First-timer leads Classified Singles at 2017 Open Championships

LAS VEGAS - It took some convincing from his friends, but Michael Tengan of Hilo, Hawaii, finally decided it was the right time for his first trip to the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships.

The 69-year-old rookie didn't know what to expect before walking into the South Point Bowling Plaza, but the gamble paid off Sunday as he finished his debut atop the leaderboard in Classified Singles.

Tengan improved in each set he bowled, closing with games of 215, 199 and 193 for a 607 singles series. Efrain Rodriguez of New York previously held the lead with 590.

"I never thought I could shoot that high," said Tengan, who had 458 in doubles and 428 in team for a 1,493 all-events total. "The object is to do the best you can and have fun. I did both of those things, and I'm really glad I came."

Darren Nishioka, a seven-time USBC Open Championships participant, is the one who extended the invitation to Tengan when another member of the group was unable to attend the 2017 event. The group then worked together to make Tengan feel comfortable on the lanes.

"He actually was very nervous at the beginning of the team event, but we were able to show him the ropes and help him settle down," Nishioka said. "We told him to just play his game and have fun. I think he was a little more relaxed today, and he was able to bowl well. It was exciting to see him take the lead, and we're very proud of him. Hopefully, he'll want to come with us again."

Nishioka noted that the bowling center they used to compete at in Hilo closed about five years ago, so they now make a monthly voyage - 100 miles each way - to compete in a club league.

The limited time on the lanes, and any first-time nerves, weren't evident as Tengan raised the bar in Classified Singles.

"What a great way to end this trip," Tengan said. "Darren just wanted me to experience this kind of bowling, and I'm thankful. This place is so different than we're used to. I love the way it's set up, and the whole experience was really nice. I'd heard about it before coming, but it was nice to see everything. I especially like how everyone walked in."

Classified Singles consists of bowlers with entering averages of 180 and below. 

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