Ryan Ciminelli of Cheektowaga picked up a world of major tournament experience this week in the PBA Tournament of Champions.
Ciminelli, 24, the youngest member of the Western New York contingent on the PBA tour, turned in the best performance among the locals in the TOC, which will wrap up today at Red Rock Lanes in Las Vegas.
Ciminelli was the only one of a six-player Western New York entry to qualify for the 24 bowler match-play field after 34 games in the grueling event. He didn't make the four-bowler stepladder for today's televised final on ABC (Ch. 7, 2:30 p.m.) but his experience had to be memorable.
In the first match-play round Thursday night, Ciminelli had a 3-5 record, facing some of the tour's most experienced and honored bowlers.
How about starting off against all-time PBA Tour title winner Walter Ray Williams? Ciminelli lost, 247-234, despite a run of six strikes beginning in the sixth frame. Walter Ray would not crack, though. He finished the match with five in a row.
Ciminelli defeated Jeff Carter, 223-204, lost to veteran Doug Kent of Newark, N.Y., 193-178, came back for a 258-204 win over fellow lefty Mike Scroggins, then lost to Tom Smallwood, 235-215.
Perhaps the highlight of his round came next, a 245-230 victory over Hall of Famer Norm Duke.
Mika Koivuniemi was next, and the lanky Finn started with 10 strikes in a row on his way to a 283-232 win.
Ciminelli, anticlimactically, lost to two-handed Australian star Jason Belmonte, 193-153, in his final match of the day.
That left Ciminelli in 19th place with a lot of ground to make up in 16 matches on Friday in order to get to the TV finals. He was 403 pins out of fourth place, behind Andres Gomez of Colombia.
Beside Ciminelli, Jack Jurek of Lackawanna and Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga advanced through qualifying into the 53-bowler cashers round.
Jurek collected $6,000 for his 27th-place finish. He averaged 216.68 for 34 games.
Johnson, one of three women who cashed -- Diandra Asbaty of Chicago and Kelly Kulick of Union, N.J., were the others -- tied for 35th and earned $4,250. Johnson averaged 213.38.
Brad Angelo of Lockport missed cashing by two pins. His total pinfall (4,258 with an 219.90 average) was two behind Kent, the final qualifier. Joe Ciccone of Buffalo shot 963 in his final five-game qualifying block and fell to 73rd place with 4,187. PBA Hall of Famer and Buffalo native Tom Baker of King, N.C., shot 4,109 and finished in 88th place.
Collegians place in Hawk
Local collegiate bowlers fared well last weekend in the Hawk Invitational at the AMF Pin-O-Rama Bowling Center in Utica.
Robin Manikowski and Melissa Sandoval of Medaille teamed for 1,424 to win the women's doubles. Tyler Molina and Derrick Geschwender of Canisius won men's doubles with 1,705. Ted Chojecki of Erie Community College was third in all-events with 1,653. Geschwender was sixth (1,607). Shelby Barker of ECC was ninth in the women's all-events with 1,341.
ECC teams finished third in both the men's and women's competition. Hudson Valley won the men's division with 9,151. ECC had 8,609. SUNYIT won the women's title with 7,682. ECC had 7,036.
USBC pays a visit
USBC officials were in town this week visiting local bowling centers to drum up interest in the USBC Women's Championship in Syracuse, April 7-July 2.
Meanwhile, the New York State Women's USBC Association has added $20,000 to the prize fund for its state tournament at Transit Lanes in Williamsville, April 8-May 22. Deadline entries for both women's tournaments has been extended to Feb. 15.