300 helps Couch to U.S. Open lead

PBA Communications

Newly-elected Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Famer Jason Couch of Clermont, Fla., fired a 300 game to close the first round and jump into a 106-pin lead among the early finishers in the 69th U.S. Open at Brunswick Zone-Carolier Tuesday.

Couch, a 16-time PBA Tour titlist, was as surprised as anyone in the building by his performance Tuesday because the U.S. Open hasn’t been kind to him over the years.

“I’ve struggled in the U.S. Open. Mightily,” he said. “It’s probably because it’s the one tournament I’ve wanted to win more than any other. I finished second at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn., back in 1999 (he lost in the title match to Bob Learn Jr. 231-215), and that’s one I’ll never forget.

“This is the one I’ve always wanted to win the most,” he continued. “This tournament is so hard. I think you gear yourself mentally, but it just drains you, especially if you don’t have success over a few years.”

Tuesday, however, Couch charged out of the gate with games of 227, 237, 246, 188, 212 and 300 for a six-game total of 1,410 pins (a 235 average) and cozy lead over non-winner P.J. Sonday of Luzerne, Pa. With two-thirds of the field yet to complete the first round, Junior Team USA member Marshall Kent of Yakima, Wash., was third with 1,283 pins.

But just a week after learning he has been elected to the PBA Hall of Fame, the usually intense Couch was uncharacteristically laid back after his opening round.

“I’m more relaxed these days. I know I’m on the downside of my career,” the 42-year-old left-hander said. “I’m not expecting or asking so much of myself. I’m more patient. Five, 10 years ago, I would have demanded a good block out of the gate for myself, but I had no high expectations coming in the door this morning.

“I think I was more shocked than anyone with that 300 game,” he grinned. “I’ve been throwing one or two bad shots every game the past few weeks, but today I just bore down and focused.”

The 69th U.S. Open concludes Sunday with a four-player stepladder final televised live on ESPN at 3 p.m. Eastern. First prize is $60,000.

The entire field of 394 amateur and professional bowlers representing 12 different countries will bowl three six-game qualifying rounds Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The top 25 percent of the field will advance to a nine-game cashers’ round Friday morning. After a total of 27 games, the top 24 will advance to three eight-game round robin match play rounds Friday evening and Saturday to decide the four stepladder finalists.

All preliminary rounds leading up to Sunday’s ESPN finals are being webcast live on the PBA’s exclusive online bowling channel, Xtra Frame. To subscribe to Xtra Frame, click on the logo on the home page of pba.com.

For complete scores, click on the “Live Scoring” tab on pba.com.