Sixteen players undefeated at 2019 USBC Senior Masters


- Since turning 50 in January, Blaine Weninger of Clackamas, Oregon, has been working hard, both on the lanes and in the gym, to get ready for the 2019 United States Bowling Congress Senior Masters and Suncoast Professional Bowlers Association Senior U.S. Open presented by Storm, but a back injury nearly derailed his summer plans.

After a couple trips to the doctor and a half-dozen visits to the chiropractor, Weninger felt well enough to compete this week at the Sam's Town Bowling Center, and he's now one of 16 undefeated players at the 2019 USBC Senior Masters.

Also among the undefeated competitors are last year's runner-up Norm Duke of Clermont, Florida, top seed Eugene McCune of Munster, Indiana, two-time USBC Masters champion Doug Kent of Newark, New York, 2015 Senior Masters winner Amleto Monacelli of Venezuela and 2012 champion Mike Edwards of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

On the way to a 2-0 record Friday, Weninger found himself in the highest-scoring match of the day, an 820-729 victory over USBC and PBA Hall of Famer Walter Ray Williams Jr. of Oxford, Florida.

Ironically, while his back might've been a little bit tight due to a bad sacroiliac joint, caused by overdoing his preparation, Weninger said his arm swing was looser than he expected while taking on the winningest player in PBA history. Weninger closed the three-game match with the tournament's eighth perfect game.

"Even though I qualified fourth, I had streaks where I bowled well and other times where I just didn't, or maybe my spare game was off," Weninger said. "I bowled pretty well this morning, and I think the best thing that could've happened was getting to bowl Walter because my expectations were zero. I knew I probably wasn't supposed to win. He's arguably the best player ever, and I'm just me. I just went out and bowled, and something clicked. I wasn't even nervous because I had no expectations."

Having scouted the pair they'd be bowling on, Weninger said he and Williams expected their match to be high-scoring based on the way Edwards and Peter Knopp of Columbus, Ohio, attacked the lanes the match before.

By playing straighter, toward the outside part of the lane and using bowling balls with more surface, Edwards and Knopp helped open up the lanes, ultimately making them very scorable for Weninger and Williams.

That's simply the nature of the Senior Masters, where some rounds are contested on a fresh oil pattern, and others are bowled on the burn, meaning a match already had taken place.

"We talked before we started and knew that pair was going to be good, and then in practice, you could tell there was going to be some room," Weninger said. "Ultimately, though, it's not about the score, it's about winning the match. You can shoot 770 and lose, or you can shoot 520 and win. It's a unique format, where gutting out a win is all that matters. You don't have to worry about the field or pinfall or bonus pins. You just have to focus on the one opponent at a time."

While he rests his body Friday night, Weninger also plans to give his mind a rest, too, at least when it comes to bowling.

One of the stipulations of his time in Las Vegas, is that he keep up with his responsibilities as a full-time accountant, meaning there's plenty of work to distract him from thinking about ball selections and how the 40-foot oil pattern will transition on the second day of match play.

"I'm fortunate to have an employer that allows me come out and bowl as long as I get all my work done, and, luckily, I have a ton of work to keep me busy and distracted when I'm not bowling," Weninger said. "So far, this has been a great experience, and it's all gravy from here. I've had a great time, and no matter how it goes, this is something I'll never forget."

All 32 remaining competitors will be back on the lanes Saturday at noon Eastern, and competition will continue throughout the day, until only five remain in contention for the $20,000 top prize.

The final five bowlers will advance to Sunday's championship round, a traditional stepladder, that will be broadcast live at at 1 p.m. Eastern. is providing wire-to-wire livestream coverage of the event.

Among the 16 bowlers left in the Elimination Bracket are Williams, the only player to win both the Senior Masters and Masters twice each, fellow hall of famer Parker Bohn III of Jackson, New Jersey, PBA Tour champion Ryan Shafer of Horseheads, New York, and international standouts Tore Torgersen (Norway) and Ray Vervynck (Canada).

Defending champion Chris Warren of Grants Pass, Oregon, will not make another record run at Sam's Town this year after losing back-to-back matches to Mark Williams of Beaumont, Texas, and Shafer.

Warren's opening-round match against Williams ended in a 643 tie, when Warren left a 4-10 split after starting his final frame with a strike. Nine pins would've been enough to advance. Instead, Williams was able to move on after two one-ball roll-offs (10-10, 10-9).

In 2018, Warren lost his first match and then rattled off a record 13 consecutive wins to claim the title, including defeating the top-seeded Duke twice in the traditional double-elimination format.

A total of 300 USBC members age 50 and older took to the lanes this week at the 2019 Senior Masters for three five-game sets over three days to determine the 63 bowlers who joined Warren in the double-elimination bracket. Match play features three-game total-pinfall contests to determine which players advance.