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Kevin Bienko, 21, knocks off PBA Tour pro to win Obenauer Masters

Just what the doctor ordered.

Kevin Bienko, a would-be pharmacy student at the University at Buffalo, is the new George A. Obenauer Masters champion.

Bienko, 21, captured the title in the 54th annual Obenauer by defeating PBA Tour pro Brad Angelo of Lockport, 696-599, in the championship match Sunday afternoon at Kenmore Lanes.

Angelo, who survived five elimination matches on Saturday and Sunday beore running into Bienko again in the final, was seeking his record fifth Obenauer title. He led the three-game total pins match after the first game, 185-180, but then his opponent a former All-Catholic star at St. Joe's began to come on like a locomotive with his power game. Bienko closed the second game with six strikes win 247-201 and take a 41-pin lead in the match. He kept it up in the third game, He struck in the second frame to begin a string of five he closed out the match when he made the third of another five in a row in the eighth frame.

"The lanes just got pretty easy and the strikes started to come," Bienko said.

It was a case of coach losing to one of his prize pupils. Turns out both of Angelo's losses in the Obenauer were to Bienko, who won 669-651 on Friday. Bienko got to know Angelo through another young bowler,  Andrew Herbert and began receive instructions from the pro. So Angelo knew what he might be in for.

Angelo tried to stay outside Bienko's usual track to the pocket, but eventually had to give up.

"I wasn't getting what I needed with an outside line and had to move inside. As soon as I did,  it opened it up for him. I knew I had to get off to a good start and then hang on for dear  life and I didn't," Angelo said.

As best as veteran Obenauer  watchers can remember,  Bienko, who turned 21 on April 4, is the youngest Masters champion ever. Buffalo has had its share of young bowling phenoms before -- Tom Baker, Mike Neumann, Dave Guindon, Dick Ciprich, Tom Harnisch to name a few but it's believed all were older than 21 when they won their first Obenauer.

Bienko, has been a UB undergraduate for three years, and in the fall will enter the university's four year pharmacy program.

The new Obenauer champion does not come from a bowling family, but grew up in the Town of Tonawanda not far from Kenmore Lanes and spent a lot of time there.

"When I was a kid my mom used to drive me here on Sunday mornings," Bienko said. "It was 99 cents a game, and I  would bowl all day and got to love, and it became something I got good at."

Bienko had to defeat past two Obenauer champions Sunday to get his title. First he defeated 2015 winner Tony Dolan of West Seneca in the winners bracket final, 662-546, while Angelo was defeating another young UB student, Dana Voytovich, 622-583 to stay alive.

Angelo then met Dolan to determine who would face Bienko in the championship match. Brad jumped to a 39-pin lead by winning the opener, 234-195. Dolan could not catch up. He shot 244 in the next game, but Angelo matched it. Dolan's 225-214 margin in the third game was not enough to overcome the deficit.

Bienko missed spares in two of the first three frames of his match with Angelo, but Brad could not take advantage. After trailing by 19 pins Bienko actually took a narrow lead but was outscored when he drew a split in the 1oth while Angelo was producing his only double of the  game.

The kid from the Town of Tonawanda took over shortly after captured the $1,500 top prize and paid entry and expenses to the 2018 USBC Masters in Syracuse. Angelo took home $900.

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