Illinois duo claims Standard Doubles lead at 2019 USBC Open Championships

By Matt Cannizzaro and Daniel Farish
USBC Communications

Jeremy Delby of Park Forest, Illinois, and Gregory Mollett Jr. of Homewood, Illinois, are leaving the 2019 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships as the leaders in Standard Doubles with just nine days remaining in this year's tournament.

After their final ball of doubles was thrown at the South Point Bowling Plaza, the two slapped hands and congratulated each other on what they thought was a second-place effort.

Once they learned the true outcome of their performance, the scene was different, and the two bowlers were showered with handshakes and hugs from their teammates, friends and family with them in Las Vegas.

A final-frame mark and a nine-count fill ball from Mollett gave the friends a 1,274 total, four pins better than Todd Reno of Lemont, Illinois, and Robert Riley of Plainfield, Illinois, who took the lead April 7 with 1,270. That effort included Reno's first career 300 game.

Delby, making his sixth appearance at the USBC Open Championships, led Friday's surge with a career-high 645 series, which included games of 246, 206 and 193. The effort also marked his first 600 series on the championship lanes. His previous-best was a 597 set in singles at the 2015 event in El Paso, Texas.

Mollett, who celebrated his 20th Open Championships appearance this year, added games of 227, 201 and 201 for a 629 series.

"We practiced a lot back home for this tournament," said Delby, who competes with Mollett at Lynwood Bowl in Lynwood, Illinois. "Our proprietor, Bob Carlson, does an amazing job for this group of bowlers, letting us practice on last year's pattern. It's such a great group of guys."

While this year was the first year Delby and Mollett teamed up to bowl doubles together on the biggest stage in bowling, the group they travel with has been together for nearly two decades.

"We've bowled together back home, all of us, for almost 20 years now," Mollett said. "Every Sunday, we get together at the bowl and practice. We had a game plan coming in, and we executed it perfectly. All of us, not just Jeremy and I."

As the two bowlers stepped up in the 10th frame, they still could afford one open frame, as long as the other filled his frame with decent pin count. Both competitors left makeable spares, with Delby leaving the 3-6-9 combination and Mollett leaving just the 3 pin.

Delby's spare attempt sailed wide, only taking down the 3 and 6 pins. The opportunity to secure the lead, and possibly the 2019 Standard Doubles titles, then fell on Mollett's shoulders.

"I was elated when we found out we took the lead, because I made that single pin," Mollett said. "I saw someone back there recording, and that was a hint to me that we had a chance. After I made the single pin, they were still recording, so I figured we could get there."

Mollett hit the pocket on his final offering, knocking down nine pins, which was enough to take the top spot as the 2019 tournament winds down. The event kicked off its 122-day run March 9 and will conclude July 8.

"This would mean a lot," said Mollett, a 42-year old right-hander. "I'm going to have some late nights watching scores until this is over."

For Delby, a 34-year-old right-hander, winning an Eagle, the trophy awarded to the champions in each event at the Open Championships, would mean everything.

"This would mean the absolute world to me," said Delby, who works as a blackjack dealer at Harrah's Joliet in Illinois. "We were talking before we bowled about whether we'd rather shoot 900 or win an Eagle. It was unanimous - we wanted that Eagle. This is the hardest tournament we bowl in every year, and it's against the best bowlers in the country. We had lady luck on our side today."

Delby added a 556 series in team and 490 in singles for a 1,691 all-events total, also a career-best, and Mollett had 529 in singles and 523 in team for 1,681.

Standard Doubles includes teams with combined entering averages of 311-350.

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