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Fans of pro bowling on television who have been in withdrawal since the PBA season ended in March will have a seven-week fix with the Professional Women's Bowling Association tour ready to resume next week on ESPN.

The spring-summer season opens with the Women's U.S. Open in Sterling Heights, Mich. The first of seven live Sunday telecasts will be on June 1 with the Open finals at 1 p.m. Except for one TV show at 1:30 p.m., all of the 90-minute telecasts will start at 1 p.m.

A record field of more than 250 assembled for practice this weekend in search of the $30,000 first prize from a total purse of $200,000, the richest event of the season. The tournament proper begins Monday.

"It's good to have live TV and a consistent time slot," said Cheektowaga's Liz Johnson, who is beginning her eighth year on tour. She collected her 11th title last season and was seventh in earnings with $53,497. She moved into the top 20 in career earnings and begins this year as No. 19 with just over $550,000.

The PWBA has struggled to attract large fields in recent years due to reduced prize funds and unfulfilled promises to its members.

"The money fund has a lot to do with (the record) entries," Johnson said. "A lot of Detroit bowlers and Northeast regional members (are entered) because the money is the highest of the year."

The remainder of the spring-summer season is expected to have $100,000 events as the norm. The number of tournaments has been reduced by approximately half from recent seasons but the prize funds generally have been doubled in an effort to attract more entries.

The Women's U.S. Open is actually the second straight PWBA "major" to be conducted this year. The WIBC Queens tournament in April was taped for later broadcasts.

Angelo fills it up

In Thursday night's first game of the final block for the Obenauer championship at Lancaster Lanes, Brad Angelo doubled in the 10th frame and held a five-pin edge on Joe Ciccone. The double gave him six strikes on his last seven shots.

Then Angelo reached into a bag and pulled out a different ball. He promptly went through the nose on his fill ball and left the 3-4-6-7-10, losing five pins on count to finish in a 224-224 tie.

"I was curious to know how the other ball would react," Angelo, the current PBA Rookie of the Year, explained. "I'd always done it on the (pro) tour. You have to use the fill ball to your advantage. In the same situation, I would do it again."

In the seventh frame of the second game Angelo left the 3-4-6-7-10 again and made another ball change.

"I had to make something happen," he said. "I made the right guess and that's all it is -- a guess."

Four strikes and a nine-count gave him a 209-173 win. Nine strikes in the third game built a 105-pin advantage, most of which he held in the last game en route to his third Obenauer title.

A gender barrier falls

While delegates from the American Bowling Congress and Women's International Bowling Congress have not approved merger plans to share their services, the same can't be said in Detroit.

The gender barrier will be shattered Aug. 1 when Mark Martin, executive director of the Greater Detroit Bowling Association, becomes manager of the Detroit Women's BA, as reported this week by Detroit Free Press bowling columnist Matt Fiorito.

The two organizations have had offices with separate entrances in the same building in St. Clair Shores, Mich., since 1968. They will continue as two entities but Martin will be the only man in the country running a women's bowling association. The two associations will be able to offer shared services.

"This is not a matter of gender, it's a matter of hiring the best person available for the job," Libby Fletcher, DWBA vice president, told Fiorito. The DWBA will benefit financially as it will contract for Martin's services instead of paying a full salary for the position.

As Fiorito wrote: "Combining membership services is highly ironic after recent rejections by ABC and WIBC delegates of legislation that would have put a single membership organization in place."

Actually, there's a faint pulse beating in the SMO plan. "ABC has proposed the creation of a panel composed of two members of . . . ABC, WIBC, the Young American Bowling Alliance, USA Bowling and the Bowling Proprietors of America to review the existing plan of merger, starting in June, and recommend a course of action by no later than September," ABC President Alton Forbes said in a conference call to ABC's board of directors.

"That timetable will allow us to present a new plan to our respective boards in November and to delegates for consideration in 2004."

Around the lanes

Phil Scapillato and Harry Wilkenson combined for a 1,305 total with handicap to win the Lee Garbacz-Shannon Barber Memorial Tournament in the Lancaster Moose Hall. The entry of 100 doubles teams enabled the committee to fund two scholarships this year for two Alden seniors who have participated with the high school team or a junior bowling program. Julie Ripley and Tony Szuder finished second with 1,225, followed by Ellen Abt and Ed Osuch at 1,209, and Dawn Territo and Craig Territo with 1,195. . . . Sam Gariano of Niagara Falls defeated Bruce Heim of Tonawanda, 220-218, to win the Greater Buffalo Classic at Kenmore Lanes.
Norm Warner can be reached at 652-3505 or e-mail:

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