It's only two weeks until the 63rd U.S. Open in North Brunswick, N.J., one of the sport's four majors. After that comes the long-awaited return of the Denny's PBA Tour to the Buffalo area with the GEICO Northeast Classic at Thruway Lanes in Cheektowaga.
There's sure to be more interest in this tour event than when Buffalo was pretty much a regular stop before 1991. The presence of four Western New Yorkers as exempt bowlers on the PBA Tour would ensure interest, as will the exemption for local favorite Liz Johnson. Additional local presence could come out of the qualifier, which will be held Feb. 22.
Unless there's a breakthrough in the next three weeks, the local pros will be looking to end a long drought. The last win for a Western New York bowler on the tour was Tom Baker's triumph in the 2004 Denny's World Championship. Brad Angelo, Jack Jurek, Joe Ciccone, Johnson and Baker all have made it to televised finals since then, but none has been able to take it all the way.
In this week's Bayer Atlanta Classic in Norcross, Ga., Baker and Ciccone did not make it to match play. Jurek lost his first-round match to Amleto Monacelli, while Angelo advanced with a 4-2 triumph over Tore Torgesen on Friday morning but lost to Patrick Allen of Tarrytown, 4-1, in the round of 16. It was the first match between Angelo and Allen since the championship match of 2003 Dallas Open, in which Allen triumphed.
Baker has a tour exemption through the 2008-09 season by virtue of his major victory two years ago. Unless the other three Western New Yorkers win on the tour, however, they will have to renew their exemptions via points gained by their performances on the tour. So far, all three are in good shape to retain their exempt status, but there are seven events left on the schedule, not including the Tournament of Champions the last week.
Ciccone stood in 13th place with 96,793 points entering the week. Angelo was 16th with 91,961. Jurek was 32nd with 66,631.50. Last year, the top 40 kept their exemptions.
Prices for Buffalo tour event
A week pass for all sessions, including the televised finals Feb. 26, are $65, $75, $95 and $110, depending on the desired seating section. Ticket prices for just the finals are $15, $25, $40 and $60. Seating in each section for the television finals is on first-come, first-served basis.
All-day passes for the Wednesday (Feb. 22) morning and afternoon practice and Tour Qualifying Rounds are $10. There is no charge for the Wednesday night Pro-Am session. An all-day pass for Thursday's two Round of 64 qualifying blocks (11 a.m. and 6 p.m.) will be $25 or $15 for each individual session.
There will be three rounds of match play that Friday at 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. An all-day pass is $30. Each session pass is $15.
There will be no spectator charge for the three Pro-Am events (noon, 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.) that Saturday.
Week passes and tickets for the championship finals are on sale at Thruway Lanes. Day and session tickets will be on sale the day of the event.
Selden helped Air Force victory
It turns out there was a stronger Western New York presence than originally reported on the Air Force team that won the Armed Forces Championship last month at the Team USA Championships in Reno, Nev.
Martin Bedford of Lockport won the individual title and earned a place on Team USA as he led Air Force to the team title. Technical Sgt. Tyler Selden of Williamsville was among the six bowlers on the championship Air Force team.
"Tyler started bowling at Sheridan Lanes on Saturday mornings and bowled for Williamsville South," his mother, Katy Selden, said. "He tried out for the Air Force team last year but didn't make the cut. This year, he did. His first 300 game came when he was in the Air Force stationed in Boston (Hanscom Field)."
Selden, 38, graduated from the University at Buffalo and holds a masters degree in musical performance from UB. He is a saxophone and clarinet player with the Air Force Band of Flight based at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio.
Hottest team loses ground
Led by Michelle Sterner's 279-267-767 and Johnson's 279-751, host Recckio's was the highest scoring team on the lanes with games of 1,190 and 1,187 and a team total of 3,413 in a 24-9 win over Ideal last week in the BPA Buffalo Beverage Miller Lite All-Stars travel league.
However, Spare Time took over the league lead by a point from the South Buffalo team in the second-half standings. That was because Spare Time was enjoying a 28 1/2 -4 1/2 victory over Broadway Sports Center.
Orchard Park Lanes' Chuck Jagodzinski, with his 19th 300 game in an 815 series, was the only bowler to score higher than Sterner and Johnson.
The All-Stars move to Manor Lanes today at 2 p.m.
The Greater Buffalo USBC Youth Team Championship wraps up today and Sunday at AMF Thruway Lanes. . . . The Youth Bowling Tour stops at AMF Dewey Gardens in Rochester on Sunday. Anthony Melidona of Williamsville took third place in the most recent YBT event two weeks ago at Roseland Bowl in Canandaigua. Marion Singleton of Lockport posted the top score, a 279.