This week's Miller Lite Masters presented by the American Bowling Congress kicks off the pro tour season, but the format was far different from what it will be on regular PBA Tour events, the first of which is next week's Chicago Open in Vernon Hills, Ill.
In the first place, the field will be decidedly smaller. There were 577 entrants in the Masters, which winds up Sunday with televised finals (ESPN, 1 p.m.) from Miller Park in Milwaukee. Under the PBA Tour's grand experiment with an all-exempt tour there will be only 64 bowlers in Chicago and other regular PBA Tour events.
The format is quite a departure from the past. The Masters cut to 144 after 10 games of qualifying and cut to the top 63 after another five games of qualifying on Friday. Defending champion Walter Ray Williams will be the 64th bowler for match play. Four rounds of three-game total pinfall match play began today. The format is double elimination to arrive at the four semifinalists for Sunday's TV show.
On regular tour stops this season, Sunday's finalists will be determined on Friday. There will be no competition on Saturdays, which will be reserved for pro-am play. The PBA format will be nine games of qualifying on Wednesdays, a round of best-of-seven matches on Thursdays and three rounds of best-of-seven matches on Friday to arrive at the final four for Sunday.
Under the new PBA Tour format each of the 64 bowlers will be guaranteed a minimum of $2,000 each event. There are no non-cashers. Western New York, of course, will be represented by three bowlers on the regular PBA Tour -- Brand Angelo of Lockport, Tom Baker of Buffalo and Joe Ciccone of Buffalo.
There was a contingent of nine Western New York bowlers in the Masters this week and four -- Angelo, Ciccone, Jack Jurek of Lackawanna and Pat Brick of Tonawanda -- survived the first cut.
Angelo (224.7) was fifth and Ciccone (222.5) sixth after 10 games of qualifying. Angelo seemed to pick up where he left off last season when he was the PBA Tour leader in points although he did not win a tournament. The third-year Tour bowler was satisfied with his start.
"Anytime you get out of the gate with two or three strikes, it's easy to get comfortable," said Angelo, who began with six straight strikes en route to a 262 in his first game Wednesday. "I just followed the transition well. Actually, the only clean game I bowled was my lowest game -- 216 in the third game.
"The main goal in this tournament is very similar to the PBA Tour format from last year," he added. "You need to focus on qualifying and make sure you stay in that top 63. Then, when you get to match play, it's all about who you draw, when you draw them and who bowls well at what time."
Baker (199.7) was one of 11 exempt PBA Tour players who were eliminated after 10 games of qualifying. He slipped from 61st to 161st after averaging only 183.6 in his second five-game block.
Others from the area who did not make the first cut were Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, John Meczynski of Amherst, Jim Wangler of Depew and Tom Mangione of Buffalo.
Liz Johnson was one of 11 female entrants, a record number for the Masters. She finished 181st with a 198.8 average after standing 89th on the first day.
Once again, women showed they were not out of place in a predominantly male competition. Four women made the cut to 144 led by Dianna Asbaty with a 217.1 average. Michelle Feldman of Skaneateles was 20th with 2,163, and Tish Johnson and Carolyn Dorin-Ballard also moved on.
Meczynski moved up from 348th to a final 169th, averaging 199.4. Mangione wound up 216th with a 196.4 average. Wangler was 374th with 185.5.
Andre Mathews won the Amateur Bowlers Association tour stop at Voelkers. The right-hander from Grand Island cashed in for his second ABA championship, picking up the $600 first prize, Art Oliver of Hamilton, Ont., was second and Krystine McDew of Rochester took third. Frank Anderson of Buffalo was fourth.
Another squad was added for the Erie County Suburban Women's Bowling Association tournament, which will be Nov. 13-14 at Leisureland. A 1 p.m. squad was added for Nov. 13. The other squad that day will be at 3:30. There will be three squads (noon, 2:45, and 5:15) on Nov. 14. Entries close on Nov. 5.
The Buffalo Women's Bowling Association's 22nd annual Joe Tourjie Memorial Senior Tournament will be Nov. 7 at Airport Lanes.
Hank Baker's run of weekly titles was ended at two when he lost to Glen Hauptman, 266-245, in Week Five of the Brunswick Senior Shootout at Transit Lanes. Eric Johns defeated Joe Jack, 219-199, for the title. Johns also defeated high qualifier John Walker (258-217), and Mike O'Grady (257-227) en route to the title match. Jack disposed of Don Voss (202-178) and Hauptman (225-213) before his loss to Johns.