JJ's Blog - 2012 USBC Masters

Sunday January 22nd

The alarm went off at 2:45am to head to the airport for a 6:45am flight to bowl the USBC Masters.  It was a particularly rough wake-up call because I went to bowl a 5-game sweeper in Jupiter (the city near West Palm Beach, not the planet) the night before and I only got home 2 hours ago.  It was ok because I knew I could sleep on the plane.

I got to the airport at 4:20am.  By the time I got to the ticket counter, checked in and cleared security it was 5:00am.  I got to the Delta Sky Club and then just hung out there until 6:10am.  We got boarded with no problem and I was off to Memphis and then straight to Vegas from there.

I arrived in Vegas at 11:30am and got my rental car.  Rental cars are pretty cheap in general in Vegas but the airport really hits you on the taxes.  I rented a mid-size car for $59 for the week….but the taxes brought it up to $130.  It was still really cheap so I really can’t complain that much.

I spent most of the day shopping since there was really nothing going on since I didn’t get in early enough to bowl the unofficial practice session or the sweeper.  I went straight from the airport to the Outlet Mall at Primm and found nothing so I went to the hotel and then checked in.  After checking in and visiting with a few friends, I headed back to the Strip to shop some more and grab a bite to eat.

I was just here like two weeks ago for the Team USA Trials so I’d already scoped out most of the stores previously, but with a lot of the Spring/Summer clothing starting to come in I thought maybe I might find something new.  I found a nice workout shirt at the Nike Store at the Forum Shops at Caesars, but that was about it.

I then walked to the Bellagio and then took the tram to City Center and shopped a little bit there but found nothing that I really liked.  I then went to the Fashion Show Mall for a little while and then walked over to the Esplanade at the Wynn and then to the Palazzo.  Found a few things I liked at the Wynn but nothing that I particularly wanted to pay full price for.

It was about 8:30pm and I went to the airport to pick up Diandra Asbaty and then we went back to the Forum Shops and had a nice sushi dinner with her and Jason Belmonte who met us there.  Afterwards, I then went back to the hotel to call it a night.

Monday January 23rd

I was bowling A squad so I had the 10am practice session.  Practice went pretty well.  I had a pretty good look between 6-10 throwing it pretty straight through the front part of the lane and with a couple of different balls.  It was a good practice session overall.  I felt physically good, no issues with the approaches and the bowling balls felt pretty good on my hand.  I grabbed some lunch with Jason Couch and Dave Wodka after the practice session and then went back to the room to chill out for a little while.

At about 3:45pm I went back to the Strip with Cody Reichenberger (one of the students at Webber International University) and we hung out there for a few hours.  He hadn’t been to the south part of the Strip before so we spent a few hours walking around bouncing from casino to casino.  I like to walk a lot in the afternoon during the down time because it’s pretty decent exercise (as opposed to just sitting in the hotel room) and also it helps get me worn out so by the time I get back to the room around 8-9pm I’m pretty tired so it’s easier to sleep.

At home I go to bed pretty early, around 9-9:30pm because I go to the gym at about 5:15am during the weekdays.  Being 3 hours behind I don’t want to be going to bed at like 6pm and getting up at 2am, so this walking around on the Strip is pretty helpful to keep me awake in getting used to the time change. Cody and I got back about 8:45pm and then it was about time to retire.  I’m going to hit the gym about 5:45am to get the body warmed up before my 9am squad tomorrow.

Tuesday January 24th

The alarm went off at 5am and after hitting the snooze button a few times.  I got up and headed to Gold’s Gym which was only about 8 minutes away.  I never do anything heavy on tournament days, mostly just some light cardio, pull ups and abdominal work.  After doing that I headed to Panera Bread for some breakfast and then back to the room for a shower and to get ready for the squad.

The practice bell went off a little after 8:45am.  I had a great look in practice playing pretty straight around 5-8 at the arrows.  I struck a lot in that zone so I was trying a few different zones to see how the lane looked in other areas.  Once the game started I was seeing transition but it was different on both lanes.  The left lane was getting tighter down the lane and the right lane was starting to hook earlier.  They started out about the same in practice but now the right lane was hooking about 3 boards more.  I was using a combination of the Red Mission on the right lane and the Encounter on the left lane but I switched to the Encounter on both lanes when the fronts on the right lane started hooking too early and needed something I could get around the corner better.

After starting with a double I threw a couple of bad shots on the left lane where I missed the headpin for 1-2-4’s and I missed one of them for a 193 start.  I moved to the next pair and the Encounter that I was throwing was definitely starting to burn up too early.  I switched to a Mission X and then threw a Double but then I threw a couple right and they hung out there for a 2-4 and then a 2-8-10.  Throw in a blower 7-10 and then next thing I knew I shot 189.

I could see the outside was starting to get a little flaky and I saw a couple of guys striking playing between 15-20 going out to like 8-10.  I tried to do that on the next pair and it worked on one lane but not as well on the other.  A couple more bad shots and some bad carry on the left lane resulted in a Dutch 200.  I didn’t bother to fill out the application for the USBC patch.

I tried to stay inside but made a couple of bad shots early in the game for splits and then never threw a double for 168.  I switched balls and then couldn’t strike…..ugh!  This was turning into a really bad block.  Since nothing else I was doing was working, I decided to go around 17-12 in game 5 with the Mission X and threw it straighter and harder.  I decided to go this route since playing out was pretty well cooked and I couldn’t get my ball to the pocket consistently or get it to go through the pins the right way from playing inside so I’d try and split the difference.

I threw a double but had a couple of bad shots that kept me from stringing any more strikes and then sent the headpin in front of the tenpin on a washout attempt.  Combine that with another open and I finished with 182 and -68 for the block.

That was one of the worst performances I’ve had in a long time.  Bad execution and bad decision-making aren’t going to get you anywhere in this tournament.  Throwing (3) doubles for 5 games didn’t help my cause either.  I think I threw more strikes in 15 minutes of practice than I did for the whole block, haha!

It’s been a long time where I bowled the last 2 games and really didn’t have any idea on the best way to play the lanes.  Nothing I did worked, and I went through all of my bowling balls.  There were people playing all over the place at the beginning:  hooking it, throwing it straight, playing out, playing in the track, playing 17, all with somewhat decent results.  Too bad I couldn’t make any of those options look good.

I was pretty frustrated so I went back to the room to change and headed to the Forum Shops at Caesars to get some lunch.  It was time to get out and clear the brain of the train-wreck squad I just bowled.

Lunch was the best part of the day so far.  After drowning my sorrows in a burger and a cookie from Max Brenners, I went back and watched a little bit of B squad to see where I went wrong and maybe give me a few clues to see how tomorrow may play, even though that’ll be pending if A squad plays them the same as we did.  That probably won’t be exactly the same, haha!

Mike J. Laneside invited me in the booth for Xtra Frame for a few minutes and gave them my spin on how the block went amongst other conversation.  It’s always good to be up there with Mike and Jason Thomas, thanks for the invite guys!

After that I went to see Mike Calderon from Ebonite to see if he had any advice for tomorrow.  He suggested drilling a Jet Black Taboo for the burn squad.  I went to the truck and laid it out and I’ll work it out in the morning.  We’ll see if it’ll strike because I’ve got a LOT of ground to make up tomorrow.

Tomorrow will be a new day…..

Wednesday January 25th

I woke up about 5:30am and headed to Gold’s Gym to do a light workout.  It’s nice to be at Sunset Station because Gold’s is less than 10 minutes away and it’s a very clean one.  After the workout I went to Panera Bread to get my daily Asiago Cheese Bagel, Yogurt Parfait and Orange Juice and then went back to the hotel to shower and relax a little.

After that I went to go workout the Jet Black Taboo that was drilled on the truck last night.  I just took the high gloss off of it and hopefully it would roll well for the burn.  I watched a little bit of A squad and it looked like they started a little deeper than we did.  You could play between 6-9 pretty straight on the fresh and a few guys could make the 18-9 angle look pretty good.  I think out was better personally but after about 2 games I think you needed to hit the abort button and move inside with the masses.

I started out pretty well and didn’t miss the pocket for 216, playing a little straighter in the 22 to 14 zone.  I was using the Eruption but it wasn’t quite going through the pins right.  The new Taboo seemed a little too long at the time, at least on the first pair.  I then switched to the Taboo in game 2 and it got a little better for 221.  Not a bad start but I knew that the target score for me was get to at least +100, so I knew that I needed to start striking.  The lanes were then breaking down a little more and I figured it was time to move in a little bit more and see if I could open up the lane.

I moved in closer to 27 at the arrows out to about 12-13 down the lane and lo and behold……254-244 the next two games!  Now we’re cooking with gas!

The lanes were starting to curve and I knew the next pair was going to be hooking more.  I was concerned that the next zone I was going to have to jump might be a little too far in for this Taboo.

The next pair I moved 3 left and the first shot went 4-6-7.  Sweet……way to get a good read!

Fortunately though………I made it!  Bounced it out of the pit and took out the 6 pin like a Jet Li bicycle kick, haha!  (more on the significance of that conversion later).

I went to the other lane and moved another 2 and went ringing-10.  The ball kind of burned up.  I made the spare and moved another 3 and got it in a touch and I hit the nose and left a 3-pin.  Made that spare.

At this point I knew I needed at least 230 to even have a chance and with this ball reaction the best I was going to muster would be a 205-215 game so I knew I needed to do something drastic.  I went to something that I remembered that worked at the Team Trials a couple of weeks ago……loft.

I knew my ball roll wouldn’t be any good if I tried to go farther left and there was a little hold right in the 13-14-15 area down the lane so if I could just get it down there clean I’d be in good shape.  I also switched balls to a Mission X since that ball was a little cleaner and wouldn’t over-react off the dry…….and there was plenty of dry in the mid-lane at this stage of the day, haha!

I squared up with the loft and a little extra speed going like 23-13 and reeled off a 5-bagger.  Whew!  I got up in the 9th frame and just got it in the oil for a flat-10 and I made the spare.  I wasn’t watching the board but I had a gut feeling I needed to double in the tenth.  I moved a board left on the left lane in the 8th frame and came in light so I figured I wasn’t going to move.  The only problem was I threw it a little right and firm and I left the bucket…….just the spare I want to shoot in the tenth frame…….NOT!

Fortunately I made the bucket and made a good shot on the fill ball but flat-10’d again.  I think I milked the loft for all it was worth which gave me 232 the last game.  That put me at +99 and the cut to 77 was at +98 with one to go.  I thought for sure that I was going to miss by about 4-5 pins.

I think Criss Angel came from the Luxor to Sunset Station to work his magic because the cut ended out being……+99.  I tied with my good friend Rhino Page for the 76th and 77th spot.

Putter in the air……..three pumps with the fist” (from the Tiger Woods Nike commercial a few years back).

I went +167 for the block to get the last spot.  Considering +97 was 78th place, how big was that 4-6-7 conversion in the last game?  Oh……..the drama! Might be the first time I jumped 162 spots in 5 games in a tournament, haha!

Needless to say, I was quite ecstatic.  That was grounds for celebrating at Caesars’ Palace with my favorite Smoked Salmon Pizza from Spago and a Max Brenner cookie…..but I didn’t feel like driving and sitting down to eat, so I just went to my favorite fast-food joint in Vegas (In-N-Out) to get a burger.

I also went back to Mike Calderon from Ebonite for some advice for the cashers round and he suggested drilling another ball to give me another look since I obviously had some trouble the last time on the fresh to say the least, lol!

I went to drill an Ebonite Pursuit-S (Symmetrical) with a 4” pin down for the next day and see if that would give me a little better look than what I had when I had to move in but would pick up a roll a little earlier when the Taboo would be a little too clean.

Afterward I was invited to my friend Wendy MacPherson’s home where she was hosting a dinner for my friend Robert Lee and about 8 more people from Japan who Robert brought over to bowl the tournament.  Wendy had a friend from New York fly down who cooked some amazing food.  It was a great way to end the night spending time with them.  Thanks for the invite Wendy, I had a great time!

Thursday January 26th

I woke up again about 5:30am and did the same G.P.S. routine (Gym, Panera, Shower).  I got to the bowl about 8:30am to do surfaces and work out the Pursuit-S I drilled the night before.  Always good to get there early and beat the crowd.

I was crossing with Rick Steelsmith, Chris Barnes and Rhino Page for the cashers round.  There were 77 players and we were bowling 5 more games and then cutting to the top 63, so we were eliminating 14.  I started out pretty good with a 232 game playing pretty straight around 7-8.

We then went to the next pair and I couldn’t hit the left lane to save my life.  Struck on the right lane every time but the left lane was tighter which resulted in missing the headpin, 2-pin, 2-8, (switch balls), light 10-pin and then 4-pin.

No, I didn’t want to throw double…….not at all.

I threw the first one in the tenth and fortunately got the second in the tenth as well and struck on the fill ball for 210.  I’m so glad I got the second one in the tenth because the last thing I wanted was my SECOND Dutch 200 of the tournament.  I still didn’t fill out an application for a patch with USBC.

We moved to the next pair and I felt it was time to move in, since there were more guys starting to strike from in there.  I went to the Mission X and it looked close but I had a few bad shots during the game but fortunately I didn’t pay any penalties for it.  I didn’t have a double but had a strike working in the 9th and was going for 216 if I could double in the 10th and threw a good shot but came in light for a 7-10.

Thanks……really appreciate it.  184……..and not particularly amused.

That put me at +125 and even though I wasn’t scoreboard watching, I knew I needed a couple of good games to make it to match play.  I knew I needed to switch balls so I thought why not try that Pursuit-S?  I know I’m only going to shoot another 185 game if I stay with what I got.

I moved in a couple more boards where I was now going about 24 at the arrows to about 12 and guess what?  254-231 the last two games to get me to +210 jumping me up to 38th place for match play.

I hate it when you use the wrong ball for too long.  Very bad for your score’s health.

Well, I now made it to match play and I had to bowl Keith Odette from Hawaii for my first match.  The format from here is 3-games total pins double elimination.  I wish I could say I bowled great but I didn’t, though I didn’t bowl particularly poorly.  I missed (2) 1-2-4 combinations in the first two games.

I tried to hook at them but choppedthe 1-2 off the 4 both times.  Keith bowled very well shooting 695 at me.  I think I stayed out between the 7 and 10 zone a little too long which when I leaked it a little bit was where I missed the headpin.

I shot 631 in the losing effort.

I then bowled Kyle Barnes the next match in the losers’ bracket.  I shot a good 228 the first game to Kyle’s 195 but then transition took place and it got kind of ugly.  Kyle shot 208 the next game to my 181.  I then tried switching balls, moving left, lofted a couple of shots, it didn’t matter.

I tried switching balls and moving out between 7 and 10 in the 6th frame and struck on the first shot but then 2-8-10’d in the 7th frame.  The right lane got cliff wet-dry in the mid-lane from inside and the left lane had a bunch of hang down the lane.

Kyle was only leading by less than ten when I went up in the 8th and 9th frames and pretty much took the gas pipe.   Still not sure where to play I went back between 6-10 and left a 3-6-10 and on the spare slid by missing the 3-pin.  I then went up on the left lane in the 9th frame and left a 2-8 and then took out only the 8-pin.

Now Kyle only needed a mark in the last two frames to win, which he did just that.  I lost 594-568.  The worst part was I took the ball I tried playing outside with and I thought I’d try in the tenth frame playing inside where I was earlier and I proceeded to dead flush all three in the tenth for 159.  Now I was really nauseous after seeing that on top of missing two pretty routine spares in the 8th and 9th frames to give the match away.

Congrats to Kyle…….I can’t expect to nor deserve to win matches against the best 63 players in the tournament shooting 568 no matter how hard the pair was.  It’s funny, my tournament ended pretty much the way I started it.  Really bad, haha!

With that being said, I was pretty bummed about how it ended so I decided I was going to try and change my flight and get out tomorrow.  I was supposed to stay until Saturday night but after spending a week in Vegas at the beginning of the month for the Team USA Trials and now another week here for the Masters, I just wanted to go home.  I went and grabbed a quick bite to eat and then I went back to room afterward as I was a little tired.

Friday January 27th

I changed my flight to get out on the 12:20pm flight out.  I wanted to get some chocolate from Max Brenner’s before I left and I saw on their website that they opened at 9am on Friday.  This would be perfect as I would leave the hotel at 8:30am get to Caesars’ about 9am, then buy the chocolate and head out to the airport.

All was going well and I parked the car in valet and got to Max Brenner’s and this is what I saw (see picture).

Yep, this trip is ending just like it started.  Three weeks ago it was the cupcake drama in Los Angeles…….now this!  I knew I should’ve bought all of my edibles a couple of days ago!

Well, being in Vegas I was not to be denied.  One of my other favorite dessert-places is the Jean Philippe Patisserie at Aria.  They also have one at the Bellagio.  I headed over there as I knew they would be open.  I got some chocolates for a couple of friends (and myself of course) and then headed to the airport to catch my flight.

I had no problems getting home with plenty of time to change planes in Memphis getting back to Orlando at 10:20pm and getting back to my condo at about 12:15am.  It was a late one, but it sure is nice to sleep in your own bed!

Overall it was a good trip.  Made some money, did a little shopping, saw some old friends and ate some good food. I had more money leaving Vegas than I had going in……definitely a good trip!