Companion team members shoot 300 at 2014 USBC Open

RENO, Nev. - Eric Copping of Websterville, Vt., brought two teams to the 2014 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships, and like any good team captain, he helped first-time participant Ian Parker of Burlington, Vt., navigate through the tournament experience.

Copping's leadership extended onto the lanes at the National Bowling Stadium on Monday as he rolled the 20th perfect game of this year's event in his final game of doubles. Parker followed with a 300 of his own in singles.

"I think I was more nervous for him than I was for myself," said Copping, who made his seventh USBC Open Championships appearance. "To have a 300 out here is the epitome of honor scores. I would've given up all of my other 300s for this."

The strikes for Copping this year weren't limited to his doubles finale. He also made a run at perfection in his second game of team, before a six-count ended his run at 10 consecutive strikes, and he started his last game of singles with seven strikes.

Despite the stresses involved with being a team captain, the 29-year-old right-hander had no problem focusing when it was time to bowl. His strike-filled 2014 tournament performance was consistent and a career-best.

He finished with 760 in singles, 744 in team and 722 in doubles for a 2,226 all-events total, which is third overall. Anthony LaCaze of Melrose Park, Ill., leads Regular All-Events with 2,273.

"There definitely is a lot of stress involved with being a team captain, especially with coming from the East Coast and the variety of jobs everyone has, so organizing a group has its challenges," Copping said. "But I was able to put that aside and focus on bowling, and it's nice to be able to have all the guys there for help and support, no matter how you're bowling."

Even before heading to Reno for his Open Championships debut, Parker had help and support from Copping and Wayne Stewart, who assisted with equipment selection and a game plan. On-site, they helped Parker with adjustments along the way.

"We definitely talked a lot about the tournament before coming out, and my goals were to shoot 1,800 and not have any really bad games," said Parker, who bowls at Champlain Lanes in Shelburne, Vt. "It was crazy walking in for the first time, but it was a lot of fun. I was really excited and knew the shot would be tough, but we did great job of breaking them down."

Parker, also a 29-year-old right-hander, started with sets of 589 in team and 587 in doubles, before things fell into place. He tossed games of 216, 300 and 235 in singles for a 751 series and 1,927 all-events tally.

"It was amazing to watch Eric shoot 300, and I certainly didn't expect to do it right after," Parker said. "It's much different than shooting one somewhere else. There, you don't think much about it until you get seven or eight strikes. Here, you get four in a row and start thinking about the possibility."

Along with getting his teams signed up and checked in, Copping made sure they were prepared.

They had a chance to practice on the tournament's team pattern after their local bowling center got a Kegel lane machine, and it helped them develop a game plan. They also took advantage of the on-site Storm Bowlers Journal Championships presented by USBC to get an idea of what to expect in doubles and singles, since that event features the same lane condition they'd be facing on their second day at the Open Championships.

"Yesterday, we stuck with our plan to burn it up between 5-10 and creep in," said Copping, who is sixth in Open Singles at the Bowlers Journal Championships with 762. "We tried to stay with a similar plan today, and even though the first game was iffy, the lanes opened up. I had a lot of confidence after team, and my set at the Bowlers Journal gave me an idea of what to expect today, along with some extra confidence."

With each appearance on the championship lanes, Copping seems to get more comfortable, especially at the NBS. Last year, he finished 28th in Regular All-Events with a 2,108 total.

Each year of his tournament career has been an opportunity to learn, and he's able to use his own experience to motivate and educate his group, which included three first-timers this year.

"Every time I come out here, I feel like I'm getting better and better," Copping said. "I struggled the first few years with balls and drillings, but I learned a lot and have a great ball driller to help me. I also have the support of my teammates. To come out and shoot 2,200 is unbelievable. This season couldn't have ended any better."

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Presenting sponsors for the 2014 USBC Open Championships include Circus Circus Reno, Eldorado Hotel Casino Reno and Silver Legacy Resort Casino Reno.