Doubles champions unable to repeat at 2014 USBC Open

RENO, Nev. - After taking the Regular Doubles lead at last year's United States Bowling Congress Open Championships, Rick Gatlin of Eureka, Mo., and Brian Burkhardt of St. Louis had to endure a long wait and some leaderboard watching before finding out their score held on to win.

As soon as the congratulatory phone call came in, the countdown began until their return to the National Bowling Stadium to put their title on the line.

This week, the duo returned to the NBS, the scene of the career-defining win, to see if they could claim back-to-back titles on bowling's biggest stage in front of hundreds of BowlTV viewers.

Although they fell short of a repeat performance, Gatlin and Burkhardt put together a big final game for a 1,313 total and moved into the top 100 in this year's standings. Clark and Carl Poelzer of Arden Hills, Minn., lead Regular Doubles with 1,465.

On their way to the win, Gatlin set the pace with a 736 series, while Burkhardt added 704 for a 1,440 winning-total. This year, Gatlin posted a 659 set, and Burkhardt finished with 654.

"I was pretty hyped up the first game," said Gatlin, who made his 12th USBC Open Championships appearance. "I tried to force it and make the ball do more, but at least we recovered and finished respectably. We didn't want to come out here and embarrass ourselves."

Gatlin and Burkhardt kept close tabs on the leaderboard last year and enjoyed the relief when they finally received the call from Open Championships Tournament Manager Duane Hagen.

"The wait was pretty brutal," said Burkhardt, who also made his 12th tournament appearance. "Every morning, I was checking scores. One thing about this tournament is the long wait. Normally, you get to throw the last ball or throw that last strike to win and you get that excitement, but this was a marathon to get through it all. Seeing our names up there as champions every year is going to be sweet. It definitely makes you want to keep coming back."

Now that they have had the experience of marching down Center Aisle as defending champions and were able to see their championship banner for the first time, Gatlin and Burkhardt have raised their expectations in hopes of finding that success one more time.

"As tough as this tournament is to win, I never thought in my dreams I'd have one of these titles," Gatlin said. "It's a wonderful feeling. I have a couple of state titles, but it doesn't compare to this. It is the ultimate accomplishment."

Gatlin wrapped up his 2014 event with 634 in singles and 622 for a 1,915 all-events score. Burkhardt added 632 in team and 609 in singles for 1,895.

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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.