JJ's Blog - 2012 US Open

Saturday February 18th:

It was another crack of dawn flight to New Jersey.  The alarm went off at 2:00am.  I got in the shower and when I got back I see my phone rang three times.  Once I got some clothes on, it rang again.  It was after-hours tech support, which is part of my job.  The phone calls can come at any hour.  It was a little challenging trying to focus on fixing his problem and also trying to go over my checklists to make sure that I had everything, but fortunately I had some time and he had some patience. 

I spoke with him off and on throughout my one hour drive to the airport, and unfortunately I couldn’t get him fixed, but he had to get back home anyway and I had to check in luggage and then go through security so there wouldn’t be much I could do for the next 30 minutes anyhow.  He said he would call back in the morning if he needed more help.

I got to New Jersey with no problems and actually got in a little early at about 11:00am.  I got my rental car and I decided to go straight from there to the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets in Central Valley, NY.  It was about an hour and 10 minute drive.  I got there and did the valet parking because after “vulturing” around the parking lot for a few minutes I got tired of wasting time and fuel trying to find a parking space.  I spent about 3 ½ hours shopping and the only thing I bought was a pretzel dog and bottled water.  I found a polo shirt I loved, but they didn’t have my size.  Saw a really nice tuxedo but the same thing, didn’t have my size.

I then went and drove back to New Jersey and checked into the hotel room.  I was there for a while and then I met my good friend Corissa for dinner at a restaurant called Old Man Rafferty’s in New Brunswick.  We had a great dinner and it was good to catch up with her since she moved up to New Jersey four years ago. 
By the time I got back to the room it was about 9:00pm so I was getting a little tired and decided to just call it a night.

Sunday February 19th:

I woke up in the morning and called my good friend Ron Dixon who drove up last night from Boynton Beach.  We talked about going into New York City a few weeks ago and he wanted to go this morning as well as I.  I met him at his hotel around 10:30am and then we drove over getting there a little before noon.  We spent the day shopping on Fifth Avenue and also went to Rockefeller Center and went to the “Top of the Rock”.  The roof is at the 67th floor and we got some awesome views of the Empire State Building, Central Park and the rest of the New York skyline.

We had some dessert at La Maison du Chocolat downstairs where I picked up some truffles and chocolates to bring home.  It was a great day just walking around and enjoying the city even though it was in the 40’s with the wind blowing at about 15 mph, even though that was pretty mild for how it normally is this time of year.

We had a nice steak at Smith and Wollensky and then headed back around 7pm since most all of the stores had shut down by then.  Also I needed to get back because I was supposed to pick up my roommates for the week, Marcelo Suartz and Gary Faulkner who both bowl for Webber International University who were supposed to be getting in around 11pm.  They were coming from Indianapolis where they were bowling the Hoosier Classic, but they called me shortly after 7pm and said they missed their flight because the tournament was running late.  Since Webber International finished 2nd they were bowling to the very end.

I dropped Ron off and then got back to the room about 8:30pm.  Since it was a long day of walking around, I decided to retire early.  They were both going to be flying in about 11am, so I needed to go pick them up.

Monday February 20th:

I woke up about 7am and then walked over to Panera Bread.  It was about a 10 minute walk and the 37 degree weather was pretty brisk, but I needed the exercise anyway and the colder weather definitely helped to wake me up, haha.  I headed to Newark and picked up Marcelo and Gary.  Their flight was good except for three of Gary’s bowling balls didn’t make the flight.  We got back to the hotel room and changed and the headed to the bowl for practice session.  Our practice session (since we had all C squad) was at 2pm.

The practice session went well overall for me but the fresh was really hard.  I brought a lot of old bowling balls with me since I’ve heard that the B squad (no re-oil after A squad) tends to hook quite a bit. Friends had told me that a lot of the old bowling balls come into play because of the amount of hook so I brought some old ones, like a Red Pulse, Black Ice, (2) Original Ones, 505C, a Game Changer and the old trusty Maxim for spares.  I figured if they hooked less, I could drill something there, but if they hooked a ton there wouldn’t be any old balls on the truck.

I had a pretty good look with my Original One that was drilled 4” pin down once they opened up a little bit.  I had a pretty good look going from like 20-13 but at least for me I couldn’t get anything to recover outside of 13. With the pattern being 42’, I could fall it back at a few different spots around 25.  The lanes were pretty tight overall. There was much less overall hook than I was expecting.  I think I could survive the transition with what I had, but I might need to drill a ball or two during the week, especially if the lanes tightened up which I pretty much know they will.  I might need a stronger ball for the burn than the stuff I brought since they’re pretty tight down the lane.

After practice Ron, Gary and I went back to the City.  Gary had never been to the City before.  Marcelo hadn’t either, but he had some schoolwork he had to get done.  We got to the City about 6:00pm.  The Knicks were playing the Nets at Madison Square Garden but the tickets were all sold out, especially since this was the peak of “Linsanity”.  We decided to not do the “scalper” route so we just started walking around.  We went to Times Square and took some pictures and then we went to Grand Central Station to check out the Apple Store they recently opened there and had some great cupcakes from the Magnolia Bakery downstairs in the Food Court.  We then went back walking down Fifth Avenue and then we took a cab to Mulberry Street to Little Italy.  Ron was trying to find this restaurant he ate at before but he couldn’t find it.  There were a bunch of restaurants there so we ate at Lunella Ristorante Italiano and it was unbelievable.  Olive Garden and Carrabba’s will never be the same, haha!

After that meal we headed back to the car and then went back to New Jersey.  It was getting close to about 10:30pm by the time we got home.  We didn’t bowl until 6pm tomorrow, but I wanted to get some sleep so I wanted to get up early and watch a little bit of A squad so I could get another look on the fresh, since my look in practice was pretty stinky.

Tuesday February 21st:

The Big Show begins today.  I went in to watch a little bit of A squad just to see what was going on and give me a second look on what I might need to do.  After that Ron Dixon and I went to the Mall at Short Hills in Short Hills, NJ to look around and get some lunch.  It was about a 45 minute drive to Short Hills and we looked around for an hour or so and then got lunch at Joe’s American Grill, but I still didn’t buy any clothes.  Just bought some macaroons and some more chocolate from La Maison Du Chocolat, didn’t find anything I liked clothing-wise other than this tuxedo at Neiman Marcus.  Maybe if I bowl for the title I’ll come back for the tuxedo, haha!

We got back about 2pm and I went to watch a little bit of the burn since that’s what I’ll be bowling tomorrow.  They were starting to get kind of keep around game 6 but nothing really alarming.  Some guys were getting in front of the ball return but not near as bad as what I was expecting from the stories from previous years. 

I went back to the room for a little rest and then went with Gary and Marcelo to get a little bite to eat before the squad.  We stopped at Chipotle for a quick meal and then went to the bowl.

The day went pretty well.  I went +81 for the six games and bowled really well except for the last game where I shot 177 on 77-78.  That pair was tight and I made the mistake of trying to move right where I should’ve moved about an arrow left.  I did that but it was a little too late at that point.  At least I got a double near the end to avoid a potentially disastrous 150 game.  My best ball reaction was with that 4” pin down Original One and used that for pretty much the whole squad.  I started going about 18 at the arrows to about 13-14 down the lane and then just kind of chased it in after that.  I could see that I could maybe use another ball for the burn squad, one with a stronger coverstock than some of the relics that I brought with me.

I spoke with Mike Calderon with Ebonite and he suggested drilling an Elevate with like a 5 ½” pin with no hole.  This way I would be able to get some length with the drilling but with a stronger cover to be able to slow down in the back ends.  I went out to the truck and laid it out, filled out the specs and then headed back to the room.  It was late so Marcelo, Gary, Ron and Amleto Monacelli and his girlfriend and I went to the Omega Diner down the road for a light meal since we needed something in our stomachs after bowling for 4 hours.  After that we got back to the hotel about midnight and it was time for bed.

Wednesday February 22nd:

At 2pm we’ll be bowling on the B squad known as the “burn” squad since they won’t re-oil after A.  I woke up about 7:30am and then went to Panera Bread again for my usual Asiago Cheese Bagel, Yogurt Granola Parfait and Orange Juice.  After that I went to chill back in the room for a little while and then went with Gary and Marcelo to the bowl because I wanted to get there early not only to work out the Elevate that I just drilled but also to watch some of the end of A squad just to get an idea about how much they’ll be “burning”.  I got my ball but realized something was wrong, the finger holes were HUGE!  I didn’t understand why….until I looked at the spec sheet.  My finger hole sizes are 49/64 and my thumbhole is 59/64.  For some reason I put down 59/64 for my finger hole sizes.  Since it was about an hour before I had to bowl, there was no way to be able to plug it and there were too many people in line to be able to drill another one. 

Good job Double J!  Alzheimer’s is closer than you think!

Knowing that I needed to do SOMETHING and that I would probably need that ball, I just started using a lot of white tape and starting cutting it in small pieces to be able to close the gaps around the tops and sides of the finger holes to hopefully try to get it to fit.  Fortunately, I actually got it to fit pretty well.  Ironically, I used that ball for a good portion of the block!  I didn’t hit them as good as some of the guys from the squad yesterday did, but I went another +79 which got me to +160 total for the two days.  I was actually kind of happy since high on our squad was only +130.

Looks like A squad started deeper than the day before (not a real surprise, haha) so it forced us deeper than the guys were yesterday.  We probably didn’t get the best deal, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.  Either way I’m still doing fine, since the cut after two days was around -33. 

Since I was in a good position and I was going back to the fresh, I kind of wanted another look on the fresh….something with a little stronger cover so just in case they get tighter I’ve got something that I can just let go, instead of trying to get too soft in order to get to slow down in the back of the lane.  I went back to Mike Calderon from Ebonite and he suggested drilling an Omen.  Apparently this is a much smoother ball with a very strong cover and he suggested a drilling like my One.  I laid it out on the truck, filled out another spec sheet and then headed out.

Marcelo wanted to stay back in the room and study for an upcoming exam so Gary Faulkner and I went to the Menlo Park Mall which is only about 15 minutes up the road from the bowl. We walked around for a little while, but I still didn’t find any clothes that I liked.  Not much clothing success so far, but at least I’m saving money that way, haha!  The only thing I got was some chocolate covered strawberries from Godiva.  Ron Dixon met us up there and we had some Chipotle and then headed back to the room.  We were going to bowl A squad tomorrow so I wanted to be in bed by 9:30pm since we bowl the next day at 8am.  We got back to the room around 9pm and I was out shortly afterward.  Back on the fresh tomorrow…..

Thursday February 23rd:

The alarm went off at 5am…..time for the fresh.  But first it was time for a fresh breakfast at Panera.  I’m a creature of habit…..mostly bad habit, but a creature of habit nonetheless.

I went with Marcelo to open the place at 6am but getting there at 6:05 we noticed they weren’t open, though the sign on the door “says” they’re supposed to be open at 6am.  Since Panera was denied, we went over to Starbucks instead.  I had to settle for a yogurt parfait there, which was not nearly as good as Panera’s, but was all of the cost. 

After that we went back to pick up Gary and then headed for the bowl.  I needed to go back and work out that Omen that was drilled last night and then went to do some surfaces on the stuff I thought I was going to need.

The fresh went pretty well overall.  The Omen worked ok but I only got about 5-6 frames out of it before I could see it was starting to die a slow death.  It started to become too early so I bailed out of it and then went into the Original One for a little while.  It wasn’t really much better but I was able to stay near par for the first 5 games or so.  At least I wasn’t killing myself. 

I then switched to the Elevate in game 4 as I noticed that it looked like that fall-back shot around fifth and sixth arrow was starting to develop.  Game 4 I shot a decent game, but I shot back to back 255 games in 5 and 6 to leap to +293 which ended out leading our C squad.  I just found a little groove and I actually made some really good shots and that ball hit REALLY well to say the least.  With the scoring pace that low, 510 for 2 will move you up the ladder in a hurry. 

I knew I was a lock for the casher’s cut but I really felt like I needed something after that Omen started to die.  Something with a little stronger coverstock and core than the Original One to give me something else to go to until the lane developed into the slot where I could fade it with the Elevate.  I went back to talk to Mike and see if he had any advice.  He thought to drill a regular Pursuit with the same kind of 4” pin like I had with my Original One.  I went ahead and laid that out and then headed for lunch.  I felt a lot better now that I had another option because even though I was in really good position to make the top 24, I wanted to stay near the top.

I went with lunch with Marcelo, Gary, Ron Dixon, Amleto Monacelli and his girlfriend to On The Border right down the road.  I had the Shrimp Tacos, one of my favorites there.  We had originally planned to go to New York City afterward since it was only about 2:30pm at this point, but since I was going to be bowling the casher’s cut tomorrow and the fact that I was right near the top (I ended out qualifying 7th for the day after it was all said and done) I felt like I needed to stay closer to home and focus on tomorrow.

I just kind of chilled in the room for a little while and then went with Gary over to the Mall at Short Hills.  I got some more macaroons from La Maison Du Chocolat and we ate at an Italian restaurant there called Paparazzi.  It was good, but after eating at Little Italy in New York City it’s hard to compare anything to that.  I dropped Gary off at the airport where he was going to get a rental car and then I got back to the room around 9pm.  After that it was time for bed, ready for the second stage of the US Open:  Casher’s Round.

Friday February 24th:

I got up at 5am again and was ready to go.  I got cleaned up and went to Panera where they were actually open at 6:05am.  I asked what happened yesterday and he said…..”We’re open at 6am, but it’s a long story.”
That was enough of an explanation for me. 

I got my usual Asiago cheese bagel, yogurt parfait and orange juice and then I was off to the bowl.  I wanted to work out that Pursuit and also get there early enough to refresh the surfaces on the 4 balls I thought I might be able to use. 

I used the Omen at the start but since it was the casher’s round the guys on my starting pair pretty much burned up the middle of the lane after practice which put me in the Pursuit right away.  The ball rolled great and I used it for most of the block.  They were pretty burned up by the end of the block mostly because we were all playing the lane pretty much in the same part of the lane (inside of 20, haha) and the rev rate on the squad was overall much higher.

I could see with the way the lane was developing that using a little more spin with higher tilt was better.  I can do it ok, but that’s not my A or B release so I didn’t score as high as a few guys that whacked them but it was still enough for me to stay near the top.  I’m kind of glad it ended when it did because I shot 193 and 191 my last two games.  My ball reaction was kind of fading and the Elevate didn’t work quite as well as it did when I got into that zone previously. 

Overall it was a good squad for me.  I went +65 for the block which got me to +358 for the tournament which qualified me for 6th going into the top 24.  I felt pretty good with my arsenal but I wanted to see if Mike Calderon thought there might be something else to give me another look playing inside in case the Elevate didn’t work out too well.  He suggested a Jet Black Taboo with a 5 ½” pin like the way my Elevate was laid out. This ball wasn’t really going to come into play later tonight for match play since we were back bowling on the fresh and we were only going to be bowling 8 games with 2 per pair, but maybe for the next day for the burn.

However, it could be useful playing in the track as well.  Match play is a whole other tournament and now it’s pretty imperative that you’re going to be playing the pair where the other guys are playing them.  The ball could be useful in other zones.
Gary, Marcelo, Dixon, Monacelli, his girlfriend and I then went to Chipotle to get a meal and then I went back to the room to just kind of chill out for a while.  Match play was going to start in about 3 ½ hours so I just wanted to catch up on some e-mail and just kind of rest.  I got back to the bowl about 4:30 to work out that Taboo and re-do some surfaces.

Match play went ok.  I went 4-4 but only went -10 for the block.  I was fortunate to win a couple of matches shooting 170 (those pairs were brutal, haha) but even though I didn’t score really well I only dropped to 7th.  It kind of evened out because I also was the victim of Chris Barnes’ 298 even though I bowled a pretty good 223 game though I say so myself.  He’s tough on his Team USA teammates, haha!
I was overall pretty happy but I need to bowl better tomorrow.  I think I’ve got the right strategy on the fresh but I need to just execute better.  I think my swing is still bouncing out a pinch when I’m trying to go up the lane and on this condition if you bounce one a little right off the hand on the fresh you’re missing the headpin. 

Went back to On The Border with Marcelo and then back to the hotel.  More Shrimp Tacos, mmmmmmmm.  Match play wasn’t going to start until 11am so I didn’t have to be up at O-Dark-Thirty for a change.

Saturday February 25th: 

I still got up early anyway, so I headed off to Panera at about 7:15am.  Had the usual, some things never change, haha!

I went back to shower and then headed to the bowl at about 9:30am to re-do the surfaces.  In all tournaments, there are a few games that you wish you had back.  Well in this tournament, I’d like to have the first 3 games of match play back.  I went 175, 177 and 165 and didn’t win any of the matches. Next thing you know I went from 7th to 14th in 3 games. Granted two of the matches the guys shot 220 and 230 at me, but still.  You can’t go 517 your first 3 games and expect to gain any ground of the best 24 bowlers in the US Open no matter how hard the conditions were.
I think I played too far right on the first pair and just didn’t execute very well.  The second match I had to move in and missed a spare early in the game.  I needed the first strike in the tenth to win the game and threw it great and left a stone 8-pin.  The third match was just as bad as the first.  I had to move back to the track and left a washout in the tenth and wrapped the headpin around the 10 to finish with 165. 

I really don’t have any excuses, just didn’t throw it real good and I paid the full penalty for that hour.  I moved in and bowled well for most of the rest of the block and got my match play record back to even and actually went +2 for the block, but the damage was done.  I was in 13th place and now about 240+ out of the show.  Need to have a really good block in the evening to make up for that. 

I was invited to lunch by Jason Belmonte and Diandra Asbaty to the Skylark Diner right up the road.  Apparently this place was featured in Guy Fiori’s Diners, Drive-Thru’s and Dives program on the Food Network and features a little higher class diner food.  It was us and about 7 others including Mike Fagan and his parents, Osku Palermaa, Martin Larsen, Alex Cavagnaro and Mikael Ahlqvist.  I had the Lobster Mac and Cheese and the Shrimp Quesadillas.  It was excellent!  It was a good way to help change my spirits since I was a little down after dropping that far in the standings. 

I went and dropped Alex and Jason back at the bowl and then went with Diandra to Cold Stone to get a pre-squad ice cream.  After Cookies and Cream in a waffle cone I was ready to head back to the bowl.

Match play went better as I went +59 for the block, but I couldn’t win any matches or at least not enough to make up any ground.  I ended out in 12th place with a 12-12 match play record and averaged 208.18 for the 50 games. Overall I was pretty pleased even though I’d like to have those three games in the morning back and I missed too many clusters.  I missed (4) 3-6-10’s, (1) bucket, (4) washouts, (1) 1-2-4, chopped (1) 4 off the 7, chopped (2) 2-5’s off the 4 (sweet), chopped (1) 4 off the 7 (sweeter) and chopped (1) 6-10.  Not horrible, but still I can do better than missing 14 multi-pin combination spares.  If there was any one bright spot I didn’t miss any single-pin spares for 50 games.  I was proud of that because when you’re averaging only 208 for 50 games, there were a lot of single pins, haha!

Afterward, I spent some time talking with my good friend David Eisenberg and another good friend Eric Frost who came from Massachusetts to watch me bowl match play.  Eric used to work for Kegel years ago and he came to see me the night before as well.  It was great to see him again.  Unfortunately I had to cut the visit a little short since I looked at my phone afterward and see that I had some missed calls and texts from Amleto and Marcelo.

They both went to the City in the late morning and they were trying to call me so I could pick up Marcelo at the New Brunswick Train Station at 10:55pm.  Considering it was 10:30pm, I had to go!  Amleto said Marcelo’s phone was dead so I had to make sure I was there to meet him or otherwise I’d have a hard time locating him.  I got there about 10 minutes before he arrived and fortunately he had enough battery life left to get texts.  After that we stopped by TGIFriday’s by the hotel to get a quick bite to eat and then we went back to the room.  I was flying out at 6:30am so I went back to the room and packed and got some sleep. 

Sunday February 26th:

The 3am alarm went off early since it was about 1:30am by the time I got all packed and went to bed.  Gary was going to take Marcelo to the airport so I left the hotel at 3:30am and got to the check-in counter at 4:15am.

I went to try to check in 4 bags and I knew that I was going to have to pay extra.  I knew I could get 3 bags for free since I was Diamond Medallion with Delta but when they told me it was going to be $125 for the 4th bag I said no thanks.  I wanted the bowling balls, but a few of them were old so they really weren’t worth it for me to pay that much to bring them home.  I told them I was just going to leave 3 balls with them.

I had to do some reorganizing since I had to figure out which 3 balls to leave.  During that time the lady at the ticket counter was asking me if there were other ways I could bring the balls back or if there was someone here locally that could take the balls for me.  I told her there was, but she left for Los Angeles 4 days ago and wouldn’t be back for another 4 days.  I explained to her I couldn’t put them in the other bags because then those bags would be overweight.  This issue stemmed because of the fact I drilled 4 balls this week.

After about 15 minutes of talking with the lady at the ticket counter and the skycaps on trying to find ways to bring these home, a guy in a white shirt came up to me and said that they would go ahead and check the 4th bag for me for free since I was a Diamond Medallion Frequent Flyer and loyal Delta customer for all these years. 

Sweet!  Problem solved.  I had a great tournament AND I was able to get everything home without costing me a dime in extra baggage fees.  This……was a good day!

I got back to Orlando at about noon and then headed to AMF Semoran Lanes to watch a little bit of Erik Ramos’ 10-game sweeper that I just missed.  After spending an hour or so visiting with some friends I headed to the Mall at Millenia to get some chocolate at the Godiva store and had a nice meal at Fleming’s Steakhouse off Sand Lake Road and then went home.
It was a great week of bowling, great time with friends and had more money on the 26th than I had on the 18th (which is always a sign of a good tournament) but it’s good to be home….and to 70 degree weather.

The gloves can go back in the closet until next winter.