California bowler makes run at record at USBC Open

RENO, Nev. - Merlin Ng of Concord, Calif., started his ninth United States Bowling Congress Open Championships appearance Saturday with a perfect game and nearly repeated the feat two games later.

The 49-year-old right-hander opened the final game of his team event at the National Bowling Stadium with 11 consecutive strikes, but his quest to become the fourth bowler in tournament history with two 300s in the same year ended when he left a 2 pin on his final offering.

"I was very nervous," Ng said. "I have shot 300 before, but this is the Stadium. My teammates gave me all the courage and confidence. They said to stick with what I normally do and just throw the ball, and that really helped. I was so proud, and I can't believe I did it."

The last bowler to achieve perfection twice in one tournament was David Ferguson of Austin, Texas, in 2006. He joined the short list started by Kyle McCrackin of Wichita, Kan., in 2002 and Ron Bahr of Topeka, Kan., in 2003. Bahr is the only bowler in 111 years of USBC Open Championships competition to toss back-to-back 300s, which he did on the way to an 837 series and the Regular Singles title.

Four splits in his second game left Ng with 162, but his 761 series helped Let's Do It Team 2 of San Francisco to a 3,194 total. Motion Plus Lanes of Cudahy, Wis., leads Regular Team with a record 3,561.

After starting his second game with two consecutive strikes, Ng found it tough to move as the 43-foot Sport-certified pattern began to transition. He made a ball change and moved farther left with his teammates to get back on track.

"I should have moved deeper with everybody else," Ng said. "I saw it, but I didn't do it. I thought I could play tighter, since I started so well. But that's the game."

Ng's 300 was the 27th of this year's Open Championships, and his 299 was the seventh rolled at the NBS during the 2014 event. Although he didn't finish off that game, he was happy his team's game plan had worked out.

"On the last shot, I dropped the ball," Ng said. "I was still nervous. Our game plan worked pretty well. Everybody started throwing the ball from about 10 out to five, so we dried it up to create some area."

Ng now looks to use the experience he gained during his run at history to help him in future endeavors on the lanes, including his return to the Stadium on Sunday for doubles and singles.

"It's great encouragement," Ng said. "After I experienced this, I think I'll have more confidence in future tournaments."

Only 28 bowlers have rolled multiple 300s on the tournament lanes, and three of them own two at the NBS. Craig Szplett of Monee, Ill., is the only bowler with three perfect games at the Open Championships, doing so in 1996, 2005 and 2013.

Later on Saturday night, Jim Thomas of Johnson City, N.Y., fired the eighth 299 of the 2014 event to start his singles event. The 39-year-old added games of 190 and 234 for a 723 series. Louis Jenkins Jr. of Warr Acres, Okla., leads Regular Singles with 826.

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