Defending champion returns to NBS, USBC Open

RENO, Nev. - Even after his United States Bowling Congress Open Championships victory was official and he received his championship eagle trophy, Zeke Bayt of Westerville, Ohio, knew he still had a lot to learn about the long history of the world's largest participatory sporting event.

In fact, since taking the lead in Regular Singles last year at the National Bowling Stadium and eventually being announced as the winner, the 21-year-old right-hander has been hard at work learning as much as he can about bowling in general, on and off the lanes.

"There's a huge learning curve in bowling, so you have to keep up," said Bayt, who claimed the 2013 Regular Singles title with a 795 series. "I bowl in a lot of events now, and I see a lot of different conditions week in and week out. I've learned so much about surface, angles and what carries better on different surfaces. I've definitely improved physically, but mentally is where I've taken the most strides."

Bayt put his knowledge and recent experiences to the test this week as he returned to the USBC Open Championships as the defending singles champion. He made his ceremonial march down Center Aisle and saw the word champion next to his name on the scoreboard for the first time before finally getting the chance to put his title on the line six games and nearly 24 hours later.

Although his title defense Saturday at the NBS only resulted in games of 196, 192 and 217 for a 605 series, well short of Louis Jenkins Jr. of Warr Acres, Okla., who leads Regular Singles this year with 826, Bayt had a positive experience at the 2014 event.

"I didn't want to press, and I didn't want to put any unnecessary pressure on myself," Bayt said. "It's bowling, and what's going to happen is going to happen. I only worry about the things I can control, like making good shots and making my spares. I felt like I threw the ball well today, but it wasn't my day."

Bayt's singles title came in just his second Open Championships appearance, and although his third trip to the tournament didn't yield another win, it did provide him with another priceless memory and an additional spot in the event's history.

On Friday night, Bayt helped Team Turbo Grips of Fort Wayne, Ind., to the highest team game in 111 years of Open Championships competition, a 1,318 effort that allowed him to share the spotlight with his teammates.

"It was a really fun night, probably the most fun I've had on the lanes," said Bayt, who contributed a 228 game to the record score. "It was cool having that much fun as a group and then looking up and realizing we had a record. Even if it gets beaten, we'll always be the first team to break the 1,300 barrier."

Despite his age, Bayt has matured as a competitor and easily was able to put the team event in the back of his mind while he focused on the task at hand Saturday - turning in the best performance he could in doubles and singles.

He added a 625 doubles series Saturday morning to go along with his 674 effort in team for a 1,904 all-events total.

Team Turbo Grips is sixth in Regular Team with 3,511 and just missed the top 10 in Team All-Events with a 10,035 total. JR Raymond led the way with a 2,051 all-events total and was followed by Terry Rohrer (2,035), Kent Wagner (2,029), George Palumbo (2,016) and Bayt.

Motion Plus Lanes of Cudahy, Wis., leads Regular Team with a record 3,561, and Janz H.I. of Beaver Dam, Wis., tops the Team All-Events standings with 10,363.

"When I woke up this morning, I was focused on what I needed to do today to score well, and I wasn't thinking about last night," Bayt said. "I didn't get frustrated at all because I knew I was throwing it well and hitting my target, but it just wasn't going to happen today. It's possible I even threw the ball better than I did last year when I won, but that's bowling. Overall, it was a phenomenal experience and a lot of fun"

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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.