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Chris Hooper has reached his short-term goal on the Professional Bowlers Tour. Now he can look to the long run.

A 27-year-old from Maple Springs near Chautauqua Lake and Jamestown, Hooper made his 14th start of the year at the $89,000 Rochester Open and finished third Wednesday. That accomplished his first goal -- making a televised final.

His next ambition is to secure his first national title.

Hooper was in great position to reach his second goal Wednesday when he put a ball in the channel while trying to convert a 3-6-9-10 spare against Walter Ray Williams in the semifinal match.

There was a TV commercial break right after Hooper opened in the sixth frame, and the crowd of about 400 packed into Olympic Bowl went stone silent for a minute after the error by their adopted hometown favorite.

"I was stunned about it," Hooper said of his ball in the channel. "I was a little embarrassed. It's a little humbling. I just lost it. I think my elbow kind of came out too far and I missed my mark to the right."

He was still in position to close out the match in the ninth, but he left three pins on his first ball to open the door for Williams, who stepped through with a spare in the 10th.

This was Hooper's second brush with misfortune this year. He was disqualified at the U.S. Open in Indianapolis three weeks ago for failing to weigh in with his equipment in match play. The error cost him a potentially big pay day.

Since then, Hooper has made back-to-back match-play rounds and finished 22nd last week at the Ebonite Open in Troy, Mich.

Naturally, he's encouraged by the results of the last two weeks. "I've accomplished my first goal. Now my new goal is to win," he said.

The crowd included Hooper's mother Sherry, his father Bill, and his grandmother Annie Hooper. The trio made the round trip from Maple Springs four times this week (Sunday through Wednesday) to watch the tournament.

Annie Hooper, 78, runs an antique shop in Maple Springs and is her grandson's bowling sponsor. "She truly is my sponsor and I'm grateful," Chris Hooper said. "Without her, I wouldn't be out here."
The title was the fourth of the year for Walter Ray Williams. Steve Wilson has won twice and no one else has won more than once in 1996.
The tournament will return to Olympic Bowl next year for the 13th straight year, proprietor Marcel Fournier announced.
Eight Buffalo area bowlers won awards in the Pro-Am Tournament. Jim McCaffery of Buffalo had a 1,526 with his handicap and combined with three pro partners to win $500.

Herman Backus and Stanley Pienkowski, both of West Seneca, had 1,509 and 1,446, respectively, and were 1-2 in the senior division and won trophies.

Al Appleford of Clarence, publisher of the weekly Spares and Strikes, had a 1,491 to win the celebrity division trophy.

Other trophy winners were Kenny Raymond of Ashville, Nicole Lewandowski of Buffalo, Adam Thorpe of Tonawanda and David Miller of Lockport.

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