Get ready for an invasion of young bowlers.
For the next two weeks the Buffalo area will be the site for the biggest bowling extravaganza hosted here since the 1996 Women's International Bowling Congress Tournament in 1996 at Thruway Lanes or perhaps going all the way back to 1963 when the American Bowling Congress tournament was held at the Connecticut Street Armory.
It will be a bowling triple-header involving more than 2,500 youth bowlers, most traveling from out of the area and bringing family, friends and coaches with them. It's expected to have an economic impact of $2.5 million locally.
First up will be the 10th annual USBC Junior Gold championships, which will be held next week at AMF Thruway, AMF Airport and Transit Lanes. The championship matches for boys and girls will be next Friday at Airport. A sold-out field of 1,728 bowlers is entered with competitors from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, England and overseas military outposts. The Junior Gold is an individual event for bowlers with averages of 175 or higher for males and 165 or higher for females who have qualified in regional and state competitions.
Activities will get under way Sunday with the parade of athletes and opening ceremonies preceding the Buffalo Bisons game at Dunn Tire Park.
Junior Gold participants will be competing for more than $100,000 in scholarship money as well as berths on Junior Team USA. Winners in the male and female divisions will be crowned U.S. Junior Amateur championships.
Marion Singleton of Lockport and Peter Zmozynski of Depew lead the Western New York contingent in the Junior Gold.
Zmozynski, 19, will be among the bowlers attempting to unseat defending champion Matthew O'Grady of South Amboy, N.J. Pete Z bowls at Erie Community College and will be competing in his fifth Junior Gold tournament.
O'Grady, who made first team All-America as a freshman at William Paterson University in New Jersey last season, will be gunning to regain his place on Junior Team USA because he was disappointed at his and the team's showing in the World Youth Championships held in Berlin this year.
"My one goal for the 2007-08 season is to regain my position on Junior Team USA so that I might have a chance to represent the United States on our own soil," O'Grady said.
Besides Zmozynski, another New York State contender is Robert Mushtare, 18, of Carthage in the North Country. Mushtare gained fame by bowling two certified 900 series at Fort Drum last year. Frontier High's Dan Darnley, 16, of Hamburg and Lew-Port's Zane Tester, 17, of Youngstown will be other local participants in the Junior Gold.
A new female champion is assured because 2006 winner Jennifer Wright of West Columbia, S.C. no longer is a USBC Youth member. Singleton is a worthy and seasoned challenger. As a freshman at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, the former Lockport High standout led the Hawks to the finals of the NCAA women's team championship. Singleton, 18, will be competing in her fourth Junior Gold. Nikki Lewandowski of Buffalo is another local entrant in the female competition.
Junior Gold entrants each will bowl three six-game qualifying blocks over four days, one each at Thruway, Airport and Transit, until the field is cut to 96 males and 48 females for next Friday's semifinals. The top 32 then advance to the finals.
Next up will be the Pepsi Youth Championships for boys and girls with competition in two divisions July 17 and 18 at Transit Lanes. The first day of competition will entail two four-game qualifying blocks with double elimination match play on the second day. It's a smaller field of bowlers divided into two divisions for boys and two for girls determined by average.
The third event is the inaugural USBC Youth Open championships which will be held at Thruway and will have more than 1,400 entrants, some of them holdovers from the Junior Gold competition. Bowling in four average divisions will begin next Friday and Saturday and wind up July 21. There will be competition in singles, doubles and team similar to the USBC Open or USBC Women's Championship.
All three competitions will be held on USBC Sport Bowling lane conditions.
Out of it all may come the next Walter Ray Williams, Pete Weber, Tom Baker or Liz Johnson.
*Sean Parry and Steven Lach won the final two Amateur Bowlers Tour events of the season. Parry defeated Ron Hubbell, 199-190, at the Broadway Sports Center for his first ABT title after topping Pat Galligan, Jr., 282-150, in the semifinals. Lach defeated George Spencer, 188-164, in the season finale at Thruway. He defeated Parry, 184-183, in the semifinals.
Results are still unofficial, but Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga and Sue Jeziorski of Buffalo claimed the Classic Doubles title with 1,385 in the USBC Women's Open which ended last Sunday. Jeziorski paced the pair with a 711 series while Johnson added 674. Also, the Bowlers Choice team of Jeziorski, Tiffany Stanbrough of Oklahoma City, Okla., Susan Nawojski of Lancaster, Michelle Sterner of Niagara Falls and Johnson finished second in the Classic Division team competition with 3,165 pins.