LAS VEGAS - Though the extra scoreboard watching can be nerve-racking, bowling early in the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships has paid off for Ryan Mouw of Muskegon, Michigan, in two consecutive years.
The 39-year-old right-hander was part of one of the most exciting and high-scoring squads in tournament history, and the 2,156 nine-game total he posted March 24 at the South Point Bowling Plaza not only was enough to outlast two USBC Open Championships titlists bowling at the same time, it also was enough to outdistance more than 52,000 competitors and earn him the 2019 Regular All-Events title.
Mouw, a 15-time Open Championships participant, is one of 32 bowlers to find the winner's circle this year, while he and Regular Doubles champion Cotie Holbek of Burlington, Wisconsin, will be receiving coveted Eagle trophies for the second consecutive year.
Five other previous champions also found their way back to the top of the standings, while 25 bowlers are first-time winners. Titles were up for grabs in team, doubles, singles and all-events in three average-based divisions - Regular, Standard and Classified - along with one Team All-Events ranking.
The 2019 event, the 116th edition of the storied tournament, kicked off March 9 and ran for 122 consecutive days. It was the tournament's fourth trip to The Entertainment Capital of the World and second visit to the South Point Bowling Plaza.
Mouw arrived in Las Vegas as a defending champion in Regular Team, and he left the Bowling Plaza leading four events - Regular Team, Regular Singles, Regular All-Events and Team All-Events.
He and his S and B Pro Shop 1 teammates of Warren, Michigan, fell just shy of becoming the first team to successfully defend its title, finishing fourth overall, while Mouw's 802 singles effort was good enough for third place. They also finished second in Team All-Events.
"I threw the three best shots I could in that last frame, and the stars just aligned for me," Mouw said. "If you look at the top 25 or 50 and all the big names and tournament legends, if you will, seeing my name at the top of that list is amazing and special, but something I never could've expected. I'm grateful I was able to hold on, and this truly means so much."
The group bowled on the 16th and 17th days of the four-month 2019 event, after locking up the 2018 Regular Team title on the fifth of 107 days of competition.
The excitement on their doubles and singles squad this year included two of the year's four 800s. The other was rolled by three-time Open Championships titlist Kurt Pilon, the defending Regular All-Events champion and Mouw's teammate, who set the bar with an 800 singles set.
Minutes earlier, about 10 lanes away, 2003 Regular Doubles winner and 2007 USBC Masters champion Sean Rash of Montgomery, Illinois, had posted the numbers to beat in each event, shooting 792 in singles en route to a 2,151 all-events effort.
Mouw doubled in his final frame, and his 299 finish moved him past Pilon and Rash in singles and all-events, respectively. Rash finished the 2019 event third in all-events and sixth in singles, while Pilon was fourth in all-events and fourth in singles.
Holbek, the 2018 Regular Singles champion, enjoyed the championship experience so much, he wanted to share it with a friend in 2019.
He and Steven Fisher of Winthrop Harbor, Illinois, bowled their 1,478 doubles set March 25, while the venue still was buzzing about the show Mouw and his fellow competitors put on the night before.
Holbek, a 26-year-old right-hander and three-time Open Championships participant, led the doubles surge with games of 266, 234 and 276 for a 776 series, and Fisher, a 34-year-old right-hander making his 11th tournament appearance, added 219, 270 and 213 for a 702 set.
Though he came up short in his bid to become the first back-to-back winner in Regular Singles, shooting 647 this year, Holbek is excited to share the spotlight with his partner.
"This really is such an amazing feeling, but it's incredibly hard to put it into words," said Holbek, who rolled the lone 800 series of the 2018 tournament in Syracuse, New York (802), to claim his first Eagle. "Last year was amazing, but to do it two years in a row is indescribable. To be able to share it with Steve and help him win his first Eagle makes it even better. This is our first big win together."
This year's Regular Singles title went to Mitch Beasley of Clarksville, Tennessee, who tossed games of 246, 297 and 269 for an 812 series May 4.
The effort made the 50-year-old right-hander the 36th bowler in tournament history with a perfect game and 800 series on the championship lanes, while the 3-6-9 combination he left at the end of his second game of singles left him just shy of becoming the 33rd bowler with multiple 300s at the event. He first achieved perfection on the biggest stage in bowling at the 2017 tournament, also at the South Point Bowling Plaza.
"This ranks up there pretty high among my accomplishments, probably right up there with my (Professional Bowlers Association) national title," said Beasley, who won the 2016 PBA Chameleon Championship. "I tried not to watch the scores too much, because then I'd want to keep looking. I'm glad I was able to hold on. This win means a lot."
Another group of bowlers familiar with close calls at the Open Championships found their way to the Regular Team title this year after runner-up finishes in team and Team All-Events in 2018.
Higgy's Aquarium of Westerville, Ohio, which returned four team members from a year ago, rolled games of 1,033, 1,159 and 1,170 for a 3,362 total June 16 and had the shortest wait of all the Regular Division winners.
The team marked in all but one frame of its final game at the Bowling Plaza and filled 139 of 150 frames overall to find the top of the standings. Team captain Dan Higgins led the effort with a 755 series and was joined by Joe Bailey (695), Chad Roberts (664), Joshua Conner (643) and Charles Tompkins (605).
This year's team title comes after second-place finishes in 2016 and 2018.
The team's continued success also includes six top-10 finishes in Team All-Events, since the tournament began using two oil patterns in 2013. This year, Higgy's Aquarium finished fourth in Team All-Events.
Higgins, Bailey, Roberts and Conner, along with former team member Tony Carson, were the Team All-Events champions in 2016.
"There has been a lot of score watching and texts back and forth, and the last two days of waiting seemed longer than all the rest, especially with some great teams on the lanes," said Higgins, a 44-year-old right-hander and 23-time tournament participant. "This one means just as much, if not more than the first one, since we have been close to the team title a few times. Last year got away from us, so we were really happy we were able to finish this one off and leave in the lead and eventually win the title."
The 2019 Team All-Events title was decided April 9, as two-time titlist Anthony Pepe of Long Island City, New York, helped his new teammates accomplish something that has been just out of reach more than once.
The members of Mento Produce of Syracuse averaged nearly 222 as a group over 45 games on two challenging oil patterns to win the prestigious title with a 9,983 total.
The team was led by Derek Magno, who rolled a perfect game during their team event April 8 and went on to finish fifth in Regular All-Events with a 2,142 total. He was joined in the effort by Joe Conti Jr. (2,084), Steve Meyer (1,995), Pepe (1,953) and TJ Mento (1,809).
Pepe, who bowled with the team for the first time, picked up a pair of Eagles (Regular Team and Team All-Events) at the South Point Bowling Plaza in 2017 as a member of Team NABR.
"As a non-pro bowler, this is the Mecca for me and what I've been working toward for the last 15 years," said Magno, who also finished fifth in Regular Doubles with Conti. "I'm just at a loss for words. This is my major for my kind of bowling. This is the highest honor I feel like I can achieve, and we did it. We did it as a team. It's etched in bowling history, and nobody can take that away from us."
The Team All-Events title is determined by combining the nine-game all-events totals of all five team members.
In the Standard Division, which debuted at the South Point Bowling Plaza in 2017, it was the members of Shawn Blanton Team 2 of Owensboro, Kentucky, who had the longest wait to see if their score was enough to hold on for the Standard Team title this year.
The group secured the top spot in the standings April 3 with games of 890, 947 and 1,033 for a 2,870 total.
Team captain Shawn Blanton set the pace for Shawn Blanton Team 2 with a 617 series, which included a 268 in his final game. He was followed by Christopher Strehl (608), Andrew Dill (557), John Leonard (557) and Davey Murphy (531).
This year's Standard Doubles leaders, Jeremy Delby of Park Forest, Illinois, and Gregory Mollett Jr. of Homewood, Illinois, had just over a week of score watching to see if their effort was enough.
A final-frame mark and a nine-count fill ball from Mollett on June 28 gave the friends a 1,274 total, four pins better than the longtime previous leader.
Delby, a 34-year-old right-hander making his sixth appearance at the Open Championships, led the way 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.
Mollett, a 42-year-old right-hander who celebrated his 20th Open Championships appearance this year, added games of 227, 201 and 201 for a 629 series.
In Standard Singles and Standard All-Events, one winner is just establishing himself on the biggest stage in bowling, and the other is adding to a family legacy at the Open Championships.
Cody Morrow of Eugene, Missouri, a 33-year-old right-hander making his first tournament appearance, stepped up and delivered in his final frame to claim the top spot in Standard Singles.
He filled 20 pins to close out his 690 series June 4, which included games of 248, 216 and 226. He opened his Open Championships debut with sets of 417 in team and 537 in doubles.
Across nine games at the Bowling Plaza, it was Jenny Wonders of Roscoe, Illinois, who set the pace in Standard All-Events, leading the way with a 1,876 total, posted May 23.
The 34-year-old right-hander, who made her 12th tournament appearance, rolled sets of 651 in doubles, 628 in team and 597 in singles.
With the win, she'll be the third Wonders enshrined in the tournament record book.
Her father, Rich, won five Open Championships titles in the 1980s, and his success helped propel the 45-time tournament participant into the USBC Hall of Fame in 1990. Her uncle, John Wonders Sr., logged his 50th tournament appearance in 2010.
"Joining my dad as an Eagle winner is easily the best part of this whole thing," Wonders said. "This is something I never expected. I know my dad is really excited about it. He and my mom have been waiting just like us to get the call that it was official. The coolest part is that my name can be up there alongside my dad's."
The Standard Division now includes bowlers with entering tournament averages of 156-175, doubles pairs with combined entering averages of 311-350 and teams with combined averages of 776-875.
This year's Classified Team champions, Lynn Christianson Team 1 of Twin Valley, Minnesota, had the longest wait of all 2019 winners after taking the lead March 19 with a 2,624 total on games of 887, 885 and 852.
They were in familiar territory, having held the top spot for a time in 2017, before settling for a fourth-place finish.
This time, Corey Hanson led the way with a 568 series, and he was joined by Jody Bueng (560), Doug Fugleberg (528), Lynn Christianson (501) and Ricky Crane (467).
In Classified Doubles, Eric Cooke and Amber Piper of Buckeye, Arizona, barely had time to unpack their suitcases from their trip to Las Vegas, before finding out their 1,135 total July 6 remained at the top of the standings through the final squads of the event.
Piper, a 33-year-old right-hander and two-time Open Championships participant, and Cooke, a 43-year-old right-hander who competed for the fifth time, both rolled career-high sets on their way to the lead. Piper set the pace with games of 166, 192 and 221 for a 579 series, and Cooke followed with 181, 154 and 221 for 556.
Another first-time participant, Jay Stratton of West Valley, Utah, claimed the top spot in Classified Singles.
The 47-year-old right-hander's memorable debut included singles games of 175, 244 and 234 for a 653 series. He added sets of 546 in team and 519 in doubles for a 1,718 all-events total, which was second in the Classified All-Events standings.
It was Kyle O'Meara of Peoria, Arizona, who ended Stratton's hopes of a two-Eagle performance, when he posted a 1,732 all-events score June 26.
O'Meara, a 30-year-old right-hander making his fourth visit to the Open Championships, rolled series of 641 in singles, 614 in doubles and 477 in team. He had not broken the 500 mark in nine previous sets on the championship lanes. His singles effort this year was good for fourth place.
The Classified Division now includes individual bowlers with entering tournament averages of 155 and below, doubles pairs with combined entering averages of 310 and below and teams with combined averages of 775 or below.
During the 122-day run of the 2019 Open Championships, there were 12 perfect games, eight 299s and six 298s, while 19 additional bowlers rolled 11 consecutive strikes.
Additional highlights included 21 bowlers entering the event's 50-Year Club and two new members of the 60-Year Club, while Frank Clay of Crystal Lake, Illinois, and Clinton Zavakos of nearby Henderson, Nevada, became the 13th and 14th bowlers, respectively, to reach 65 years of Open Championships participation.
Mike Schmid of Arden Hills, Minnesota, became the 23rd member of the 100,000-Pin Club.
In 2020, the Open Championships will return to the newly remodeled National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nevada. It will be the tournament's 14 th trip to The Biggest Little City in the World and 11th visit to the NBS.
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