New doubles leaders emerge at Open Championships

RENO, Nev. - There are numerous opportunities at the National Bowling Stadium for bowlers to get a quick tuneup before taking the lanes at the 2014 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships, and competing in one of the side events paid dividends for Darris Wiltse of Las Vegas.

After a squad at the Storm Bowlers Journal Championships presented by USBC, which is being contested at the high end of the 78-lane NBS and features the same oil pattern being used for doubles and singles at the USBC Open Championships, Wiltse made a surface change on one of his bowling balls, and that ultimately gave him the look he needed for a career-best doubles series and the Regular Doubles lead at this year's Open Championships.

The 47-year-old left-hander rolled games of 266, 174 and 215 for a 655 series Sunday morning and teamed with Jason Aikens of West Branch, Mich., who added 244, 206 and 211 for a 661 set and 1,316 total. Scott Hartnell of Kenosha, Wis., and Derek Hartnell of Rolla, Mo., previously held the Regular Doubles lead with 1,243.

"I made the surface change today based on what I saw at the Bowlers Journal, and that ball is what worked today," said Wiltse, who bowls in a USBC Sport Bowling league at Las Vegas' Texas Station. "We matched up really well, and it's nice to be in the lead."

Aikens, a 38-year-old right-hander, didn't compete in the Bowlers Journal Championships, but he did take a look at the 40-foot doubles/singles oil pattern before competing. His doubles effort Sunday was his best in eight Open Championships appearances by 79 pins. He added 616 in singles and 584 in team for a 1,861 all-events total, also a career-best.

Although they have bowled on the same team before, this marked the first time Aikens and Wiltse have bowled doubles together at the Open Championships.

"I know it's only the first week, but it's still pretty exciting to be in the lead," said Aikens, whose home bowling center is Ogemaw Lanes in West Branch.

Wiltse finished his ninth Open Championships appearance with 578 in team and 561 in singles for a 1,794 all-events total.

Along with the Bowlers Journal Championships, the National Bowling Stadium also is home to The Columbia 300 Forty Frame Game this year, being held on the Track Showcase Lanes on the facility's ground floor.

The Track Showcase Lanes is a 10-lane setup that was added to the venue as part of an ongoing $15 million renovation.

Time on the Showcase Lanes this year is split between The Forty Frame Game and team practice sessions. Groups of up to 10 bowlers are able to spend an hour practicing on the 43-foot oil pattern being used for the team event at the 2014 Open Championships. It provides an opportunity to test strategies and finalize a game plan before heading upstairs for their one shot at Open Championships glory.

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Presenting sponsors for the 2014 USBC Open Championships include Circus Circus Reno, Eldorado Hotel Casino Reno and Silver Legacy Resort Casino Reno.