Greg Merkle, the president of the Greater Buffalo USBC Association, pointed out with pride in a phone call what a glorious week it’s been for Buffalo bowling.
“Liz Johnson going into the USBC Hall of Fame and Jack Jurek winning a tournament on the PBA50 Tour on the same night,” Merkle said excitedly. “I think that’s pretty cool for Buffalo bowling.”
Certainly is, and it came in a week when the GBUSBC Open and Women’s championships are drawing their most entries since the glory years of the early 1980s. Last year’s entry total of 298 will be topped this year. At the same time, a successful New York State Open is taking place at AMF Airport Lanes.
Johnson joined the ranks of Doris Coburn, Cindy Coburn-Carroll and, yes, Phyllis Notaro, too (her name was inadvertently omitted when the local Hall of Famers were mentioned in this space last week). All the Western New York women were enshrined for superior performance.
Besides Liz, Larry Laub, Gus Yannaras, Sam Lantto and the late Fritzie Rahn were formally inducted for performance at the Ramada Plaza in Omaha, Neb., on Wednesday.
Johnson’s accomplishments are many and well documented.
She is an 11-time Team USA member with 16 professional titles, including five majors. She won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1996, 2007 and 2013 as well as the Hammer Players Championship in 2001 and the USBC Queens in 2009. Also, she has five wins in USBC Women’s championships and more than two dozen medals in international competition. That doesn’t even include her historic breakthroughs bowling against men on the PBA Tour and winning events such as the Petersen Classic in Chicago.
“When I began bowling many years ago, I never thought in a million years I would stand before you today accepting this induction,” Johnson told the gathering in Omaha, which was the site of this week’s USBC Convention. “It’s been such a humbling honor to receive this award among my friends, family, teammates and fans.”
Laub is the best known of the other inductees. He was a standout on the PBA Tour in the 1970s, collecting 12 titles, including the 1974 U.S. Open. He also owns 12 PBA regional titles.
Jurek was one of the most popular bowlers on the PBA Tour and presumably the same holds true on the PBA50 circuit. Under any circumstances his win would have been applauded but even more so this time considering the circumstances.
The Lackawanna bowler had missed the previous PBA50 Tour event because of the funeral of his father, Jerry.
Dedicating his performance to his father, Jurek overcame lingering emotions to win his second PBA50 Tour title.
“I think this was the toughest week I’ve ever bowled, but generally I was able to keep my emotions pretty calm” Jurek said. “I can get a little geared up and hyper during a tournament, but maybe keeping things in perspective gave me that calm feeling. I don’t know exactly, but this one is definitely for dad.”
The triumph at George Pappas’ Victory Lanes in Mooresville, N.C., was worth $7,500, and it was over a field that was definitely big league with names such as Tom Baker, Pete Weber, Walter Ray Williams Jr., Brian Voss, Parker Bohn III, Johnny Petraglia, Amleto Monacelli and Mike Scroggins in the field along with several regional and amateur stars.
Jurek had an open in the third frame then rallied with nine consecutive strikes to defeat Bob Learn Jr. of Erie, Pa, 264-224, in the championship match.
Jurek had qualified second for the stepladder finals. All he had to do, then, was get past Hall-of-Famer Weber to reach the final. He did that, 224-200, in a back-and-forth semifinal.
Weber had advanced by defeating Buffalo native Baker, 193-191, in his second stepladder match, which Jurek studied closely.
“I was watching” Tom Baker “and Pete and could see they had good looks to the pocket but they weren’t always getting good results,” Jurek said. “I tried to learn from what they were doing, get to a place on the lane where I could get a good ball reaction, not get anxious, and then just do what I was doing all week.”
Jurek and the PBA50 Tour is in Farmingdale on Long Island for the Johnny Petraglia BVL Open.
A rich legacy
A familiar face was missing when the City Tournament opened at AMF Airport Lanes on Tuesday night. For the first time in a long time Richard “Dutch” Wieand Sr. was not present. The former Buffalo Bowling Association president and longtime director died on April 22.
Wieand was known for his loyalty and passion, whether it was bowling, his German heritage, his religion or his military service. Until recent years he regularly attended the USBC national conventions and bowled in the Open Championships.
Also, he was a member of the GBUSBC Hall of Fame selection committee. He was a devoted worker behind the scenes as a lanes inspector, record keeper and volunteer.
An employee at Trico for 42 years, one of his joys in retirement was his trips to Bavaria.
So far 110 teams have bowled in the 91st New York State USBC Open Championship, which wraps up Sunday after four weekends of competition at AMF Airport Lanes.
Western New York bowlers are all over the leader boards, but only the Spanoric II team (3,538, scratch) and the combo of Andy Rettig and John Meczynski (1,505, scratch doubles) are holding down first place.