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Bowling by Milt Northrop: Obenauer brings out the little-known names

Heading into Friday night’s continuation of match play, the 52nd annual George A. Obenauer Masters at AMF Lancaster Lanes had produced some interesting new – or relatively new – faces among the tournament regulars.

One of the unfamiliar names happens to be Michael G. “Mike” Johnson of Grand Island, who won the Pete Parisi Plaque and $50 as the top qualifier.

Johnson shot the high four-game block of Tuesday night’s qualifying session with a 908. He came back on Wednesday with an 865, including a 269 game that was high single in qualifying. He shot 200 or better in six of his eight games on a challenging oil pattern.

Most of Johnson’s bowling in recent years has been at Island Lanes on Grand Island and Rapids Bowling Center in Niagara Falls.

At Island, he has a been a regular in the Monday A Best Roofing Men’s League, averaging 230 or better in five of the last six years. In 2012 he had a 300 game in his 845 high series, according to the USBC database. Johnson has had a 300 game in four of the last five seasons.

Besides the Obenauer, he stands in third place with a 761 in scratch singles in the Tonawandas USBC City Championship going on at Classic Lanes.

Johnson started match play in the Masters with a 593-527 triumph on Thursday over a tough opponent, defending Obenauer champion Mike Zarcone.

Next up Friday night was another toughie – PBA50 Tour pro Jack Jurek of Lackawanna, another former champion.

Johnson may be well-known in the Greater Buffalo USBC Association, but Kristina Frahm is almost a complete stranger.

The Ohio native is the girlfriend of John Szczerbinski and moved to North Tonawanda this season.

It didn’t take Frahm long to make her mark on the local bowling scene. She shot two 300 games here in March. The first came in a 724 series in the Alzena Wright Classic Doubles League on March 9. The second came in a 742 in the Boulevard Produce League at Tonawanda Bowling Center on March 31. She averaged 232 in 30 games in the Boulevard league.

Frahm qualified ninth in the Obenauer, averaging 204.8 for 1,639. She dropped her first match to Andy Rettig of Hamburg, 635-613, but came back to win an elimination match, 622-514, over Kevin Rygg Jr. of Lancaster.

Worth noting was the performance of Frank Bellavia Jr., of Niagara Falls. He led the qualifying in last year’s Obenauer and advanced to the finals where he lost to Zarcone. 

Tuesday night, Bellavia looked like a goner in qualifying with a 752, which was the 58th best round of the night. That meant he would have to improve 26 places to make the 32-bowler field for match play.

Bellavia did better than that. He shot 877 on Wednesday and raised his eight-game total to 1,629. He made a 46-place jump to 12th.

Thursday night, he defeated 2004 Obenauer champion Pat Brick, 700-579. He met Zane Tester of Lewiston in the second round Friday.

Tim Finken of Depew shot the best four-game block of qualifying, a 918, 10 pins better than Johnson shot on the first night. However, Finken was doomed by his 601 on Tuesday night, including a 138 and 127. He shot 267, 208, 211 and 232 on Wednesday.

After match play on Saturday night, the Obenauer field will reach the Final Four for the winners bracket final and an elimination bracket match, both at 1 p.m. Sunday. The winner of the 2 p.m. elimination bracket will advance to the 3 p.m. championship match.

Carroll signs on

Seems the top teenage female bowlers in the area keep heading off to the Northeast Conference schools.

Two years, ago, Melanie Hannon of Maryvale moved on to Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, where she is a standout on a conference championship team.

This week, another former Section VI champion, Haley Carroll of Williamsville South, signed with St. Francis, Pa.

St. Francis, along with Fairleigh Dickinson and Sacred Heart University of Fairfield, Conn., have ambitious women’s bowling programs and wage a very competitive battle for the conference championship.

Carroll, whose grandmother, Doris Coburn and mother, Cindy Coburn-Carroll, are USBC Hall of Fame bowlers, was a 2014 USBC/Dexter High School All-American. Her grandfather Frank Coburn was enshrined in the Greater Buffalo USBC Hall of Fame last November for his meritorious service to the sport. He is also a former Obenauer Masters champion.

“Haley’s character, talent and accomplishments are stellar, and it has been a joy getting to know Haley and her family,” said St. Francis coach Tom Falbo.

“Haley brings a fearless competitive spirit and a will to challenge herself as she develops her game,” Falbo added. “She is solid on Sport conditions and has such a consistent swing. Her experience in team play will bring the right energy and performance level to our squad.”

As captain, Carroll led Williamsville South to the Section VI Class B championship in February and was the 2014 sectional individual champion. She has won two WNY Bowling Proprietors Association singles tournaments the last two seasons.

She was fourth in the state tournament with a 1,201 for six games last season and won the Section VI Sportsmanship Award. A member of the National Honor Society, she also plays the flute in the South Wind Symphony.

Her personal bests include a high game of 279, a high series of 779 and a 2014-15 average of 214.722.