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When Eric Metzger took the lead in the Amateur Bowling Association's Buffalo-area competition early last year his mission was easily defined: stay there.

Except for a brief lapse, Metzger, formerly of North Tonawanda and now living in Amherst, met the challenge and won the season's title with 117 points. Defending champion Tom Romano of Depew was second with 103, followed by Adam Collura of Buffalo with 101, Phil Kaiser of Rochester with 90 and Jeff Walsh of Cheektowaga with 74.

Even though Metzger, a 29-year-old left-hander, started bowling when he was 4 and has worked at Transit Lanes for 11 years, his time as a competitive bowler has been spotty.

"I'd bowl a year, take a year off, then bowl a couple years and take off four," said Metzger, who has been assistant manager at Transit for five years. "I was working 50 hours a week, six days, and I just didn't want to bowl on my day off."

Then he would miss the game. "This is my second year back (in league play). Before that my last season was 1994-95. I joined the ABA about a year and a half ago."

Unlike most bowling seasons, which run from fall to spring, or two short seasons in that span, the ABA's season follows the calendar year, January to December.

"After I had the lead my main goal was to keep it," Metzger said. He surrendered the lead to Collura in September but regained first place a couple of tournaments later at Transit with a third-place finish, picking up 14 points.

Metzger won just one event, his third overall (worth 20 points), at Voelker's in April. A second-place finish is worth 16 points.

The ABA scores include handicap but Metzger, with a composite average for three leagues of 215, bowls scratch. "It's tough to give up pins," Metzger said. "You feel like you're behind the 8-ball. One gentleman (he met in the two-game rolloffs) got 42 pins per game. He won the first game and I was down by 90 pins. I had 259 in the second game and won (the match) by six pins."

In addition to winning the ABA, Metzger had success in last year's ABC Championships in Syracuse, finishing 16th in doubles with Frank Lustan. He also had his first 300 last November in the Budweiser Classic at Manor.

Buffalo fuels interest in ABA

The ABA -- a longtime fixture in Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse with 16 to 20 tournaments annually in each area -- has cast its lot exclusively with Buffalo for the immediate future.

Commissioner Joe Brunelle, of Webster, has scheduled the first six events this year at Buffalo-area centers.

"The entries are way down in Rochester and Syracuse," Brunelle said. "I even used to run tournaments in the Southern Tier. Things change but Buffalo has remaimed stronger than the other cities.

"Bowlers, like everyone else, are finding other things to do. Fifteen years ago you didn't have PCs, the Internet, video games, cable TV." Brunelle hopes to revive tournaments in Rochester and Syracuse, but the ABA schedule through April 2 runs Feb. 6 at Manor, Feb. 20 at Southside, March 5 at Voelker's, March 19 at Thruway and April 2 at Mil-Sher. The opening event was Jan. 23 at Airport.

The race for last

Since there were few leagues scheduled on Dec. 31, contenders for the last 300 game of the 20th century (some say the millennium) slipped back to Dec. 30 with Chad Mayerhofer, Frank Zappia, Paul Kaminski and Jim Tauriello in the running.

Mayerhofer, bowling in the Honey Brown Doubles at Leisure Land, made the first bid to be the last in the second game of the early-shift league, finishing around 7:20 p.m. That was about the same time Zappia completed his perfect game in the West Seneca League at Spare Time.

In the Classic League at Town Edge, Kaminski wrapped up his perfecto around 8 p.m. in the early shift league.

Tauriello earned the honor in the second shift Three-Man Major at Ideal in a 713 series, at about 11 p.m. It was the first 300 for the right-hander who has a 210 average in the league.

It didn't leave Kaminski disappointed. It was his first 300 and it came on his daughter's birthday.

Brozyna heads the class

Left-handers finished 1-2 in Thruway's latest Teen Classic, a 12-week scholarship league that bowls Saturdays at 3 p.m.

Dave Brozyna won the top prize of a $450 scholarship with two first-places and one runner-up finish as he accumulated 80 points. He also had the session's high game of 289.

Ben Ryan, who had the high series of 738 for the 12 weeks, was second overall with 74 points to collect a $200 scholarship.

Joe Bifaro had 72 points to earn the third-place scholarship of $150. Lindsay Baker had the session's high average of 213.

Scholarship alert

The Bowling Proprietors Association of Western New York has applications available for two scholarship programs.

High school seniors in YABA-sanctioned leagues are eligible for $1,000 scholarships based on scholarship, citizenship and bowling criteria. Applications are available at BPAWNY centers or from E.F. Heidenburg, 126 Fairvale Drive, Cheektowaga 14225. Forms must be sent to Heidenburg by March 15.

Juniors and seniors in the Sunday Youth Traveling Leagues are eligible for Sunny Delight, Dan Dee and Troyer Farms $500 scholarships with applications available from the Travel League coordinators and sponsoring BPAWNY centers.

Around the lanes

When the scores were called in to The News from Manor II's Bell/Arc League, the request from proprietor Jim Russo was clear. "Tell 'em it's Jim's score, not Brian (Jim's son). Brian has been bowling up a storm so whenever anyone sees my name they think it's a mistake. He's had a 300. He's averaging about 228 at the other place (Manor Lanes) and I'm just a lowly 185." Jim Russo's score that night was 675. . . . Feb. 8 is the closing date for the State Queen's Tournament entries. The tournament will be held April 15 at Tonawanda Bowling Center. . . . The BPA Certo Molson All Stars bowl at 2 p.m. today at Orchard Park.

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