Matt Zasowski's great summer began with a fluke last winter.
"This summer, between the two all star leagues at Thruway and Transit, the PBA Regional and the Hammer 10K, has been huge," Zasowski said. "But it all started with Las Vegas last January."
In the January Super Bowl High Roller, Zasowski made the cut and won three matches in the Showboat Shootout, to cash $1,000. "I lost to a guy who had five Brooklyns (cross-over strikes) so that was pretty ugly," he said. "But I made the cut (on the only squad he entered) and I plan to go back next January."
The 24-year-old Zasowski was eligible only for the Shootout, one of the High Roller's companion events, after he missed the deadline for the main tournament, simply because he hadn't entered in the first place.
"It was a fluke thing," the BryLin Hospital cook said. "Brian Ruszala (the pro shop manager at Kenmore Lanes) had an extra ticket in his package and asked me if I'd like to go."
Hardly wet behind the ears as a megabuck rookie, Zasowski was unfazed. In his second match Zasowski beat 'the 900 guy.' I didn't realize it was him," Zasowski said. "In the beginning of the match Brian told me who he was. I thought he looked familiar."
The 900 guy was Jeremy Sonnenfeld, who rolled the sport's first sanctioned 900 series in 1997.
Taking it all in stride, Zasowski said: "I was so used to bowling against good local guys, Jack Jurek, Mike Faliero, Brad Angelo, and I've beaten some of them on occasion, (against Sonnenfeld) it was just another match."
Zasowski had a composite 218 average in three leagues last season -- the Labatt's-Rizzo League at Manor, and the Roc-Mar B and St. James Sports Bar leagues at Kenmore.
After a 12th-place finish in the Obenauer Masters in May, he won twice in the weekly Summer All-Star at Thruway and once in the Classic Shootout at Transit. He finished 13th in the PBA regional and second in last weekend's Hammer 10K, both at Transit.
In the PBA's combined Headquarters-Eastern Regional, Zasowski qualified 13th.
"I (reached) the top five in my first regional," he said. "I didn't know much about the tournament going in, but after the first eight games (of match play) I was fourth."
In the final block he dropped to 13th. "In the last round I wasn't used to the (two-day total) 32 games and broke a blister. I just tried to hang on. My goal this summer is to be noticed and get a sponsor."
The Hammer 10K was strictly four games, total pins with unlimited squad entry and a $10,000 first place guarantee (won by Brian Bailey of Pittsburgh with 951). Runner-up Zasowski had 924 with games of 190, 234, 254 and 246.
"In the first game I started strike, spare and had three opens but I came on in the last five frames. I've been working with Joe Ciccone ($50,000 runner-up in last winter's Las Vegas Mini-Eliminator and preparing to get his PBA card). This is the first summer I've known Joe. He drilled my recent equipment and taught me things about hand position.
"I made a change with my hands and had three straight good games. On the last pair I needed to be in the 270s (to win) but in the fourth frame I left a 2-8 (on his first ball) and left a light 7-pin in the seventh or eighth frame."
Zasowski's father, Jerry, got him started in bowling when he was about 12. He bowled with the Pepsi Juniors (now Troyer Farms Juniors) before hitting the adult leagues. He had five 300 games in a two-month span a couple of seasons ago. He has a total of 10 perfect games and one 800 -- an 813 at Manor in 1998.
Zasowski said landing a sponsor "is like trying to find a winning lottery ticket. It's going to take time for me. I don't have the time or money right now to practice as much as I need to, but this is the first year I've shined."
His climb to temporarily reach fourth place in the PBA regional only whetted his appetite for success. "I could taste it," he said.
Tonawandas BA honors Ken Kreger
The Tonawandas Bowling Association will honor Ken Kreger with a testimonial Oct. 23 at the American Legion Sikora Post, 950 Payne Ave., North Tonawanda.
Kreger was secretary-treasurer of the TBA for 20 years, retiring as secretary last year but still serving as treasurer. He is a member of the TBA and state bowling association halls of fame, past president of both organizations and bowling columnist for the Tonawanda News.
Single tickets are $20 or $35 per couple. Call 692-8668 or order by mail from the TBA, 576 Oliver St., North Tonawanda 14120 by Sept. 30.
Mack, Monkelbaan on target
Don Mack opened the Dunlop Mixed season at Manor with a 300, his career second, in his first game Wednesday night. He finished with a 777. The first league 300 of the season reported to The News was by Don Monkelbaan, his first, in the Town Firemen's League at Town Edge.
SUMMER CLASSICS FINAL AVERAGE LEADERS
Transit Classic Shootout Thruway All-Star
Jack Jurek 227.1 Gary Kinyon 223.8
Brad Angelo 219.8 Jack Jurek 223.6
Pat Brick 213.8 Joe Ciccone 221.3
Fran Bax 212.4 Brad Angelo 221.0
Al Davis 210.8 Tom Mangione 220.0
Pat Brick $850 Gary Kinyon $890
Carl Graetz $680 Jack Jurek $855