Solomon Salama leads qualifying at 2019 USBC Masters Article Image

- Solomon Salama, a 16-year-old two-hander, is the qualifying leader after 15 games at the 2019 United States Bowling Congress Masters.

Salama, from Beverly Hills, California, led a field of 450 of the top bowlers in the world at the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino, finishing qualifying with a 3,492 total, a 232.8 average.

AJ Johnson of Oswego, Illinois, finished qualifying in second place with 3,423, Jakob Butturff of Tempe, Arizona, is third with 3,362, Michael Machuga of Erie, Pennsylvania, is fourth with 3,335 and Japan's Shota Kawazoe rounds out the top five with 3,329.

"It feels pretty good," Salama said. "I felt like I matched up really well this week. I executed the way I wanted to and made some really good ball changes when I needed to." 

The 2019 event now will transition to match play starting Saturday at 1 p.m. Eastern. A total of 64 players advanced to the tournament's double-elimination bracket.

The final spots in match play went to Jonathan Van Hees of Charlestown, Rhode Island, and Canada's Patrick Girard, who finished qualifying tied for 62nd place with a 3,069 total, a 204.6 average.

Van Hees rolled 206 in his final game to move into the cut, while Girard was able to hold on after finishing qualifying with 139.

Defending champion Andrew Anderson of Holly, Michigan, finished qualifying in a tie for 153rd place with 2,944, but he was guaranteed the No. 64 spot in the bracket if he was unable to improve his seeding through qualifying.

Salama, who attacks the lanes from the left-side, will face off against Anderson, a 23-year-old right-hander, in Saturday's first round.

Salama also was the leader after Wednesday's opening round of competition and reclaimed the top spot after games of 250, 178, 258, 213 and 279 on Friday for a 1,178 set.

The two-time Junior Gold Championships winner recently competed for Junior Team USA at the World Bowling Junior Championships in Paris, winning a silver medal in doubles with Anthony Neuer of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and he showed total command of his game on this week's 39-foot oil pattern.

"My strategy won't change heading into match play," said Salama, who also is part of Team USA after earning a spot at the 2019 USBC Team USA Trials, which also was held at Gold Coast. "I'm going to execute and try to keep it all left. It doesn't really matter who I bowl, I just need to focus on my game."

Qualifying consisted of 15 games over three days to determine the 63 bowlers joining Anderson in the bracket.

Bracket matches will be three-game total-pinfall contests to determine which players advance.

Match play will continue Sunday until the top five players are determined for 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.