RENO, Nev. - The 2013 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships kicked off its 125-day run Friday as the first of more than 10,000 teams hit the lanes at the National Bowling Stadium.
The tournament is making its record 11th visit to The Biggest Little City in the World and eighth trip to the one-of-a-kind NBS, where more than 400 bowlers and fans helped usher in the 110th edition of the storied event.
The opening-night festivities included a ceremonial ribbon cutting, traditional Mass Ball Shot, exhibition by the cast of "Magique," a show being held at the Eldorado Hotel Casino and the crowning of Joe Bowler.
Michael Mariani of Havre, Mont., earned the distinction of being named this year's Joe Bowler, a tradition started in 1951. The 61-year-old right-hander randomly was selected from the opening squad and earned the right to throw out the ceremonial first ball.
Mariani received some coaching tips from USBC Hall of Famer Bob Hart as he prepared to make his shot, and he then knocked down seven pins to mark the official start of the 2013 tournament.
"Getting picked out of all these people, I thought no way," said Mariani, who made his 12th USBC Open Championships appearance. "I knew about it but never thought it would be me. I didn't want to try and take a full approach because the cape hinders you a little, but the best part was just going out and doing it."
Following the ceremony, Custom Decks of Northfield, Ohio, wasted no time racing to the top of the leaderboard, taking the early lead in Regular Team with a 2,733 total. The team members used a session on the new 900 Global Showcase Lanes earlier in the day to help solidify the strategy that catapulted them into the top spot.
Chuck Lewis led the way for Custom Decks with a 602 series and was joined by Kyle Oleksy (573), David Oleksy (535), Gene Klonowski (524) and Phil Klonowski (499).
"We practiced for an hour on the Showcase Lanes today, and they seemed to be a tad drier down there," said Lewis, who made his 19th tournament appearance. "We talked about it and tried to tighten up each other's games. Spare shooting is essential. It was very challenging, but it's nice to be on top at the end of the first day."
In the Classified Division, Fran-Way Tree Moving of Pella, Iowa, grabbed the top spot with a 2,388 effort. Rod Blunck paced the group with a 518 set and was followed by Wayne VanMersbergen (511), Kyle Blunck (488), Jeff Blunck (471) and Nathan Blunck (400).
"We actually thought we struggled, but it turns out we must have done fairly well," said Rod Blunck, who made his 20th Open Championships appearance. "I told the guys that if we finished first on the squad, we would be leading. It was a good time. We're pretty pleased with the results."
Competition at the 2013 Open Championships will continue until July 7. For the first time, the Storm Bowlers Journal Championships presented by USBC is being held in the same venue and will be held at the high end of the 78-lane venue.
The newly-added 900 Global Showcase Lanes on the ground floor of the building will be available for team practice sessions, coaching sessions with USBC-certified coach Matt McNiel and two new side tournaments - the 900 Global Two-Game Challenge and Who's Got the Look Baker Bonanza presented by 900 Global.
Also a first this year, the USBC Women's Championships will be held in the same host city at the same time. The 2013 tournament will be contested on 44 specially-constructed lanes at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. The event will kick off April 12 and run for 81 consecutive days, concluding July 1.
Presenting sponsors for the 2013 USBC Open Championships include Circus Circus Reno, Eldorado Hotel Casino Reno and Silver Legacy Resort Casino Reno.