A full field of 58 teams, including more than 20 from Western New York, will compete at Thruway Lanes this weekend for a berth in the third Brunswick/ABC World Team Challenge in Reno, Nev., July 16-19.
The schedule includes sweepers on Friday and a main tournament Saturday and Sunday. The sweepers are not limited to Team Challenge participants.
The Thruway stop is the 13th in a series of 22 regional events -- 19 open qualifiers and three for WIBC members only. "The field has been sold out for at least two months," said the ABC's Jerry Schneider.
Buffalo-area bowlers put their stamp on the first team challenge two years ago when two Brunswick-sponsored teams won qualifiers and finished first and third in the Grand Championship.
The 1993 champions are entered in this weekend's tournament as Lind Shoes with Mike Firzak as captain.
"It'll be exciting for us," Firzak said. "This is our first full year with Lind and bowling in front of everybody (in a hometown setting) will be fun."
Firzak's teammates from the first WTC championship and last year's ninth-place finishers include Bob Santini, Pat Stefanik and Mike Faliero. Mike Hanes replaces Bob Ujvari, who is out with a shoulder injury.
The companion Brunswick team, third in '93 and runner-up in last year's Grand Championship, has already qualified for this year's finals, having won a regional in Hubbard, Ohio, last October. The Bowlers Choice Pro Shop team, as it is known now, includes Jack Jurek, John Masiello, Brian Eaton and Mike Neumann, with Brad Kiszewski replacing Tom Baker.
Carl Kinyon of Lockport, who has entered an Allie Brandt Lanes team, has had an interesting series of close calls and is trying for the fourth time to make the Grand Championship. He was on a runner-up team the first year in the Syracuse regional. In that season's Pittsburgh regional, Baker substituted for him, and that team won the qualifier and finished third in the finals. Last season's Brandt team was third in the Pittsburgh qualifier.
This year Kinyon is teamed with Team USA member Pat Healey Jr., John Meczynski, Bob Foss Jr. and Ron Sutton.
At least five teams earned spots in this weekend's event through tournaments at area centers.
Tim Ahrens captains the Baker Men entry, which won the Rose Bowl qualifier. Pat Brick's WNY Classic Tour and Rick Parry's Lancaster Lanes teams won qualifiers at Thruway, while Mike Mucciaccio's Perfect Choice Pro Shop and Jim Mee's Pro Shop qualified through an Abbott Lanes event.
While two WIBC-only events are set in April in Indianapolis and June in Baltimore, an Airport Lanes team in the gender neutral event at Thruway features WIBC members Kim Sutter, Peggy Kiszewski, Linda Ujvari and Jody Ellis, and teammate Terry Kuhn Jr.
The format includes two three-game blocks of regular team bowling at 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. The top 10 teams advance to Sunday's 9 a.m. semifinals for a two-game, nine-match round robin using the Baker Scoring System. Saturday scores carry over to the Sunday morning round and bonus pins are awarded for winning games and matches (total pins).
In Baker Scoring each player bowls two frames -- first and sixth, second and seventh, etc.
The top three teams return at 3 Sunday afternoon for the stepladder finals -- two-game total pins Baker System matches. The third-place team meets the second-place team and that winner meets the top qualifier for the championship.
For many of the area teams this will be their first competitive test under Baker scoring.
The winner receives approximately $2,500, plus a package including air fare and rooms for the Grand Championship (with prize money of approximately $150,000), Lind shoes, Brunswick bowling balls, championship rings and a sponsor's award.
Prime Network will tape Sunday's stepladder finals with announcers Jay Randolph or Dave Andrews and analyst Earl Anthony. Empire will carry the program at 5 p.m. on April 1.
Friday's series of sweepers will be held under WTC lane conditions. A $60 entry for events at noon, 1:30 and 3 p.m. will each be worth a Hoinke Super Classic entry or cash equivalent of $650 to the winners based on 60 entries. Eight Hoinke entries are available in each of the 8:30 and 10 p.m. squads, with a top prize of $1,000 for a $100 entry based on a field of 100.
"We're getting a lot of play, averaging over 250 entries (per regional stop)," said Sweeps director Buddy DeLuca of Pittsburgh. "Many of the bowlers like the Team Challenge conditions. That's exactly what this is -- a challenge. The shot is hard but that's what adds interest. This isn't adult bumper bowling."
WORLD TEAM CHALLENGE
WHO: 58 bowling teams from Western New York, elsewhere in New York State, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Massachusetts, Michigan, Connecticut, Maryland and Wisconsin.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday.
WHERE: Thruway Lanes, 1550 Walden Ave., Cheektowaga.
SWEEPERS: Friday squads from noon to 10 p.m. Call Thruway at 896-8504 for details.
SCHEDULE: First round -- Saturday at 9 a.m.; Second round -- Saturday at 1:30 p.m.; Semifinals -- Sunday at 9 a.m.; Finals -- Sunday at 3 p.m.