Steve Smith leads first round at 2019 USBC Senior Masters Article Image

- San Diego's Steve Smith finished his opening round of qualifying at the 2019 United States Bowling Congress Senior Masters with games of 279 and 266 on Tuesday to lead the 300-player field at Sam's Town Bowling Center.

The 51-year-old right-hander started his block with games of 235, 256 and 202 to finish with a five-game total of 1,238, a 247.6 average.

John Dudak of Orland Park, Illinois, sits in second place with 1,212, and Oklahoma City's Pete Thomas is third with 1,204. Stoney Baker of Canton, Georgia, and Canada's Joe Ciach round out the top five with scores of 1,187 and 1,184, respectively. is providing wire-to-wire livestream coverage of the event for USBC members age 50 and older.

Smith bowled on the burn variation of this week's 40-foot oil pattern Tuesday, meaning one squad already had bowled its five-game block on the condition. Ciach posted the highest score on the fresh, while Thomas paced his squad on the double-burn.

The three-time Team USA member started his block playing farther to the right. A zone change to his left, however, let him find the look to move to the top of the standings.

"I didn't have any expectations today, other than to try and bowl well," Smith said. "I tried to play the lanes to the right between the first and second arrows. It looked OK, but when I moved left between the second and third arrows, things really opened up for me. I had a pretty good look there."

Smith will bowl on the fresh during Wednesday's second round, and he feels he has a good game plan based on his experiences during Monday's official practice session.

If things don't go as planned, he has a few additional bowling balls in mind to combat the conditions. Smith also knows he's afforded himself the opportunity to not worry about a bad game or two based on Tuesday's strong performance.

"They'll probably be tighter tomorrow, so I'll probably be about five boards right compared to today," Smith said. "But, we'll see what happens tomorrow. Starting this well means if I have a bad game or two, it shouldn't impact me too much."

Qualifying will continue Wednesday, starting at 11 a.m. Eastern. After three days of qualifying, 15-game pinfall totals will determine the 63 bowlers who will join defending champion Chris Warren of Grants Pass, Oregon, in the double-elimination bracket.

Warren is tied for 50th place after the opening round with a 1,094 total. He is guaranteed the No. 64 seed in the bracket if he falls out of the cut, but he can improve his seeding for match play during qualifying.

After five games, Henry Dawson of Elma, Washington, is in 64th place with a 1,085 total, a 217 average.

Bowlers advancing to bracket play will compete in three-game total-pinfall matches until the top five bowlers are determined for Sunday's stepladder finals, which will take place at 1 p.m. Eastern. The winner will take home the $20,000 top prize.