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Milt Northrop’s Bowling: Thruway, Dolan among 2015 newsmakers

It’s the day after Christmas but there’s still time to put a holiday wrapping on the year in bowling in Western New York.

The year 2015 may not have been one for the ages, but it sure was eventful.

It started on a somber note, with the closing of AMF Thruway Lanes in Cheektowaga after weeks of speculation and rumors. The Walden Avenue facility played a central role in the local bowling picture, as the venue for PBA Tour stops, National Junior College tournaments, the Section VI public schools championship, and from time to time the New York State Public Schools tournament, not to mention various Greater Buffalo USBC Association tournaments. Of course, it was a popular home for league bowling and recreational events.

Many of the events that Thruway hosted moved on to AMF Airport and AMF Lancaster Lanes. Now there are rumors that Airport may be lost to commercial development, although AMF officials denied that recently.

The most prestigious local tournament, the 52nd annual George A. Obenauer Masters, featured its most dramatic finish ever. There was a new champion in left-hander Tony Dolan of West Seneca, but not before he survived a one-ball rolloff after two three-game final matches against Pete Zmozynski of Depew. Dolan left a 6-pin on the shootout, but Zmozynski, who had been pounding the pocket all game, left the 6-9-10.

It was a big year all-around for Dolan, who weeks earlier shot a career-high 869 series with games of 279-290-300 in the Monday Night Out League at Broadway. Also, Dolan’s team, Dr. Dolan Inc. – with a lineup that also included Andrew Rettig, Joe Trimper and Kevin Nagel – won the scratch team championship in the City Tournament.

The star of the City Women’s Tournament was Sandra M. Halik, who won the handicap titles in singles, six-game combine and all-events. Sue Nawojski, who had been enshrined in the GBUSBC Hall of Fame only a few months before, won the scratch all-events title with 2,007 and teamed with Jessica Mamon to win the scratch doubles. Former Lockport star Marion Singleton won the scratch singles and six-game combine.

It was another successful year for Western New York bowlers on the pro tours, especially Ryan Ciminelli and Liz Johnson.

Ciminelli won three titles on the PBA Tour, including his first major, the U.S. Open in November. The left-hander from Cheektowaga defeated Dom Barrett of England in the final. The top qualifier for the Open was John Szczerbinski of North Tonawanda.

Enshrinement in the United States Bowling Congress Hall of Fame alone made it a big year for Johnson but she kept on adding titles locally, nationally and internationally. Liz won her sixth Western New York Queens title, reached the final of the New York State Queens and won the USBC Queens by defeating Erin McCarthy in the title. Fittingly, Johnson won the championship of the first event of the revived Professional Women’s Bowling Tour.

Jack Jurek defeated Bob Learn, 264-224, to win his second PBA50 title in Mooresville, N.C., dedicating the victory to his late father, who had died only a few weeks before.

The New York State USBC Association brought its open championship to Airport Lanes. Andrew Rettig and John Meczynski shot 1,505 to win the scratch doubles title.

Sara Snyder, a junior at Depew High, won the classified division of the New York State Queens Tournament. This was after she won the Section VI championship and helped the Section VI All-Star team capture the NYSPHSAA championship.

Hall of Famer Jimmy Schroeder kept bowling along in the USBC Open Championship, the national tournament once known as the ABC. Competing in his 67th national tournament, Schroeder raised his all-time pinfall to 117,737, third on the list.

Jason Ciliberto of Gasport won the 24th annual Tri-City Masters, defeating Brandon Digati in the title match at Brad Angelo Lanes.

Bill Gerfin shot 810 to win scratch singles and Pat Brick’s 2,232 took scratch all-events in the 73rd Tonawandas City Tournament. Jeff Krywcum took the handicap singles and handicap all-events title. Maria George won the women’s handicap singles and Lorie Noel the women’s handicap all-events.

The 2015-16 season is the first in 56 years in which Spares & Strikes is not chronicling the greater Buffalo and Rochester bowling scenes. The paper ceased publishing.

Sadly, among who passed on was former Obenauer Masters champion and Greater Buffalo USBC Association and Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Famer Dick Ciprich, who died in Colorado at age 76. Also passing was a good friend of bowling, broadcaster Van Miller, who hosted the Beat the Champ television show.

Good news for bowling enthusiasts was the word that Beat the Champ was returning to local television with the first show on WBBZ-TV on Jan. 9.

Pin chasers

• Veteran campaigner Mike Hanes of Niagara Falls won the 30th annual Tonawandas USBC Senior Masters at Manor II Lanes. Hanes took the title for the second year in a row, defeating Gary Kinyon of Lockport, 264-197. Kinyon was top qualifier with 752, including a 299 game.

• Mallwitz’s Island Lanes on Grand Island is among the 12 local houses collaborating to bring back the Beat the Champ bowling show to local television. Island Lanes was inadvertently omitted from the list of establishments cooperating in the venture, each putting up $6,000 for the production costs.