JJ’s Blog - 2012 PABCON Championships

Friday August 17th - Travel Day

The adventure to Las Vegas started with the alarm going off at 2am.  I have a 6:40 am flight and it’s a one hour drive to Orlando International Airport, hence the early trip to the airport.  I’ve got a short 45 minute connection in Memphis, so hopefully we won’t be late leaving Orlando.  I got to the airport with no issues but the flight was a few minutes late and they said we were taking a route near Chattanooga because of storms to the south of Memphis which was going to add a few more minutes to the trip. 

We were about 20 minutes late in Memphis but fortunately I made it.  The flight to Vegas was good but since I had a tight connection I was worried my luggage wouldn’t make it.  Fortunately it did make it.  I was going to rent a car for the day since we didn’t have any team functions set and pick up some chocolate and cupcakes for the team.  Also it worked out good since the room wasn’t ready to check into yet.  My good friend Diandra Asbaty came with me and we started out with lunch at Spago at Caesars’ Palace.  We then took a walk to the Palazzo to check out a cupcake place that is home of the World’s Most Expensive Cupcake at $750.  Needless to say we didn’t get any, but we settled on a couple of their regular ones, haha. 

After that we went back to Caesars to shop a little bit where Diandra bought a purse and I picked up more chocolate at Max Brenner’s.  We then went to Crystals at City Center where I did a little shopping and bought a shirt and then we headed to Mad Hatter Cupcakes to pick up some cupcakes for the Team.  This is a unique place in that the cupcake is already made and they put the filling and frosting as you order it.  Basically they customize it however you like.  I got a dozen for the Team the next day.

I dropped Diandra off back at Sunset Station and then went back to drop off the car and then hitched a ride with the shuttle driver who was taking Shannon Pluhowsky back to the hotel.  After getting back to the hotel I went to the room where my roommate for the week Steve Smith was already there.  Steve and I went to In-N-Out and had a burger and then went back to the room.  I was out not too long after getting back to the room since my day started out pretty early.

Saturday August 18th - Unofficial Practice Day

I woke up at 6:30am (which is seriously sleeping in compared to waking up at 5am in Eastern Time Zone) and went with Steve to go to the breakfast buffet but the buffet didn’t open until 8am.  Went back to the room and watched some TV until 8am rolled around and then did breakfast and then went to the bowl for practice with the Team at 10am. 

Practice went pretty well.  I had to spend some time opening up my thumbholes since my hand always seems to blow up when I come to Vegas.  I threw it pretty well and felt pretty good.  After practice Steve, Marshall Kent and I walked over for a burger at Carl’s Jr.  After killing a little time there I went back to the room and ended out taking an unplanned nap, haha!  At 6pm, a bunch of us went to Mimi’s Café to have a little bite to eat.  Afterward I then went to another dinner celebrating Leanne Hulsenberg’s birthday at a Japanese steakhouse.  After meeting more than my allotted 500 calories for dinner I headed back to the room and crashed.  A pretty low key day, but after getting up a little early I was feeling pretty pooped.  Need to make sure I head to the gym tomorrow morning to get back on the fitness trail.

Sunday August 19th - Official Practice Day

I woke up on my own at about 5:30am but didn’t get out of bed until about 6:00am.  I decided to go to the gym since it’s been since Thursday since I last went.  I normally go to the gym about 5 days a week when I’m home, so it’s about time to get back on it.  I never like to do anything heavy when I have to bowl so it just consisted of about 15 minutes of cardio, some pull-ups, a lot of abdominal work and stretching.  After about an hour in the gym I went back to the room, showered and got with Steve and went and had some breakfast.  We have official practice at 10am so I wanted to make sure I go there early to get ready because I feel my hand blowing up again so I need to allow some extra time to open up some thumbholes. 

Practice session went very well.  The patterns that will be used will be the 34’ WTBA Stockholm and the 44’ WTBA London.  Though they’ve changed these patterns slightly at the beginning of the year, they still maintain a lot of the same characteristics that they’ve had in the past.  In my opinion they are both on the easier side of the WTBA patterns, though not the easiest. 

On the short I had a good look with both of the urethane balls I brought, so I decided to check them both in.  The Storm Natural flares a couple of inches while the 1992 Ebonite Nitro doesn’t flare at all.  I feel the pattern is short enough and there is enough friction in the surface to where I think my long pattern balls will work if I need them.  Since the volumes are higher on all of the WTBA patterns this year, I feel you can get away with stronger covers, especially when the oil moves down the lane from all of the urethane balls. 

The long pattern played a little shorter than I had expected.  I had a good look there as well.  It was a little tougher for me to play closer to the track as the ball wanted to pick up a roll a little earlier than I had anticipated but I did have nice ball reaction around 22 swinging out to the 12-13-14 zone down the lane.  Over the course of the hour and a half of practice the lanes held up pretty well in my opinion.  I got into a good rhythm physically so I have no complaints.  I decided to check in my Ebonite Maxim for spares along with the Storm IQ Tour, Ebonite Innovate and Columbia Omen.  In WTBA Zone Championship competition you are only allowed to check in six bowling balls, so you have to be pretty good at making some guesses as to what you think you’re going to see. 

I had lunch at Panda Express with Steve and my good friend Vernon Peterson who came out for the weekend and then went in to watch the girls practice.  At 3:25pm we had the opening ceremonies which lasted about 45 minutes and then we went back to the room.  At 6:00pm Steve and I met Stefanie Nation, Josie Earnest, Liz Johnson and USBC’s Matt Lawson to walk to dinner at Tony Roma’s.  After that we came back to the hotel and relaxed.  The girls bowl at 8am tomorrow so I want to make sure that I get plenty of rest as we start bowling for medals tomorrow at 1pm.

Monday August 20th - Singles Event

We bowled in the afternoon, so I was able to sleep in even though I was still up at 5:30am.  I went to the gym to do a workout with Steve and then we went to the breakfast buffet at 7:30am.  We watched the girls bowl for a couple of games, went back to shower and then had Subway before we bowled. 

We were bowling on the short pattern for the Singles which was the 34’ WTBA Stockholm pattern.  I figured scores would be pretty high and that I’d need to have at least 1370 to be even close for a medal. Practice session went ok, didn’t hit the pocket too much because I think that Natural I was using flared too much.  I knew it was wrong when my first two frames went Greek Church/Miss the headpin.  I switched to my other urethane ball the Nitroand moved a little more right and moved my eyes left to where I was a little more on top of it and then I reeled off a 7-bagger to pull a 247 out of it. 

I shot 248 the next game and then 227 in game three so I was at +122 for 3.  That was putting me about 4th place.  I moved to the next pair and keep inching right and taking some hand out of it because the oil was getting pretty thick down the lane with all of the urethane balls plowing it down.  The non-flaring Nitro was able to keep me on top of the dry without the ball over-hooking if I got it a little right quick.  I shot 235 in game to put me +157. 

In game 5 I started to lose ball reaction.  The ball went a little long in the first frame for a 2-4-5 and I slid by wrapping the 2 around the 4.  The next 4 frames went strike, stone-8, ring-10, 4-9.  I now had 75 in the 5th and was in trouble.  I felt like I needed to get the ball to go through the pins better to I decided to move 2 left and use more grip pressure.  I reeled off a 5-bagger but in the 11th frame I came in light and left a paralyzer 5-pin.  Needless to say I was a little naked after bowling a really good game with the exception of the first frame for only 214 - that put me at +171 and in about 7th place going into the last game. 

I knew I needed at least 260 the last game to have any kind of chance at a medal because the scores were too high, even though I hadn’t looked at the scoreboard until the middle of game 5.  I debated whether to throw resin the last game, but it didn’t look real good on my fill shot shooting the 5-pin.  I decided I needed to stay with the stronger hand, but on that 5-pin it obviously didn’t go through the pins real well so I needed to do something to help it slow down -  I decided I’d move another board left and soften the speed.

I started the game with a double and I knew right there by watching how the ball went through the pins that it was the right look.  It was just a matter of me just getting it off of my hand after that.  The next thing I knew I had the front 9!  I had been inching a ½ a board about every 3 frames and I knew that I need to keep the hand pretty strong so I inched another ½ a board in the tenth and I threw it where I needed to but I missed it a pinch at the bottom and left fortunately only a 2-pin.  I covered the spare and then tried to catch it a little more on the fill ball and left a 6-pin.  I didn’t know where I was at because I finished about 3 frames ahead of a few of the people in front of me but I later found out that I won!

 

I was behind the leader Marcelo Suartz by 71 pins going into the last game but he only shot 181 the last game.  I had a great feeling of relief and joy considering I wasn’t even near a medal 20 minutes ago.  You always have to believe in yourself and never give up. 

I was quite elated to say the least, but I was starving so I went with my roommate Steve Smith and Patrick Allen to Romano’s Macaroni Grill for an enjoyable dinner and then called it a night because I had to bowl early tomorrow in the Doubles with Steve at 8am.

 

 

 

Tuesday August 21st - Doubles Event

The alarm went off at 5:30am but actually I was up about an hour earlier.  I had a hard time sleeping for some reason.  I don’t know if it was the excitement of the Gold Medal yesterday or what but I was awake at 4:30am even though I didn’t get out of bed until the alarm went off.  Showered and had breakfast with Steve at 6:30am as we had to bowl at 8am. 

The Doubles was going to be on the Long pattern and I had a good look on it in the practice session but it wasn’t quite as good for the Doubles.  I struggled shooting 167 the first game where I felt I was too far right.  Then I switched balls and went farther in and shot 232.  Then we went to the next pair and it was different enough where I lost my look and shot 179 with a late double.  Tommy Jones came up to me and said that he thought I was too far left and needed to go straight through the fronts a little more and get more up the back of it and/or use more ball speed to keep it on-line.  I think in retrospect that was the problem.  I think I was a little too slow ball speed-wise and I moved left and used a weaker ball because of it.  Steve was a little right of me but his ball speed was higher and he was bowling great.  It’s frustrating when you don’t see the picture and you’re scoring terrible because of it while everyone else is striking.  I’m still mad at myself as I type this for not seeing the picture soon enough.

Fortunately I saw it quickly enough to where I shot 716 the last three.  The last game we made a run and I had the front 7 but I cut one off a pinch for a 3-6-10 and then I chopped it.  Steve punched out from the 4th frame for 245 and I went flat-10 in the tenth for 245 as well.  The good news was we snuck into a Silver medal but we lost the Gold by only 28 pins.  I was feeling that 270+ game just like yesterday but I couldn’t milk two more frames of it.  It was ok though because our teammates Bill O’Neill and Tommy Jones won the Gold and there is no shame finishing behind them.  Steve bowled great as he was +283 alone for 6. 

We went and grabbed some dinner with Josie and Stef at Buffalo Wild Wings across the street and called it a night.  We had to bowl Trios at 9am so I wanted to get some sleep.

Wednesday August 22nd - Trios Event

I had trouble sleeping so I decided to head to the gym for a workout at 5:30am.  After an hour workout and a shower, Steve and I went to breakfast at 7 and then headed down for the Trios.  It was going to be me, Steve and Patrick Allen.  I was really looking forward to it. 

The day started off great as we were leading after 2 games with +203 but then we went to 5-6 and the left lane hooked a lot more and after a few splits we only shot 612.  Thank goodness PA shot 258 that game.  We bounced back with 686 in game 4 but then in game five, transition was starting to affect Patrick.  The righties were getting pretty deep and we were starting to torch his lay-down area.  He was bowling unbelievable up to that point as he was +180 after 4 games himself and the fourth game he went strike, stone 9, strike, stone 8, strike, ringing 7 and then off the sheet for 240.  PA started to struggle and neither Steve nor I were able to help him much either as we were struggling with the transition as well.  We shot 636 and 614 the last two to miss a medal by 40 pins.  Not the best of days as we finished 5th and our other Trios team of Tommy, Bill and Marshall Kent finished 2nd. 

Afterward it was me, Stef, Steve, Josie, PA, Liz, Diandra and Matt Lawson for dinner at the Italian restaurant at Sunset Station.  Salmon and sautéed spinach it was for me.  It was a well needed change after some of the chocolate I had that afternoon, haha!  It was kind of a long day so I went back to the room, checked a little e-mail and then was out by 10pm.  We had to bowl at 8am and breakfast was at 6:30am so I wanted to make sure I got some sleep.

Thursday August 23rd - The Big Daddy, Team Event

I woke up a little before the alarm went off at 5:30am and then after shower and breakfast headed down to the bowl.  It was now the first day of Team event, the granddaddy of them all. 

We were bowling on the short pattern today which was my best pattern by far.  I had the trusty Blue Nitro ready to go.  We were bowling well as a team and I had a really good look the first game.  I actually started the game with the front 9 but going into the tenth frame I did something that I’ve never done in my life.  I was trying to play around 5-6 at the arrows and get it to like 4-5 down the lane and I threw it in the gutter on the front 9!  Doh!  What made it worse was I left a 4 pin on the fill ball so I shot 258 the first game.  It wasn’t as much the embarrassment that bothered me but the fact that I cost the team a potential 42 more pins that first game.  We ended out shooting 1119 the first game which put us in 3rd. 

We went to the next pair and the pair seemed the same as I started with the front 3 but then I got it a little right and it went 2-4-8-10.  After getting 2 I threw a double and then went 4-6-7-9.  I didn’t think I threw it that bad even though that lane was hooking a little more.  I then went back on the right lane and went 2-4-8-10 again.  At this point I didn’t know if I needed to throw resin and hook it but at the same time no one on the team was really crushing them with resin either so that made it even tougher to decide.

I decided to stay with the Nitro in the ninth and then left a 4-pin and converted.  I tried my Omen in the tenth but threw a bad shot and left the 1-2-8 and I went to hook at the spare and managed to leave the 8 after making the 1-2 on the left.  Stay hot!  A three-bagger and a double for 169…..nice job.  Needless to say I was a little livid at that point.  We shot 1014 despite my sub-par performance but we lost ground to the field. 

We went to the next pair and I talked with Tommy and Bill on what I felt like I needed to do.  I watched Rolando Sebelen from the Dominican Republic shoot 260 on that pair hitting up on a Black Hammer and thought I might be able to do the same while getting slower.  I tried that in the first frame and went 3-6-10 so that wasn’t a good idea.  I made the spare and then I switched to and IQ Tour and threw it terrible for a Brooklyn 5-pin but made that spare.  Steve had suggested trying that Innovate again since that’s what I used near the end of the Trios and lineage-wise they were getting to about the same point.  I did that and managed to string a three-bagger and then came in light for a 4-pin on a shot that I missed a little at the bottom.

We were all starting to string strikes so we were feeling the momentum start to swing.  We ended out shooting a huge 1184 the last game and I managed to punch out for 258.  That put us in first by 45 pins going into the long pattern on Friday.  It was nice to shoot a big game to help the Team the last game but at the same time I also felt a little bad because I left so many pins on the table those 14 frames in the middle.  I have to say I don’t remember having that many strikes for 685 ever, haha!  I’ll be bowling with the pacer team tomorrow on the long which frankly I think is the right call.  The other guys definitely had a much better look on the long than I had this week and I’m sure they’ll do great as this is definitely their “money” pattern.

We went back to the room and changed clothes and went to Pizza Hut with Steve and his wife Christine who just flew in last night.  After consuming way more than my 500 calorie allotment for lunch, I went back to the room to check some e-mail and then went to watch the girls finish out their team event.  They shot 1185 and 1132 to finish out but they’re only leading Mexico by 14 pins.  Mexico is bowling quite well.  Liz shot 785 on the short to help power the team which was 100 pins better than the highest guy on our team.  Great bowling Liz!

We then carpooled after bowling to eat at Claim Jumper with the Team and some of their spouses and friends.  It was a really good way to end the night with about 20 of us enjoying a good meal.  After that, it was off to bed.  The girls bowl in the morning followed by the guys in the afternoon.

Friday August 24th - Team Event Day 2

We bowled in the afternoon, so I had some time to relax and watch the girls in the afternoon.  We were bowling on the long pattern today and I was going to be the one bowling with the pacer team.  My look on the long wasn’t quite as good as the other guys so I understood the decision, though I was excited to bowl because I bowled much better on it in the Trios. 

Lucas Wiseman came up to me and said that since I was bowling on the pacer team that I was destined to shoot 750.  Little did he know he was going to be correct.  I started out great with a 258 game with a smash 7-pin in the middle.  I managed to back it up with a 248 in game 2 and a 246 in game 3 for a 752 series.  It was actually a well-bowled set which consisted of no open frames.  I was quite a few pins short of the all-events medals but I knew that if I popped out a big set that all things were possible.  I ended out missing the bronze medal in all-events by 3 pins.  Oh well, I gave it a good run by punching out from the 7th frame of the last game.

As far as the Team event, we were pretty close after one but we shot a huge 1243 game in game 2.  That gave us the lead by about 170 going into the last game which we managed to win.  Yay, 2ndgold medal for me this tournament to go along with the silver medal I got in Doubles with Steve Smith.  It was a good day.  We ended out celebrating at the Sonoma Cellar Steakhouse at Sunset Station as a group where I had a nice meal of Sea Bass and Truffle Mac and Cheese.  Nice way to end the night.  Off to bed as the Masters starts at 8am tomorrow.

Saturday August 25th - The Masters

After the 6:30am breakfast it was off to the bowl for the Masters portion of the tournament.  The top 24 bowled 6 more games and then cut to the top 8 for 7 games of match play with 20 bonus pins for a win.  All pin fall carried over so I was in a good position to make it being in 4th. 

The lanes were pretty much the same as they had been but they were a little tighter down the lane which isn’t unusual for a multiple re-oil tournament in its 6th day.  Somehow I was making them a lot tougher than they really were shooting 185 and 178 the first two games opening in bowl 10thframes.  It was a real comedy of errors.  I was too slow on the left lane the first game and split twice and then I went to the next game and had the left lane figured out and then lost the right lane where I split twice and slipped and hit my ankle and threw it in the gutter in the 2nd frame.  It was just an all-around disaster.  After spotting the field 100 pins the first two games I finally got back on track and finished the block about +86, which was good considering I was -37 after two.  That left me in fifth going into the round robin.

The round robin was kind of an up and down experience.  I won my first two games shooting 245 and 225 but then I lost my next 3.  Had a 279 game shot at my 246, nice draw ha-ha.  I won against George Lambert IV in game 6 so my last game was against my teammate Tommy Jones.  I had a good look starting out three-bagger, spare, spare, double but Tommy started with the front 6.  I spared in the 8th frame but I was starting to lose my look as I thought I threw it really well in that frame for a 2-5.  Tommy opened in the 8th and 9th so I had a chance to lock him out if I punched out.  Mind you I didn’t know what I needed to get to the top 4, but I knew I needed to keep striking.  I threw a horrible shot in the 9th for a 2-4-10, but made the split.  I got up in the tenth and after coming in light I decided to stay in the same spot and just make a better shot but dead-yanked it left for a 3-6-10 spare.  I still didn’t know what I needed but I knew I had to get all I could, but I chopped the spare to finish with 209.  Tommy marked in the tenth to finish in the 220’s.  I found out later I needed to beat Tommy for the bonus pins and/or strike on the first ball in the tenth and fill twenty.  I ended out missing the medal round by 14 pins finishing in 5th place. 

That was a hard one to take since I had my fate in my own hands and threw it terrible two frames in a row and missed a spare that I normally make quite regularly.  It was a bitter pill to swallow, but like with all things in life I’ll learn from it even though it still bothers me as I type this.  Me not finishing the tenth frame allowed George Lambert IV finish 4th in which he beat Tommy (who was the #1 seed) in a one game match and then went on to beat Puerto Rico’s Frankie Colon by shooting 300 in the final.  It was fun to watch and I was very happy for George who I’ve known for many years.  Overall, it was a very good tournament for me even though it had a very bitter ending.  There’s always room for improvement and it was another good learning experience for me. 

We had the banquet at Club Madrid inside the casino and it was a good time with teammates and friends.  The lasagna was really good and I helped myself to a double portion of carrot cake ha-ha.  I headed back to the room about 12:30am and had to take the 4am shuttle and I still had to pack so it was going to be a late one to say the least.

 

I made my flight and got home safely but it was a quick turnaround since I had to fly to Hong Kong the next morning as I now have to put my Kegel hat back on to oil lanes for the ABF Asian Championships.  I want to thank Team USA and Kegel for supporting me and giving me the opportunity to be able to participate in the PABCON Championships and hopefully I’ll get to represent the USA in a tournament next year.

JJ