realize I was close to taking the lead," said Atherton, a 38-year-old right-hander, who bowls league at Superbowl Erlanger in Erlanger, Ky. "I realized I was on the way to one of my best series of the tournament in 12 years. I finally showed up. I had to make up for a poor doubles score."
After a disappointing 467 series in doubles, Atherton was able to find a sense of comfort on his singles pair and immediately went to work.
"The lanes were a lot different during doubles," Atherton said. "I couldn't really find anything, and I tried different shots in doubles. When I went to the other pair, I was able to play a shot I was comfortable with, and it was actually hitting. My doubles partner shot her first 200 game, and I think that prompted me to keep pace with her and continue on."
The Open Championships has a long history, dating back to 1901, and it's the competition and overall experience that will continue to bring Atherton back.
"I think just the overall experience of bowling in a stadium or stadium setting designed just for bowlers is why I come back," said Atherton, who added 455 in team for a 1,568 all-events total this year. "I also get a chance to get out of town and have a vacation and spend time with people I don't usually see. I only see them once a year, so that's a lot of fun."
As a Classified bowler, Atherton's goal is to try and roll a 200 game every set. He looks for consistent improvement and knows the Open Championships will provide a progress report.
"Usually, my goal at the tournament is to try and shoot a 200 every set," Atherton said. "Not necessarily shooting for 600 every set because I'm a Classified bowler. I just want to show improvement. I know there will be some lows and some highs, and hopefully more highs than lows."
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.