Liz Johnson made more history. A fresh new face joined the list of winners of the George A. Obenauer Masters. Mike Zarcone and Julie Selk stood out in the City Tournament and Melanie Hannon closed her collegiate bowling career in style.
Those were some of the highlights in the 2017 bowling year for Western New York.
Liz won her first PBA Tour championship when she defeated Anthony Pepe of Elmhurst in Long Island to win the PBA Chameleon Championship at the PBA World Series of Bowling in Reno, Nev. It was perhaps the career highlight for Johnson, who is the first woman to win the Obenauer Masters locally and first woman to qualify for a PBA Tour television final. Liz also won her fifth straight U.S. Open women's title.
Johnson was the only local pro to win on the major professional tours in 2017. The highlight of the year for Ryan Ciminelli of Cheektowaga was a third-place finish in the PBA World Championship. Ciminelli lost to eventual champion Jason Belmonte of Australia in the semifinal match. The PBA World finals will be shown (taped) on ESPN on Sunday at 1 p.m. Ciminelli's best finish, otherwise, was second place in the PBA Xtra Frame Chesapeake Open.
At the Obenauer, Kevin Bienko of Kenmore, a 21-year-old UB student who bowled at St. Joe's, defeated PBA pro Brad Angelo in the championship match at Kenmore Lanes. Bienko had to defeat one former champion, Tony Dolan, in the winners bracket final before defeating Angelo, a four-time champion.
Carrie Racsumberger defeated top qualifier and defending champion Kristina Szcerbinski of North Tonawanda, 266-227, to win the Western New York Queens Division I championship
Zarcone won the scratch singles (793), the doubles with Matt Zasowski (775-781-1,556), and the six-game combine (1,556) in the Greater Buffalo USBC Open Championship. Peter Zmozynski won scratch All-Events with 2,257.
Selk won scratch singles (731), six-game combine (1,400) and all-events (2,092) in the City Women's Championship. Krista Voelker-Burt and Michelle Sterner won doubles (1,368).
Hannon, the four-time GBUSBC Youth Bowler of the Year, completed her collegiate eligibility at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, leading the Knights to the championship of the Northeast Conference and into the NCAA championships.
Another transplanted Western New Yorker, Tom Baker of King, N.C. won his 12th title on the PBA50 Tour when he defeated Ron Mohr, 247-245, in New Port Richey, Fla. Once a teen-age phenom locally, PBA Hall of Famer Baker was 62 when he added to his impressive list of titles.
Gary Kinyon of Lockport, who has two state championships on his resume, was inducted into the New York State USBC Hall of Fame.
Led by Brandon Freese and Logan Williams, who finished 1-2 in all-events, Iowa Central won the National Junior College men's bowling championship at AMF Airport Lanes. Dan Streer was third for ECC, which also finished third in the team standings. All-event champion Morgan Ruggeri and singles winner Lauren Piotrowski led Schenectady CC to the women's team championship. Abigail Smith of ECC was third in singles. The Kats finished third in the team competition.
On a sad note, the local bowling community said good-bye to Jim Wangler Jr. and former Obenauer champion Nick Maile.
Wangler, one of the most passionate and loyal devotees to the sport, overcame a lymphoma condition that once put him in a wheelchair to resume bowling at a high level. He had the distinction of having his son, Jim III, and daughter, Kimberly, join in as 300-game bowlers. It was a family feat he was most proud of.
Maile won the Obenauer in 1991.
The Greater Buffalo USBC Association is accepting nominations for its 2018 Hall of Fame class. Nomination forms for Bowling Performance, Veterans, Meritorious Service and Youth Meritorious Service can be obtained at the GBUSBC website and must be forwarded by Jan. 30, 2018 to: Greater Buffalo USBC Association, 2448 Union Road, Cheektowaga, N.Y. 14227-2230.