Salama leads after first round at 2019 USBC Masters

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STANDINGS

LAS VEGAS
- Just days after returning home from the World Bowling Junior Championships in Paris, Solomon Salama of Beverly Hills, California, has ascended to the top of the standings after the opening round at the 2019 United States Bowling Congress Masters.

The 16-year-old two-hander leads a field of 450 bowlers at the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino after posting a five-game block of 1,184, a 236.8 average, on Wednesday.

Marshall Kent of Yakima, Washington, rolled Wednesday's only 300 game to move into second place in the standings with 1,158. Greg Thompson Jr. of Tempe, Arizona, is third with 1,147, Kyle Sherman of O'Fallon, Missouri, is fourth with 1,138 and Mykel Holliman of Collierville, Tennessee, is fifth with 1,134.

Salama, who attacks the lanes from the left side, had been competing as part of Junior Team USA at the World Junior Championships, where he claimed a silver medal in doubles with Anthony Neuer of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

After returning from his trip, he stayed home for just one evening before beginning his trek to Las Vegas to make his debut at the Masters.

"It was a little hectic at times," said Salama, a two-time winner at the Junior Gold Championships. "I only had one night to wash all of my clothes and make it here, but since I enjoy doing this, I didn't really find it to be too much of a hassle."

Salama started competition Wednesday on the "burn" variation of this week's 39-foot condition, meaning one squad already had bowled on the pattern before his squad.

He quickly found the right line, firing games of 206, 279, 280 and 228 before finishing with 191.

"The first couple of games, I wasn't seeing a lot of shape in the middle," Salama said. "So, I had to keep it outside the whole time. I tried to keep everything in front of me to get my ball to roll off the spot."

Salama's final two rounds of qualifying will be contested on the fresh, but he feels confident in his ability to create the ball reaction he'd like to see.

He also has confidence from finding previous success at Gold Coast. Earlier this year, Salama finished in fourth place at the USBC Team USA Trials to also earn his spot on Team USA for 2019.

"I feel like the right-handers have to chase the fronts, and I can keep left and do what I do," Salama said. "My carry has been pretty good here, too. It just seems to match up for me."

Salama entered this year's event hoping to gain experience and test himself against the best in the world. Through one round, he's put himself in the best possible position to advance to the tournament's double-elimination match-play bracket to continue his education process.

"I wasn't expecting very much coming in this year," Salama said. "I was just looking to see what the competition is like and gain some experience. I'm going to try and enjoy my time and hope to continue to bowl well."

All competitors will return to Gold Coast on Thursday for the second round of qualifying, starting with B Squad competitors at 11 a.m. Eastern.

Qualifying will consist of three five-game blocks over three days to determine the 63 players joining defending champion Andrew Anderson of Holly, Michigan, in match play. Anderson is guaranteed the No. 64 spot in the bracket but can improve his seeding through qualifying.

After Wednesday's opening round, Anderson is tied for 199th place with a 958 total.

Competition in the match-play bracket will begin Saturday, with three-game total-pinfall matches determining which players advance. The top five players will advance to Monday's stepladder finals, which will be broadcast live at 9 p.m. Eastern on FS1.

FloBowling is providing livestream coverage of the 2019 Masters up to the stepladder finals.