Team USA's Martell leads, 20 advance from PTQ at 2020 U.S. Open

PTQ results

As a youth bowler and collegiate competitor at Robert Morris-Illinois, Team USA member Michael Martell never has had a problem holding his own.

Now that his professional bowling career is underway, the 22-year-old left-hander is ready to prove himself against the best bowlers in the world.

He took another step toward that Sunday at Sun Valley Lanes, where he led the group of 20 bowlers who advanced out of the pre-tournament qualifier at the 2020 U.S. Open.

Martell topped the 64-player field with a 1,831 eight-game total, a 228.88 average, to earn a spot on the 108-player U.S. Open roster. He's looking to improve on his 75th-place finish in his U.S. Open debut in 2019.

"I bowled the practice session this morning and honestly didn't like what I saw, but a little more surface and a better game plan coming into the block helped me find the right look," said Martell, who was the runner-up at the 2020 United States Bowling Congress Team USA Trials. "I was fortunate to hit three really good pairs today, but from there on out, I made my spares and was happy with anything over 200."

The other 88 bowlers scheduled to compete this week earned direct entry into the event based on their on-lane performances throughout 2019.

Each round of the 2020 U.S. Open, leading up to the championship round, will be broadcast live at and simulcast on FloBowling. Sunday's PTQ can be revisited in the BowlTV archives.

FOX will have live coverage of the stepladder finals on Sunday, Feb. 23 at 1 p.m. Eastern. The winner will take home the coveted green jacket and a $30,000 top prize.

Each time Martell takes the lanes, he learns something and becomes more comfortable, but he also knows success will take time.

"At first, I felt a little on edge bowling against the big guys, because these are the guys I grew up admiring," said Martell, a first-team All-American at Robert Morris during the 2018-2019 season. "And, even though I'm sharing the lanes with them more often, it's still cool. It's a different perspective. I think I'm on a good path, and if things continue to roll the right way, I know good things will happen. I'm looking forward to continuing the progress this week."

Total pinfall determined the bowlers who advanced from Sunday's PTQ, and the list includes men, women, youth, international players, local standouts, newcomers and veterans.

Martell, who resides in Chicago, was followed in the standings by Michael Davidson of Versailles, Ohio (1,775), Nate Garcia of Riverview, Florida (1,727), Stephen Hahn of Ashburn, Virginia (1,721), and Trey Brand of Clever, Missouri (1,704).

Longtime Team USA member and reigning U.S. Women's Open champion Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, New York, was the final qualifier Sunday with a 1,567 total, a 195.88 average. She finished one pin ahead of Denver's Ricky Schissler, who ended the day with a 255 game.

McEwan was joined in the PTQ field by fellow Professional Women's Bowling Association major champions Maria Jose Rodriguez of Colombia and Diana Zavjalova of Latvia. Rodriguez also advanced, finishing 14th with a 1,628 total, while Zavjalova fell short, landing in 32nd place (1,502).

The 40-foot oil pattern the competitors faced Sunday was one test in what they know will be a challenging week.

Along with being arguably the most prestigious event in the sport of bowling, the U.S. Open is known for its long format and difficult lane conditions. With strikes a little harder to come by, there often is a premium on spare shooting.

"I think my spare shooting was the best thing I did today, and I know it will need to be a strength the rest of the week, too," Martell said. "I only missed one makeable, and it came in the last frame of the eight games today. I also covered a lot of splits. I didn't leave much wood on the deck, and I don't think there was much more out there than what I bowled, so I'm happy."

Official practice will take place throughout the day Monday at Sun Valley Lanes, and all competitors will get a chance to see the four oil patterns that will be used during the 56 games leading into the live TV finals.

All 108 competitors will bowl 24 games of qualifying over three days, eight games each day starting Tuesday, before the field is cut to the top 36 for an eight-game cashers' round on a fourth oil pattern.

Total pinfall for 32 games will determine the 24 players for the round-robin portion of the event, and their 56-game total, including 30 bonus pins for each win in match play, will decide the five players for the championship stepladder.

Heading into the grueling U.S. Open, Martell has no intentions of changing anything.

"For me, I honestly want to keep the mindset the same going into the main tournament," Martell said. "I bowled pretty aggressively once I felt I had better ball reaction and saw the ball pickup in the right place. I took advantage of the good pairs and got what I could on the others. I want to keep all that the same. When I feel like I have it, I want to go for it. When I feel I need to play cautious and be safe, I can do that."

Canada's Francois Lavoie is the defending champion at the U.S. Open, an event he also won in 2016 for his first Professional Bowlers Association Tour title. He is one of 12 bowlers in history to win the U.S. Open on multiple occasions.

Only four bowlers - Andy Varipapa, Don Carter, Dick Weber and Dave Husted have successfully defended their U.S. Open titles. Husted was the last to accomplish the feat, doing so in 1996.