Texas bowler battles injury, shoots 300 at OC

By Matt Cannizzaro and Jim Schroeder
USBC Communications 

RENO, Nev. -
A pulled muscle nearly sidelined Cliff Sjolander of Baytown, Texas, and put an early end to his 2013 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships campaign, but he battled through the pain and was rewarded with the 28th perfect game at this year's event.

The 43-year-old right-hander hurt his leg during his team event Monday night, but managed to complete all nine games of competition at the National Bowling Stadium. He shot 439 in team and struggled to a 446 series in doubles Tuesday before his leg muscle started to loosen up.

"I didn't think I would be able to bowl at all tonight, but I got a brace from a buddy and bowled," said Sjolander, who made his 13th USBC Open Championships appearance. "The pain was so bad at one point that it made me nauseous."

Sjolander finished with games of 186, 300 and 183 for a 669 singles series, the highest set of his Open Championships career, and a 1,554 all-events total.

"This is something I never thought I would have to worry about feeling, and it really hasn't sunk in yet," said Sjolander, who regularly bowls at Houston's Palace Lanes, which is co-owned by USBC Hall of Famer Bill Lillard Sr. "My wife was the first person I was looking for when I turned around after, and, of course, there was a sea of people. I don't remember saying anything to anyone else. I was just trying to find her."

Along with the nagging injury, Sjolander struggled with the challenging Sport Bowling-certified lane conditions. He also hadn't bowled since early May, so he didn't feel as sharp or confident out on the lanes as he'd hoped.

In the end, it was his own experience and knowledge of the game that helped him make the move on the lane that led to perfection on bowling's biggest stage.

"I started playing the lanes like everyone else, down the boards, but I didn't have anything consistent, so I moved way deep and played the middle of the lane by myself," Sjolander said. "I had some over-under, and it took me the three games of doubles, and my leg loosening up, for me to split the difference."

Presenting sponsors for the 2013 USBC Open Championships include Circus Circus Reno, Eldorado Hotel Casino Reno and Silver Legacy Resort Casino Reno.