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Pat Degerolamo was having "a hard time driving and concentrating" on his three-hour drive home to Hermitage, Pa., last May.

Degerolamo, captain of the Traveling Five, left the 13th annual Greater Buffalo Tournament with his team in first place but with nearly a month to sweat out the final results.

Fast forward to this week. Degerolamo was back at Kenmore Lanes for the presentation to the tournament's champions.

"It's hard to believe I could do anything in the tournament," the 37-year-old Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare employee said.

The winning men's team split $12,000 and Degerolamo won another $2,000 in the optional team singles. Degerolamo bowled 236-247-237 for 720 scratch and 816 with handicap. "I felt fortunate to be as consistent as I was," he said.

The team includes Bill Lockovich, 224-548 scratch; Harry Necastro, 229-603; Pete Drivere, the team's only lefty, 196-555; and Jake Flack, 247-631. "We all bowl in the same league (in Hermitage, a village halfway between Erie and Pittsburgh) but not on the same team," Degerolamo said. "At home, we're just once-a-week bowlers."

Degerolamo said he was introduced to his traveling teammates by his father in the late '70s. "They needed someone to fill in for a tournament. Now, I'm the captain and the organizer."

He said one reason they don't do a lot of traveling is the difficulty in finding a weekend when they all can get together. "We have a couple of boaters on the team (Lockovich and Flack) and they like to spend their time at Cedar Point (on Lake Erie). And we all have families. Harry (Necastro) is a Little League coach and that takes a lot of his time."

Degerolamo estimated the team has entered about 10 of the Greater Buffalo events and finished in the top three or four here one other time in the last five years, but they don't do much other tournament bowling.

"I think one thing that really helped us was the other team paired with us," Degerolamo said. "Their averages were about 195 to 210 and they didn't have much handicap. We're all around 175. Man to man as a team they would beat us but their bowling elevated us. It was fortunate we were placed with them." The Traveling Five totaled 3,057 scratch and a winning 3,606 with handicap.

The presentations were dominated by entries from Pennsylvania and Ontario.

The lone area winners were Larry Hayes of Buffalo (in an optional event) and the Sparky's Crew mixed team captained by Jim Czajka of West Seneca. Sparky's Crew, which bowled 3,496 with handicap and split $6,000 in the Greater Buffalo, also included Donna Gannon, Michelle Miczewski, Laurie Czajka and Ted Czajka.

Other winners: men's doubles, Bill Rhodes, Loretto, Pa., and Nick Cecere, Gallitzin, Pa., 1,499, $6,000; mixed doubles, Larry Lowe and Linda Popowich, Welland, Ont., 1,505, $3,000; men's singles, Leo Marino, St. James, N.Y., 877, $4,000; women's singles, Lori Nicholson, Normalville, Pa., 805, $2,000; men's combine, Marino, 1,646, $2,000; women's combine, Popowich, 1,489, $1,000; optional doubles singles, Larry Lowe, Welland, and Hayes, tie with 803, $1,500. The total payout was a record of more than $181,000.

Women proved equal

One of the interesting results from Liz Johnson's victory in the BPAA U.S. Open that will be shown on ESPN at 4 p.m. on Oct. 27 is that her score in her 265-236 victory over Marianne DiRupo was 49 pins higher than David Husted's total in his 216-214 victory over George Brook in the men's final. The games were rolled on the same lanes at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis.

"We were wondering what kind of scores they would have in this tournament," Husted said in a BPAA release. "We thought if the lanes were set tough, they would have trouble scoring well, and if they were made too easy, our scores would have been too high. But they proved all week that they have some good bowlers . . . and I was not surprised by how well they bowled."

On average the men bowled higher during the tournament but DiRupo had the highest eight-game block with 1,879 (one total pin short of a 235 average) in match play.

"I didn't get much respect that night," DiRupo said. "I was rolling a 278 game and netting no cheers, while the crowd was going crazy every time Walter Ray (Williams) or Dave (Husted) would get a strike."

In their three-game finals, Husted bowled 730 to Johnson's 729 but the big difference was in the prize money. Husted earned $46,000; Johnson $18,000.

Around the lanes

The first monthly qualifier for the Tops TV Challenge will be held Sunday at Thruway Lanes. Squads are at 9 a.m., 10:30, noon, 1:30 p.m., 3 and 4:30. Entry is $25, first place is $400, one per eight entries cash and the high score from the 9 a.m. squad is automatically qualified along with the high score plus top nine overall. . . . Entries close Friday for the 46th annual Erie County Suburban Women's Association Handicap Tournament and Mixed Tournament at Orchard Park Lanes. Tournament dates and squads are Nov. 2, 3, 9 and 16 at 1 and 3:30 p.m., and Nov. 10 at 1, 3:30 and 6 p.m. Forms are available at ECSWBA lanes and should be mailed to Jean Luber, secretary, 658 Lake St., Angola, 14006. . . . Entries close Oct. 30 for the Buffalo Women's 600 Club Members-only Tournament at 2 p.m., Nov. 9 at Kenmore Lanes. Call Diane Wacker at 838-3019 or Anna Litz at 625-8876 for details. . . . Oct. 28 is the deposit ($65) deadline for a group excursion, April 26-27, to the state women's tournament in Syracuse. The trip also includes bus transportation, transfers, room, and preregistration. The total price will be based on double, triple or quad occupancy. For details, call Ine Stein at 836-1357.

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